The Wokingham Paper

Show the planet some love when you give gifts on special occasions

Plastic free gifts
Picture: Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

If you’ve left thinking about your other half’s Valentine’s Day gift to the last minute, there’s good news and a get out of jail card with your name on it waiting.

Every year in the UK we send more than 25 million Valentine’s Day cards and spend an incredible £650 million on gifts ranging from flowers to fragrances.

It’s time to change that, not just for the sake of our planet but because it’s a ridiculous and purely commercial event when you think about it. Valentine’s Day is naff. There, I said it.

My wife and I have been together for ten years and I haven’t bought her a Valentine’s gift since the year we met (and that was an experience). And we’re still surviving despite the absence of teddy bears and chocolates. So that’s option one, skip the whole thing entirely and show that you’re in touch by being environmentally conscious.

Here are a few other ways you could do things a little differently this year…


If you are happy to live without them, job done. If you’re not, consider hand making a card. Not feeling crafty? Then aim to buy a card that’s printed on FSC (sustainable) paper, glitter free and not wrapped in plastic. Even better if it’s from an independent retailer. The likes of are also a nice option. Every card sold comes with a packet of wildflowers and sees a tree planted.


At this time of year, roses and other popular flowers are generally flown in from the southern hemisphere. They’re then delivered to your door in a refrigerated can. And, unless you’re very lucky, this time next week they’ll be on their last legs. Consider if you can live without flowers this Valentine’s Day, or why not opt for a long lasting house plant (ideally grown in the UK) or something for the garden instead.


The cacao used to make chocolate will typically have come from South America or Africa and may not be Fairtrade or sustainably and ethically produced. The majority of chocolates will also contain Palm Oil and of course, they are often heavily packaged. Decide if you can skip the chocolates this year, or at least hold tight until Easter. If you can’t consider better options like Divine Chocolate or Tony’s Chocolonely.


Most scents are a concoction of dozens of synthetic chemicals, many of which are derived from Petroleum. Worldwide, over 4,000 different chemicals are used to produce fragrances and many of these are bad news for our bodies; some can be toxic. There’s nothing romantic about any of that. If you’re still on the lookout, aim to find a fragrance that’s made from 100% natural ingredients.

Gift an experience

Don’t splash out on generic or novelty Valentine’s Day gifts. Instead, plan a day out or a short UK break (revisit somewhere special or explore somewhere you’ve always wanted to go), go out for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, see a show or head to the cinema, do something sporty, book a surprise experience (the possibilities are endless these days), offer to do something nice for your other half or chores around the house, have some photos professionally taken, get creative and write a poem or song, paint or make something. You get the idea.

Whatever you do, don’t forget who and what really matters this Valentine’s Day.

And remember to show our planet a little love if you can.

This column was originally published in The Wokingham Paper of February 13. The advice can be applied to any gift-giving occasion including birthdays and anniversaries

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