Anyone with children understands that Valentine’s Day is really about the treats, not the declarations of affection. When Enviro Girl was young, she always made a “mailbox” out of an old shoebox covered in glitter and paper doilies to set on her desk. Each child would bring in paper cards to deliver to each of their classmates. Enviro Girl recalls carefully choosing exactly the right Valentine for each of her classmates out of the box her mother bought at the dime store. Occasionally someone would pass out tiny boxes of conversation hearts. Times have definitely changed. Fast forward to today’s school children. Enviro Girl’s tribe comes home from school and DUMPS their bags out, covering the carpet with tiny cards and a heaping pile of treats. Her sons bring home as much candy on Valentine’s Day as they do on Halloween! Is there a way to make this holiday a bit healthier, a little bit greener, but still fun?
First, it’s important to recognize that while the Valentine’s Day card is NECESSARY, it’s really only a vehicle for getting an attached treat. To that end, if you’re crafty, you can reuse scrap supplies like construction paper, CDs, yarn, fabric and have your kiddos make their own. Family Fun Magazine and many other web sites abound with cool card ideas that use up supplies already in your cabinet. Something as simple as a sucker with twin paper hearts attached as wings can pass for a butterfly card with a message like, “You make my heart aflutter, Valentine.” Basic, cheap, and definitely NOT over the top.
However, if you’re like Enviro-Girl and have all boy children who don’t care to hand-craft 25 cards for their classmates, you’ll buy a box or two of character cards for a couple of dollars and have your kids sign their names. But you still have to attach a treat–or your kid will be a classroom pariah.
One option is to set aside Halloween candy in an airtight container to repurpose for those Valentines. Enviro Girl has taken her sons’ Halloween suckers, Sweet Tarts and Bottle Caps to tape to their classmates’ Valentines a few months later. She recommends these candies because they won’t spoil in your pantry; chocolate candy does not have the same staying power.
But does your child have to give candy to their classmates? Shelling out for fair trade organic candy bars for classrooms of 30 students can get expensive, and while that’s the most eco-friendly option, you can substitute all kinds of other items for a treat. Temporary tattoos, stickers, pencils, play dough, erasers or little notepads are all fun ideas–but they still fall under Enviro-Girl’s category of “Plastic Crappe.” She’d really rather find 25 Dum Dum suckers in her kids’ backpacks over 25 little toys and trinkets. Your local organic food store will sell all sorts of “healthy” candy treats you can tape to Valentines. OR, instead of candy, perhaps individually wrapped string cheese, fruit leather, granola bars, pretzels, bags of popcorn or crackers can get taped to those classroom cards. If it’s got to be candy, a Dum Dum sucker is small and probably the least harmful to a fair trade economy and uses minimal packaging–mostly made of paper. It’s the economical choice of candy, won’t contribute woefully to a child’s health since they’re only 25 calories each and fat-free, and they’re made in the USA–in Ohio!
Additionally, Dum Dum suckers will not cause allergic reactions–a huge concern for many children these days. For a few bucks you can snag a bag of Dum Dum suckers and a box of cards printed on recycled paper. This won’t break your bank, gives your child a socially acceptable Valentine’s Day treat to pass out to their classmates and leaves a carbon footprint of minor proportions.
Bottom line: if you can get your kid to make their own cards out of recycled materials and attach a whole grain granola bar to it, you’re an Eco Warrior with Super Powers. Keep the candy or treats to a minimum–one per classmate is plenty. But if this battle isn’t worth it, buy a bag of Dum Dums and a box of Phineas and Ferb Valentines and save your super powers for the next fight.