Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman students strip cellophane from Valentine’s Day

Storefront of the Purple Parasol, located on Main St. Credit: Ethan Parrish

The arrival of over 400 packages, a dozen bouquets of flowers and a plethora of cards stuffed in red and pink envelopes at the Whitman post office can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day is upon us once again.

One of the biggest consumer holidays of the year, reminders to buy gifts and cards for loved ones abound on campus and downtown. Storefronts up and down East Main Street are decorated with heart and cupid decals. Even restaurants and coffee shops take part: Coffee Perk offers a wide range of sweet holiday drinks such as the Hot Lips Latte and Buttercream Dream.

For Assistant Dean of Faculty and Associate Professor of Sociology Michelle Janning, this promotion of consumption is worthy of critique.

“It is a holiday that is fully entrenched in capitalist consumption practices. This is a common location for critical investigations of Valentine’s Day–that people are duped into thinking they need to purchase romantic gifts and services in order to be fully invested in an intimate relationship,” she said.

Credit: Ethan Parrish

Valentine’s Day consumption receives a heavy dose of criticism from environmental groups every year. Suggestions for handmade and “eco-friendly” gifts are easily accessible online and in magazines during the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Hannah Siano, a sophomore and member of Campus Climate Challenge, reminds students to be cautious when looking at gift options that are marketed as environmentally friendly.

“Don’t fall for false ‘green product’ advertisements. A lot of companies are using it as an advertisement tactic, but just because it’s labeled as being ‘eco-friendly’ doesn’t necessarily make the purchase the best choice. Buying local and second-hand is always the sure-fire way to go,” she said.

Ari Frink, a senior and member of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, recommends simple ways to avoid over-consumption while still celebrating the holiday.

“Instead of going out to eat, share a special meal. You’re more in control of your resources at home,” he said.

The Green Leaders program, made up of representatives from each dorm and committed to reducing waste and discussing environmental issues, is also using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to raise awareness about over-consumption–encouraging students to exchange cards made from recycled materials.

General Merchandise Buyer for the college bookstore Rebecca Thorpe emphasizes that despite societal pressures, Whitman students are not interested in buying lavish gifts.

“Students are interested in just two things: chocolate and cards,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe makes an effort to stock her shelves with gifts that will appeal to the mindful consumer. The store stocks Fair Trade specialties such as Endangered Species Chocolate, cards printed on recycled paper and handmade jewelry. Thorpe also makes a conscious effort to support businesses in Walla Walla. For example, a line of lip balms particularly popular around Valentine’s Day is produced by a local company aptly named In Love.

Students and staff members alike reiterate that, for the Whitman community, the giving and receiving of gifts is more about doing something thoughtful than buying into extravagant consumerism.

“A lot of students come to the post office to stuff their friends’ mailboxes with baked goods, a little candy or card,” said Marge Jessee, supervisor of the post office.

Senior Emily Jackson echoes these sentiments.

“Whitman is really low-key. I usually just celebrate by doing something fun with friends.”

Credit: Ethan Parrish
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