Valentine’s Day: An international day of great waste, by Sarah Hogg

Home and Lifestyle
February 13, 2019

We’ve all seen Poundland hit headlines in the past few weeks with two ‘romantic’ stunts; the Gift Of Nothing and the £1 Bling Ring.

While some customers thought it was hilarious, there was widespread backlash surrounding the Gift Of Nothing – a heart-shaped empty plastic package, accompanied by the tagline “exactly what you asked for” with Poundland forced to defend the stunt as “a bit of fun”. Equally wasteful, albeit less obviously, was the company’s £1 engagement ring, designed to be a placeholder for a ‘proper’ engagement ring, for when the proposer can afford one. Poundland are rumoured to have sold 20,000 of these rings, with even the nation’s sweetheart Stacey Dooley, upon examining the ring, admitting that she wouldn’t “mind that at all, actually”. The ‘buy cheap now, buy replacements later’ mentality behind these rings, is exactly the same mentality that has caused fast fashion brands to receive negative publicity recently, which Stacey herself investigated in the documentary ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ that aired just before Christmas.

And Poundland is by no means the only culprit when it comes to sustainability on Valentine’s Day. What about every greeting card bought that is individually wrapped in a plastic sleeve? The traditional chocolates linked to causing widespread deforestation and flowers likely paired with an enormous carbon footprint due to 90% of UK flowers being imported? And both gifts usually wrapped in plastic film too.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom in the run up to the big day, as there are brands doing good in regards to sustainability, but they’ve yet to make the big PR splash that the likes of Poundland have achieved. For example, Paperchase has launched a Conscious Living Collection, despite 90% of their cards already being made from recycled materials, and Marks & Spencer, which also hit headlines for the infamous Love Sausage, is trialling ‘naked’ cards across 119 stores, where all plastic sleeves have been removed and both cards and envelopes are 100% recyclable.

For years, we’ve seen discussion around millennials valuing experiences over products and shifting towards purpose-led brands, so why do brands seem to ignore this insight when it comes to Valentine’s Day? According to a recent Nielsen poll, 73% of Millennials have demonstrated a willingness to pay more for products that are sustainable. And while, according to Marketing Week, “the overwhelming majority of consumers are glad companies are offering plastic-free alternatives, brands have got to make it easy and cost effective to make a sustainable choice or consumers simply won’t make the switch.”

With so many people falling out of love with the day itself, not least for its obvious commercialism, it’s time for brands to take a more considered approach to campaigns, and lets hope that by Valentine’s Day 2020 they will be adapting to include eco-friendly initiatives.