Okay, I know that ‘Love Actually’ is more of a Christmas movie but at the same time it’s love love love, the omnipresent theme of February, which makes the title reference relevant and sound. It was a little bit shocking to see Austria not flinging itself into the confetti-powered spiral of Valentine’s Day offers and gifts, the same way England or Poland do.
At the same time, you cannot help associating Valentine’s with what you see in American movies what with the characters always being subjected to constant
indoctrination persuasion of TV, radio, print, online commercials, stores transformed into red caves and POS traps screaming the need to profess undying love with raspberry body scrub, chocolates and stuffed bears.
This is what Valentine’s are right now – a commercial festival, which justifies price increases by sticking hearts onto the products or adding ‘Love’ and ‘romantic’ in the copy.
Inner Grump has been fed so now onto the actual topic of this post – making the celebration of love an impactful event with this socially conscious guide to Valentine’s!
Throw away Recycle your stale ideas of what this occasion ‘should’ look like and join us in turning this festival of love into the festival of socially impactful love.
First of All: Give Consumption a Break
“I don’t need no Valentine’s Day to tell me that I have to express my love for someone”, grumbled someone somewhere. And while in the past that person would be christened the lost sibling of the Grinch, today we would nod in agreement and go refill our reusable glass bottles with tap water. We buy too many clothes, which we don’t care about – more than 30 % of clothes in European wardrobes have not been used for at least a year, says ECAP Summary Report 2019. In 2019, for the first time ever, we consumed 100 billion tons of new materials. According to a new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), “decarbonizing fast enough to stabilize the climate rests on all of us changing how we think and act – and doing it fast“.
Because it is so easy to go to a store and buy something, this February we should challenge ourselves not to. Think of it as your Valentine’s gift to our planet.
Do you know that developing countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, Kenya, Malaysia and Costa Rica are increasingly gaining bigger floriculture market share, especially in the international cut flowers export? The low-cost imported flowers sold at florists, supermarkets or fresh markets are tempting to consumers with low disposable income but little does the public know about the conditions flower farm workers have to endure to satisfy the global demand for a romantic bunch of roses.
You are probably wondering why buying local is such an important element of living a conscious life. It’s about lowering your carbon footprint and not supporting companies, which ship containers of chilled cut flowers across the ocean at a small cost, putting regional farms at a disadvantage. It’s making sure, you do not support companies, which pay trifling salaries to whole families working in greenhouses.
The local florist market in Austria isn’t exactly blooming, but what you can make sure to do is: buy organic flowers. Buying organic means: GM-free plants, treated only with natural fertilizers and farmed in conditions saving at least ⅓ of CO2 compared to conventional cultivation. Organic certificates also mean the producers have to comply with the EU regulations regarding fair pay.
When buying flowers in Austria, look out for these labels.
Sing Your Way to Someone’s Heart*
Alina, one of our Hubbers, suggested people should revive serenading to bring back the romance. And why not?! We are all about gender equality so we encourage both men and women to start practicing their vocal skills. Alternatively, get a boombox.
*We cannot be held responsible for serenading yourself into troubles with the police by breaking the ‘no past 10 pm noise nuisances rule’.
Give a Valentine
I do not mean an actual card (although DIY Valentine’s cards are pretty cool, see below) but a symbolic gesture to celebrate the love we should show to another human being every other day of the year.
Make a deal with yourself to be especially nice to the people you encounter on this day. Spread the love by saying ‘Good morning’ to your quiet neighbour and asking them how they are doing. Leave the extra change to an Augustin seller or be extra polite and patient when the morning rush at your regular coffee place is keeping you waiting longer for your caffeine fix. Invite your colleague to go out to lunch with you or text your dad wishing him a good day. It’s not words but actions that matter on days like this.
DIY Recycled Gifts
All the crafty creatives unite! Use recycled materials to make meaningful presents, which will always be much better than any shop-bought trinket. Refresh your hardcore art skills perfected during the primary school years, when the teachers forced the whole class to decorate paper hearts with glitter and repurpose available materials. Wait…Was it just me and the rest of the Polish kids that were tortured this way? OKAY.
- Make a playlist of your favourite love songs (remember those mixtapes?) and load it onto that USB you had lying about since 2009.
- Write a list of 100 reasons you love your partner on individual pieces of paper, throw in some sentimental content (the cinema and gig tickets you have been hoarding, or your photos) and pack everything into a jar – now your chosen one can fish out your love notes, whenever they feel like it.
- Write a poem, even if you have had 0 experience with writing poems. There’s first time for everything.
- Make a collage from newspaper and magazine scraps representing all the things your partner loves. Frame it and voila.
- Make a Valentine’s card (no drawing skills required)!
Gift Memories, not Things
The best gifts are those our loved ones can treasure forever in their memory. The experiences do not have to be expensive – it’s about spending time together after all.
- Go to one of the beautiful Viennese parks and gardens for a long relaxing walk.
- Travel to the furthest parts of the city and explore the unexplored, for example, Steinhofgründe.
- Book a Shades Tour, open your mind and support the local community.
- Have a dinner in the dark at Dialog im Dunkel.
- Feel like Charlie at the chocolate factory and visit Zotter Schokoladen Manufaktur.
- Do something from the Green Guide to Vienna list.
Host a Valentine’s Day Party
Who said the Feast of Saint Valentine’s should be a private affair? Gather a group of friends, be it singles or couples or mixed, and throw a love-themed potluck dinner. Make it even more sustainable by applying no waste rule – all dishes have to be made from scratch and preferably with produce that otherwise would have been never bought and left on the shelf in your local supermarket. Alone. Unloved. Abandoned. #isthisguilttrippingworkingyet
You could also organize a romantic comedy movie screening with a group of friends. Our top romantic movie recommendations are:
- 10 Things I Hate About You
- The Breakfast Club
- Pretty Woman
- Moonrise Kingdom
- You’ve Got Mail
- Crazy, Stupid, Love.
- Harold and Maude
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Someone Great
Gift Vegan Cookie Dough Balls
Because everybody deserves these round chunks of heaven. Add a romantic spin by rolling them in chopped dried raspberries.
1 cup almond flour
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
In a large bowl, stir together the almond flour, coconut (if using larger shredded coconut pulse in a food processor first until finely ground) and salt. Drizzle syrup, vanilla, and coconut oil on top. Stir in until a dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips. If your dough is too dry to come together, stir in a teaspoon of water.
Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place in a baking dish or food storage container. Store in the refrigerator.
I hope these tips for making Valentine’s Day impactful will come in handy. Remember: you could go crazy spending money on things but in the long run they won’t matter – gift time, your attention and your kindness are the most valuable currencies in the world.
This article was written for the Impact Hub Vienna blog and published on the 8th of February, 2017. Access it online here.