TIPS: Simplify Valentine's Day

by New Dream   |   April 14, 2017

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Want your Valentine’s Day wrapped in more love — and less waste?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all agreed to just pare down Valentine’s Day to its core? Why don’t we just view it as a sanctioned opportunity to tell those around us how much we love them? 

Check out our Simplify Valentine's Day resources—for friends/family, in the classroom, and in the community—to help you “reboot” Valentine’s Day into a day focused on kindness and generosity.

At New Dream, we vote to reboot Valentine’s Day and to commit to a day of #morelovelesswaste!

For Friends and Family

We all know that the best things in life aren’t things. In fact, studies that show that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects. Below are five of our favorite ideas for expressing your love without “stuffocating” your loved ones.

1.    Personalized Coupon Book

Download our free coupon book, and give your loved ones the gifts they really want. Give your mother a coupon for an afternoon volunteering with her at her favorite charity. Give your best friend a coupon for an evening off. Give your kids the gift of a late bedtime. Give your significant other a coupon for no dish duty or whatever chore he or she detests most. Get creative and make one coupon for each month of the year. So many ideas!

 2.    The Gift of Nostalgia

 For significant others, a fun gift idea would be to try to recreate your first date (unless it was a total disaster!). If you saw a movie, find the movie and plan a night in. Did you eat Mexican food? Look up the recipe online, and have a cooking date. If you’re married, pop in your wedding video and re-live the fun. For old friends, pull out a favorite movie or music mix from your childhood. Or find old letters and notes, and create a mini-scrapbook (or just bundle them up with a nice ribbon if you’re not the crafty type).

Heart Attack
A "Heart Attack" valentine. Credit:

3.    A Gift They Need 

 Pay close attention to conversations with friends and family. Take note of whether they mention something that would improve their lives. Have they bemoaned the state of their closet? Help them set up an organization system. Are their Christmas lights still up? Offer to help take them down. For many people, taking a nagging task off of their to-do list is one of the sweetest gifts you can give.

4.    Give a “Heart Attack”

This group Valentine is thoughtful and incredibly simple to pull off. Cut out construction paper hearts, and give them out to each person. Each person writes down what they love about a family member or friend on the hearts. Younger kids can dictate to older kids or adults. How could you not enjoy receiving a bunch of handmade hearts filled with heart-felt compliments?

5.    The Gift of Learning

Has a loved one been wanting to learn a particular skill? If so, see if you can arrange for a few lessons. See if you can save money by bartering with another friend: for example, if your wife has been wanting to learn to play the guitar, ask your guitar-playing friend if she would give lessons in exchange for a week of home-cooked meals. 

For more creative and meaningful gift ideas, check out our More Fun Less Stuff Gift Catalog. Or, send us your favorite gift ideas at

In the Classroom

Children often participate in school Valentine parties by bringing in a card and treats for every child. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In her blog, Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson describes how one of her son’s teachers created an “alternative exchange” for her students’ celebration. Each child was instructed to create one inventive, recycled, or edible valentine to be exchanged randomly. 

Here are three alternative exchange ideas:

1.    "Heart"-Felt Compliments

Heartfelt Compliments

Each child brings in one large heart (ideally created from recycled materials—maybe even last year’s Valentines if you have them on hand). During the Valentine’s party, the hearts are passed around the classroom and each child writes a compliment to the heart’s owner. If the children are young, the teacher can write down the compliments. Alternatively, the children can each randomly choose one student before the party (a “Secret Cupid” of sorts) and write out the compliments on the heart and bring it to the party.

 2.    Generosity Day Exchange

You can hold a “generosity day” exchange where each student is randomly assigned a classmate and is asked to perform an act of kindness for him or her on Valentine’s Day. The class can brainstorm ideas beforehand, so they can be on the lookout for kindness opportunities. See “In Your Community” below for more generosity day ideas and our goal of 1 million acts of kindness!

3.    Cookie Exchange

Depending on your school’s food restrictions, you can organize a cookie exchange. Each child brings in cookies to trade with his or her classmates and returns home with a container filled with a variety of cookies. Voila! Valentine’s Day dessert is taken care of.

If you’re planning an alternative exchange this year, we would love to hear how it goes! Keep us posted at

In Your Community

In 2009, Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer with the Acumen Fund, realized that he had a habit of saying “no” to people. So he decided to conduct a personal generosity experiment. For 30 days, Sasha vowed to say “yes” to every request made of him—from “every beggar on the street, every musician, every nonprofit.”


Over the last couple of years, the goal of Generosity Day has evolved into a simple one: instead of encouraging everyone to say “yes” to every request that day (although you’re welcome to try this!), everyone is encouraged to commit to a simple act of kindness. Our goal is to encourage 1 million acts of kindness this Valentine’s Day.

What will you do on Generosity Day? You can…

• Give money to a street musician, a homeless person, or your favorite charity

• Donate old clothes to a Goodwill or other thrift store

• Leave a $5 tip for a $2 coffee

• Introduce yourself to someone you see every day but have never spoken to

• Bring in lunch for your co-workers

• Give someone a compliment

For a terrific list of kindness ideas, see here. And, for an extra bit of fun, challenge your loved ones to a generosity bingo game (see "game board" to left).

We would love to hear your personal generosity stories. Please feel free to share your stories with us at

More Resources:

Homemade Valentines, Gratitude, and the Green Triangle

5 Ways to Make Valentine's Day Sweeter for Your Kids and the Planet

Celebrate Generosity Day (video)

What Is Love? (Generosity Day video)

New Dream Interview with Sasha Dichter, Founder of Generosity Day

Happy Generosity Day 2013! (blog)