Keeping Valentine’s Day A Greener Tradition in Classrooms

Enviro Girl KNOWS that Valentine’s Day is really about the treats, not the declarations of affection.  When she was young, the emphasis was on making the “mailbox” to set on her desk, then choosing exactly the right Valentine out of the box her mother bought at the dime store to address to each of her classmates.  Times have changed.  Fast forward to today’s school children.  Her tribe comes home from school and DUMPS their bags out, covering the carpet with tiny cards and 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 the internet abound with cool card ideas that use up supplies already in your cabinet. Something as simple as a Dum-Dum sucker with twin paper hearts attached as wings can pass for a butterfly card with a message like, “You make me 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 make 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 best option, you can substitute all kinds of other items for a treat. 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 over 25 little toys. Your local organic food store will sell all sorts of “healthy” candy treats you can tape to those Valentines. OR, instead of candy, perhaps individually wrapped string cheese, fruit leather, granola bars or crackers can get taped to your 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!

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. But if this battle isn’t worth it, buy a bag of Dum Dums and a box of Valentines and save your super powers for the next fight.


4 thoughts on “Keeping Valentine’s Day A Greener Tradition in Classrooms

  1. From the teacher perspective: I hate Valentine’s Day in school. Detest it. Resent the invention of those ridiculous little excuses for valentine cards that society tells kids they must have. and the sugar? GAH!!!
    Whew. Thanks for letting me vent. My preference for treats (I love chocolate for the teacher, myself) is to give all the kids in class new pencils. I usually buy plain red/white/pink so the boys don’t end up going “Ew! Hearts!”

  2. Hi-just stumbled across your site. What a great and timely post! I struggle with the classroom valentines every year. I would love my kids to make them-but it’s just not realistic. This year we are attaching toothbrushes to my 7 year old’s Valentines and pencils to my 9 year old’s. My 10 year old seems ok with the the character Valentine and no attachment. I think you’re right-we cave for VD and save the battles for other sugar filled events.

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