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Love is in the air! It’s that time of year when our kids celebrate friendship and love by indulging in lots of sugary treats and handing out cards to their friends during the highly anticipated Valentine’s Day class party. It’s so exciting for the children to receive these goodies from their classmates to show how much they care about each other, but have you noticed all the waste that these cute little parties produce? All those love notes and candy wrappers quickly end up in the garbage.
What if, instead, we added some green to our Valentine’s Day? This holiday is all about love and that includes showing love to the earth as well as to each other. Here are some fun and easy ways to throw an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day class party for your children.
Most holidays seem to center around sweets, but of course Valentine’s Day has a love affair with chocolate and any heart-shaped candy. It’s important that we choose these treats carefully for our children, though. First of all, look for natural and organic candy and baked goods to give out at the party because these products don’t contain harmful chemicals and are better for our health and the environment overall. More stores are carrying these types of items, but you can always bake your own to share with the class.
Then there’s the whole plastic waste issue. Unfortunately, most candy and cookie wrappers are not easily recyclable. Look for non-plastic wrapped goodies such as those wrapped in paper boxes or foil so they can be recycled. Fortunately, lots of chocolates like Hershey kisses and chocolate bars are wrapped with paper and/or foil that can be recycled. You can also buy candy in bulk and wrap it yourself in cute cloth pouches or small paper boxes to give out to the kids.
Finally, be mindful of which food items you purchase at the grocery store for the party to avoid those wrapped in all of that excessive plastic, such as dips and pre-packaged fruit salads. And when you store any food that you prepare at home for the party, be sure to avoid plastic containers and plastic wrap by using alternatives like glass or stainless steel containers.
What kind of Valentine’s Day celebration could we possibly have without all the red and pink heart decorations? Unfortunately, many of the traditional decorations are mass-produced using plastic materials. Here are some ways to go green when you decorate the classroom:
- Choose paper decorations instead of those made out of plastic.
- Make your own decorations using last year’s Valentine’s cards; ribbons and tissue paper from birthday gifts received; or by taking some recycled paper and drawing, painting, or stamping hearts and cupids on it. The options are endless!
- Use natural items such as apples and cherries for a splash of red; red plants and flowers; or take items like rocks, leaves, flower petals, or pine cones and glue them in the shape of hearts to display during the party.
- Shop second hand. Check out local thrift stores, online sites like freecycle.org, and garage sales for some treasures that can add a sparkle to your party decor. When you choose to reuse, you are reducing waste and keeping items from ending up in the landfill.
You can make a big impact by the types of party goods you choose for the class party. First of all, avoid using plastic or Styrofoam utensils, plates, and cups. Instead, look for paper (recycled is best), bamboo, or even plates and utensils made out of palm leaves. Don’t serve the drinks with plastic straws. If the children need straws for neatness, look for paper straws or stainless steel that you can wash afterwards. If possible, use real cloth tablecloths instead of those cheap plastic throwaway ones. Finally, choose napkins made from recycled materials, which are now readily available online and at major retailers.
What would a Valentine’s Day party be without sending your little one to school all decked out in red and pink? When you choose the perfect outfit for your girl or boy, make sure it is organic. The fashion industry uses pesticides and other toxic materials during the manufacturing process. These toxins can get absorbed by our skin and cause skin irritation and other negative health consequences. By opting for organic fabrics, like organic cotton, you minimize the harmful effect of carbon on our planet and limit the exposure of chemicals that harm the environment and our kids because they are grown without toxic pesticides or fertilizers and are typically pigment free, metal free, bleach free, and hypoallergenic.
Of course, the main event of any Valentine’s class party is handing out valentines to friends. This tradition can easily get out of hand and lead to a pile of wasteful junk. Think about this…Americans throw away enough paper annually to build a 12 foot high wall from Seattle to New York every year. Between those valentines being produced each year and then getting tossed in the garbage, they end up harming the environment in a number of ways like deforestation, air pollution, and producing greenhouse gases that cause climate change. We can make a big difference by cutting back on our paper use with a few creative tricks.
- Look for cards made from recycled paper.
- Help your children make their own cards from recycled paper, leftover wrapping paper, last year’s Valentine’s cards, magazines, or other materials you have around the house. This way they can personalize them and their friends will feel so special!
- Spread a green message by handing out paper cards with seeds embedded in them. Look for colorful hearts or other fun shapes. Then each child can go home and plant it to grow their own flowers or herbs, which will make the holiday all the more special.
- For relatives, consider sending e-cards to really save some trees!
How will you add some green to your family’s Valentine’s Day?