How Valentines Are a Global Issue

Meagan Church | February 14, 2014


Want to know how to get a heated conversation going on Facebook? Start posting images that challenge people’s thoughts on traditional Valentine’s gifts.

Take this one for example.

Not everyone found that data helpful when I shared it on Facebook. One guy complained that his wife wouldn’t accept that as an excuse to not receive flowers. Another woman wondered what to do if your sweetheart’s love language is gifts.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by those responses when an estimated 233 million roses were produced for Valentine’s Day last year. But, in a world where 783 million people do not have access to clean water, it seems wasteful to use that water on a plant that is grown only to wither and die shortly after purchase. During a time when poor water and sanitation kills the equivalent of a jumbo-jet worth of children every four hours, we have to do better. Imagine all the water that could’ve been saved if people would’ve found other ways to express their love. Like a box of chocolate perhaps?

On second thought, consider this.


Well, turns out people don’t care for it when you start bringing chocolate into the discussion either. With an estimated 58 million pounds of chocolate being purchased the week of Valentine’s Day, it is clearly a hot gift item. (Ironic for a country that boasts a $20-billion weight-loss industry, but I digress.) Some people focused on the number of calories, while one person stated, “Roses and candy once a year is not going to ruin or save the planet.”

But here’s the thing: with each purchase we as consumers make, we have the choice to reduce or increase waste. We have the ability to decide if the dollars we spend support causes we champion or conditions we choose to ignore. To me, the chocolate graphic is more about the wasteful purchase of a heart-shaped box. It’s filled with junk we otherwise attempt to avoid and junk that will be consumed after many recipients have already eaten three well-portioned meals. In other words, those additional 1,400 calories will be consumed on top of a 2,000-plus caloric intake for that day. Not to mention that the chocolate is surrounded by packaging that will only be discarded, and, let’s face it, it’s not the most original gift idea either.

Now, I’m not saying that gifts should be avoided on Valentine’s Day. Gifts can be a valid way of expressing your heart-felt feelings for your loved one. What I am saying is that we should put some thought into those gifts instead of going for the items that society has encouraged us throughout the years to use as representations of love.

So, this Valentine’s Day, look beyond the superficial beauty of the rose before you shell out an average of $80 for a dozen. There are more ways to show your loved one that you appreciate her, less wasteful ways and more consumer-conscious ways. And, when all else fails, forgo the gift and try some quality time instead. There are more ways to say “I love you” than a heart-shaped box.

Meagan Church is married to her high-school sweetheart and is the mother of 3 kids. She is a writer and children’s book author. She is also the brainpower of the online resource Unexpectant, exploring the realities of birth, babies and beyond.