Millions of Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually. That’s a lot of trees going down in the name of St. Valentine. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a compulsory swap of store-bought cards. Here are some less wasteful alternatives for sharing the love among your children’s friends.

Handmade Cards

Originally, valentines were handmade. Handmade valentines offer a lot more meaning than what’s provided by those ubiquitous licensed-character cards that kids swap at school. Spark your child’s creativity with scrap paper and other household materials, such as the comic section of the newspaper, magazines, his or her own artwork, reused gift-wrapping, or pages from old books. Write a personal message, and decorate the cards with buttons, fabric scraps, fallen leaves, coins, etc. To extend the use beyond the holiday, consider making a bookmark instead of a card, scripted with a quote or silly joke. Need a valentine mailbox for your child? Repurpose old containers (coffee cans, shoe boxes, etc.) and decorate them with nontoxic paints or crayons.

Seeded Cards

When I first discovered seeded cards a few years ago, I was amazed. Paper that blossoms into flowers — how cool is that? The perfect example of cradle-to-cradle design, these seeded (or plantable) cards are now used in everything from business cards to wedding invitations. It’s the valentine that keeps on giving, as the recipient can plant the biodegradable card and watch it grow into flowers, herbs, or vegetables. If you have the do-it-yourself gene, you can make your own plantable paper. Learn how in this video.

Practical Presents

In lieu of cards, send your holiday greetings through items that kids will actually use. Here are some ideas:

Heart-shaped crayons. Photo: Chelsea Perry of Creative Mommas Blog


Many schools are nut-free these days; however, you can choose allergy-friendly treats to share with your child’s classmates. Surf Sweets — whose products are free from the top 10 food allergens — offers organic fruity hearts for the holiday. Find cute heart-shaped cookies at Smiley Cookie, a nut-free bakery and facility. And you and your kids can always make your own holiday treats. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter on thick slices of mozzarella, juicy melon or homemade raisin bread.

Items from Nature

This idea requires planning ahead unless you already have a collection of nature elements. Stones, seashells or leaves picked up from your travels make wonderful gifts. They can be painted, written on or otherwise decorated for a valentine exchange. Plus, nature items tend to be kept longer by children than a piece of paper. Glean inspiration from these Pinterest images of painted leaves.