For weeks now, store-fronts have been teeming with cards, candy and teddy bears in all shades of pink and red as a constant reminder that it is time to buy that special gift.
It seems that this is exactly what Americans plan to do. The National Retail Federation has reported that collectively Americans are projected to spend $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. This number averages out to just over $143 of spending per person. With numbers like these, it is hard to deny that Valentine’s Day is a lucrative business. Greeting cards alone are expected to account for $894 million in spending.
But what happens to all these cards, candy wrappers and balloons the day after Valentine’s Day?
Chances are they will be heading to the nearest landfill. To avoid adding to this waste, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Waste Management Society held an event early this February to make Valentine’s Day cards out of materials pulled from the waste stream.
Lindsey Carlson, senior soil and waste resources major and president of Waste Management Society, said she thought of the event after seeing a meme which said, “I love you more than all of the waste in the ocean.” Carlson said that she likes to put a positive spin on holidays associated with consumerism by creating homemade gifts.
When Carlson saw a gift bag at a retail store which said, “Don’t worry I promise it’s not homemade,” she said her reaction was, “Wouldn’t you want to make something homemade and upcycle something special versus sending it to a landfill and letting it rot for 500 plus years?”
Chelsea Huckbody, geoscience and waste management majors, and vice president of Waste Management Society said that her waste background has made her think about Valentine’s Day differently. Huckbody said she is more aware of how products are “excessively packaged and it’s just like kind of mind blowing.”
The Office of Sustainability showed a series of films the first three weeks of February which focused on consumerism.
Claire Gorman, junior health promotion and wellness major, is the student special events coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. Gorman said that she hopes the films will help people learn more about the effects of their consumption on the environment and society.
“Consuming a lot in our society is really normalized and a lot of people don’t really realize the effects that has,” Gorman said.