Although it seems like mere minutes since supermarkets were packed full to the brim with Christmas themed goodies, as soon as January 1st came about, the telltale signs of a looming Valentine’s Day were upon us. Garish pink cards with well-meaning slogans began to infiltrate the shelves, shiny-packaged gifts lurked patiently in the shadows, just waiting for the January slump to wear off, and the previously winter themed chocolates shed their skins to become beautiful Valentine’s treats. As if by magic, it is now February (how!? it was only January the other day!?) and at time of writing, February 14th is only three days away and my tolerance for the onslaught of ‘prove you care by buying things!’ is fading rapidly. However, I do like appreciating my nearest and dearest, and I love any opportunity to make them smile, whether it be on a day dictated to me or of my own accord. I don’t really enjoy the pressure of having a dedicated day on which to show the aforementioned appreciation, as it sometimes feels like Valentine’s Day is a pushy villain telling me that my loved one’s worth is directly proportionate to the amount of red, shiny or heart shaped things I buy for them, but the day and the sentiment are here to stay. So, I figured I’d make a list of all the ways to bring the personal touch back to the experience, so that Valentine’s Day can again be just a nice, dedicated day to reminding people that you care.
Flowers & Plants
The beautiful blooms that you see in your local supermarket can be tempting – especially as they’re usually cheaper than local floristry shops and are nice and convenient, however, they may not be the most responsible choice to make. Take a look on the packaging to see where the flowers are from, often, they’re flown in from other continents – places where the flower industry isn’t having a great effect on the resident populations and where the health and welfare of the workers isn’t always a priority. Spend some time shopping around for flowers and see if you can buy local. This means you can have more choice on packaging too – and ditch the plastic wrap!
If flowers aren’t your thing, you can go to your local garden centre and look for other plants to brighten up a space. These could be indoor plants (some of which can have additional benefits), herbs that you can grow yourself, or even outdoor plants, which are perfect if you’ve got a garden that could use a nice tree.
If you’re going to go down the makeup route, take a bit of time to research the brands you’re looking at buying – make sure they’re cruelty free. It’s important to check whether or not they sell in China too, as animal testing is required by law for products that are physically sold there. It’s also important to check the parent companies of brands too – just because one brand doesn’t test their products on animals, that doesn’t mean their parent company doesn’t – and it also doesn’t mean they don’t use ingredients that have been tested on animals.
You can also consider the packaging too – and buy naked where possible! Lush have a fantastic range of cosmetics that require no packaging whatsoever, and don’t be put off by the packing peanuts that come with products ordered online – they’re made of starch and are completely biodegradable! Don’t worry if you’ve got to make some trade offs when deciding which brands to go with, even small steps towards more responsible buying are enough.
Our relationship with clothes and fashion is becoming a difficult one – the ease and speed in which we can pick up new clothes, the sheer amount, and the shorter lifespan of individual items are all having an impact on the environment, and the people involved in the industry. Instead of buying new clothes, why not go second hand shopping? It’s a great way of picking up cheaper clothes that still have lots of life left in them, making your money go further and being a little kinder to the environment at the same time. If second hand isn’t your thing, never fret – you can just buy eco-friendly goodies instead! Check out shops like:
- Bare Kind, who stock some beautiful t-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles and industry offcuts (don’t forget – you can use the code ‘livewildlives‘ at the checkout for 10% off your order!)
- Eco-Yabber, who have an extensive catalogue of gifts, ethical clothing, pet accessories, cosmetics and more!
Make Your Own
You could go and buy presents, or you could make your own. How about eco-friendly soap kits? You could even leave the hard work to them and go for a nice cheese making kit, or if you’re feeling a little adventurous, a home brewing beer kit. Or, you could make them a nice cake, or buy them some lessons for a skills they’ve always wanted to learn, or you could take up a new craft together. If there’s a recipe for rum truffles that you’ve always wanted to try, now would be a fabulous time to give it a go. You could even buy a lovely reusable tub or jar to put them in, which is two gifts in one. Happy days.
If physical objects aren’t your thing, experiences and memory making trips are a smashing idea. They don’t have to be big and fancy, you don’t need to empty your bank account, you can work with what you’ve got available to make the most of a trip out. Explore the local attractions in your area, maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always said you’d go but never got around to it? Maybe there’s somewhere fun that you haven’t been since you were young? It could even be a trip to the neighbouring town for a little look around, or a walk around the local country park. Make it special by taking your camera and capturing everything that looks nice. You can even take a flask of hot chocolate with you, or a full blown picnic – anything you like to add a little bit of love to the experience.
A Home Made Dinner
The success of your seemingly-obligatory Nice Dinner isn’t dependent on the money you spend or the places you go to. If you don’t want to go out, you could visit your local produce market or farm shop and buy some quality ingredients to cook yourselves a nice dinner together. You can go the whole nine yards and do a starter, main course and dessert – just don’t go too over the top with how complicated you make it, especially not if you’re cooking together. Myself and my other half tried this once, and what should have been a harmless fajita meal ended with him laying on the floor refusing to move whilst the peppers fried angrily in the pan, as he loudly cursed both his mother and myself repeatedly.
Art is a beautiful way of making somebody smile, and is a long-lasting gift that you can display proudly and see every day. Look around for local artists who you could commission for a portrait of their pet, for example, or their favourite location, or get them a print from their favourite artist. Art is also a super way of supporting independent businesses, so consider buying from anindividual person’s shop rather than a big supermarket when it comes to getting a card. You’ll make the day of not only your loved one, but the artist too!
Gifts that Save the World
There’s a growing market for beautiful gifts that help save our environment at the same time. 4ocean make and sell bracelets that for each one sold, they fund the removal of just under half a kilogram of rubbish from the ocean. At time of writing, they’d removed over 1,700 tonnes of waste from the ocean. beyondBeanie is a fashion brand that aim to empower creators in Bolivia, whilst helping children in need at the same time. You can read up on each and every one of their 20+ creators on the website, and you can even see how the money you spend helps children. BareKind sell a range of stainless steel straws and cutlery sets to help you refuse plastic when you’re out and about, t-shirts made from recycled bottles and cotton, and have lovingly provided you with the discount code ‘livewildlives’ which will get you 10% off your order. If you wanted to get a reusable water bottle, Chilly’s have collaborated with the Refill campaign to produce a bottle that supports the work of City to Sea, helping to stop marine plastic pollution right at the source.
Sponsor an Animal at the Zoo
If you’re looking to treat an animal lover, why not consider an adoption pack for an animal at your local zoo? That way, you can then go and visit the animal! If the zoo or wildlife park has a charity, you can also make a charitable donation in their name, so that you’re both doing a little bit of good. Some places have a portion of their entrance fee as a charitable donation – everybody wins! It doesn’t have to be a local animal either, there are plenty of charities around the world who can benefit from your little act of kindness.
Whatever you choose to buy, if it’s wrappable, spend some time thinking about how you’re going to present it. Brown paper packages tied up with string can look beautiful, and as you won’t need any sticky tape, they’re better for the environment! Plus, you won’t spend valuable time and ruin your fingernails (and calm temperament) by struggling to find the end of the roll. This collection of inspiring ideas can give you a bit of hope that it will actually look nice, and your nearest and dearest will appreciate the extra time and effort you put into making their gift.
These are just my top tips, there are so many creative and innovative ways to show your loved ones that you care whilst also being a little kinder to our wonderful planet. Let me know yours!