Let us consider that you have fallen in love with a person and are in a relationship with that person. February 14 appears on your calendar. Like every other person in love, you choose a Valentine card to express your love to that person.
Valentine’s Day is a global event and let us consider that around 20% of the world population celebrates it by exchanging cards. Even by taking into account the population in the age range of 13-33 and countries that have restrictions on celebrating such events, this is still a fairly low assumption. A twenty percent of 7.4 billion is 1.8 billion. So, we can assume that 1.8 billion cards are used in the week that has Valentine’s day on one of its day.
A manufactured greeting card made of card stock can weigh around 15 grams on an average. An A4 size paper weighs 5 grams on an average. When a card stock is related to a paper, it gives us a ratio of 1:3. If a ton of A4 paper has 2 lakhs papers in it, then a ton of card stock will contain 66666 card stocks in it. This means that the numbers involved in manufacturing a card stock is thrice than that of the numbers involved in manufacturing a paper. I have to bring the card stock to paper ratio here, because I was only able to bring out the numbers involved in paper manufacturing and not card stock manufacturing.
Barring a very negligible quantity of papers that we use annually, most of the papers are made from wood pulp. Wood pulp can be created only by cutting the trees. While trying to find out how many trees are slayed to get 3 tons of normal paper, I came across this online paper calculator site. Hoping that their calculation is not as fake as our media spins, I started inputting the data. Even here, I considered that we are recycling nearly one-fourth of manufactured papers. National average here stands for USA standard.
After entering the value and clicking Calculate, I was shocked to see that 8 tons of wood is required to create 3 tons of papers. Using the 3:1 ratio, 8 tons of wood are required to create 1 ton of card stock. A ton of Card stock can create 66,666 cards. Imagine how much tons of wood is needed to generate 1.8 billion cards? Nearly 2,16,000 tons of wood. Not alone trees are fallen, paper manufacturing involves water and energy consumption and it lets out Greenhouse gases and several other pollutants. Take a look at how much Environmental impact 66,666 Valentine cards make to our Earth:
The same site estimates that for manufacturing 66,666 cards: 54 trees are fallen, average energy used by a US household per year is used, emits 40% more CO2 than what an average car emits per year, emits 14 times more SO2(which causes smog) than what a 18-wheel truck emits per year and emits particulate matter more than a year average of an urban bus. Just extrapolate this for 1.8 billion cards manufactured for a year – 14 lakh trees are removed and 40% more CO2 that 27 thousand cars emit per year are emitted by the manufacturing plant in a week probably. Imagine the damage that a single card event can do to environment and Earth every year. Not only Valentine’s day, cards are distributed for Christmas and for Birthdays and Wedding anniversaries. Maybe, instead of Odd-Even policy, Arvind Kejriwal can remove Valentine cards from the stores and urge people to wish their love directly.
This figure might appear larger because most of the cards exchanged on Valentine’s day do not come back to be recycled. Remember that we had guessed that one in every four greeting card gets back to be recycled while computing the above calculations, but that might not be the real scenario. People cherish their Valentine cards and many archive it as a trophy of good memories. This will increase the damage done to the Environment by Valentine’s day every year.
Not alone cards, paper boards and decorative papers are also used to make gift packing materials. Even if we guess that quarter of the 1.8 billion could manage to send wrapped gifts, it still will double the damage. Also, if we take into account the contamination caused by ink used for printing Valentine cards, the contribution of such cards to pollution will touch a peak level.
When there are protocols formed for industries to curb pollution, why is there no efforts made to replace paper cards and gifts with e-cards? Will the environmental activists who cry a river for other form of pollution caused by Hindu festivals or funerals, do shed few tears for the damage caused by the tradition of exchanging cards on February 14? Will they stop sending cards and instead wish their dear ones directly or via phone? Will they carry a placard with words ‘I cannot breathe’ outside Cards shops in India?
One can stop hurting the Nature by not sending cards or wrapped gifts. Slowly, the demand for cards will reduce. If the demand for cards reduces, the supply will be automatically cut. Slowly, the greeting card manufacturers will move over to some other business, which can turn out to be less polluting and more environment-friendly. If age-old traditions are being sacrificed for the sake of protecting environment, exchange of cards which is just a century old can be given away very easily.
When we are justified in asking for a crackerless Diwali, smokeless Pongal, colourless Holi and idol-less Ganesh Chathurthi citing the environmental degradation it causes, why aren’t we alarmed at this massive damage that we are doing to the Earth in the form of expressing your love in a day? Can’t you just express it orally? Why do you need to have a card? If a Diwali can be turned into crackerless and if such a tradition has to be given away for preserving our Earth, why can’t we give away the tradition of exchanging cards and gifts and move over to e-cards?
By the way, If love is supreme and cannot be bought, would it really need a card and gift? If love is all about sharing hearts, why does it need cards and gifts? If your expression of love via cards is indirectly causing environmental degradation and possibly destroy your future generation, will you still consider it as love?
Why not have a cardless and giftless Valentine’s Day this time?