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It has been really interesting navigating public school since the pandemic has started. Last year, Lila started Kindergarten going back and forth between remote learning and in person learning. It was not the way that any of us planned on starting our first year of public school, but Bryan and I decided to make the most of it. Why? Because in reality, Lila didn’t know the difference. The experience is what you make of it and I wasn’t about to let a change in the traditional way of doing things put a damper on how special this once in a lifetime moment was for my family. Our first born was going to public school for the first time to meet new friends and continue growing into a compassionate and resilient individual; I’m going to celebrate that no matter what!
With that being said though, it has been interesting navigating the new rules set in place around food and gifts that are allowed to be at school during the pandemic. Parents have had to get creative with what treats they can send their child to school with for special occasions and birthdays. Admittedly for the most part, and mainly because I’m so busy, I really just do the bare minimum. Trust me, I dote on Lila’s teachers like crazy because they have one of the hardest jobs out there with or without a pandemic, but I also have to be realistic and I’m not going to stress out over whether or not each kid in Lila’s class gets a lollipop in honor of a random holiday. If I have the time and am able to do so, that’s a different story.
There are a few holidays and occasions that I make sure Lila is able to bring gifts to school for her classmates though and Valentine’s Day is one of them. From a sustainability viewpoint though, Valentine’s Day has been known to be an incredibly wasteful holiday. If you are going to give away any of these customary gifts, think twice, for yourself and for the planet: Balloons: Take 450 years to degrade, Straws and plastic bags: Take about 500 years to degrade, Single-use plastic cups (coffee?): Take 400-450 years to degrade, Glitter or small decorations: They are microplastics and remain in the environment for hundreds of years.
Sure the chocolates, cards, and teddy bears are cute, but it’s easy to stay ignorant of the final stage of the gift’s life cycle when it “goes out of sight, out of mind”. In reality, nothing goes “out of sight, out of mind”. There are still sea turtles confusing plastic bags for jellyfish and trash polluting our waterways after it’s all said and done. It’s also worth mentioning that landfills are not an endless pit, they will fill up eventually. If we are filling it with items that won’t decompose for hundreds of years, that should change the way we think about the products we buy.
The good news is – there are sustainable options out there! I scoured the internet to find creative sustainable ideas that Lila could put together or get for her classmates on Valentine’s Day. These are some of the ideas that I came up with. I hope you enjoy!
Check these out…
- Make seed paper hearts – you may have heard of seed paper cards in several of my previous gift guides. This is the same idea! It’s easy to make seed paper hearts and personalize them with each classmate’s name. They not only get a beautiful heart on Valentine’s Day, but can enjoy the seeds within the heart throughout the whole summer after the card has been planted.
- Pencil Toppers – this is one of the easiest and most functional gifts to put together for classmates on Valentine’s Day! Use these pencils with seeds on the end for an extra gift that your kids’ friends can plant and enjoy all summer!
- Homemade cards – this one is so simple, but can be the most heartfelt. I always find that homemade cards have more meaning to them than just having your child sign their name on a premade card. More often than not, Lila will draw a picture or do something extra to compliment the words on the card. It makes it personal and extra special.
- Make friendship bracelets with upcycled or reclaimed yarn – this one may take some planning ahead depending on how many kids are in the class, but overall, this can be a personalized craft that promotes creativity and encourages the use of fine motor skills along the way.
- Snacks wrapped with recyclable or degradable packaging – there aren’t many options for individually wrapped snacks or treats that are wrapped without plastic or other non biodegradable materials. Since sending your kid to school with a homemade treat is not an option these days, what could be the most sustainable store-bought option? I would say to stick with the ideas that don’t involve edible treats first, but if you would really like to include something tasty, try to think about the packaging. For example, candy in small cardboard boxes or sugar pixie sticks wrapped in paper.
And that’s a wrap…
Lila loves giving gifts to her friends on any day of the week but especially when special occasions come around. I love being able to support her in that and these are a few ideas that I found inspiration in when I started to scour the internet for sustainable possibilities. After all, I love that she wants to give gifts, but I don’t want it to be at the expense of the environment she loves to play in every day.
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Until next time,