613 Flea hosted its first market of the year on Feb. 10 — just days ahead of Valentine’s — and the event drew a variety of vendors and a large crowd of consumers to Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavilion.

The market had been on hiatus since December following a series of Christmas sales, but the pre-Valentine’s bazaar marked a successful return as shoppers visited the many different booths from local businesses and crafters, including some showcasing eco-friendly Valentine’s Day gifts.

Catherine Knoll, market manager, said the 613 Flea markets have been running since 2015 and were created as a way to support local businesses in both the creative and sustainable communities.

“We want to continue to offer Ottawa a unique experience at 613 Flea and hope that visitors continue to support the awesome local artisans and vendors that make up the 613 Flea community,” Knoll said.

Since 613 Flea focuses on spotlighting businesses that sell antiques, upcycled items, as well as artisan products, its main goal is to encourage people to shop sustainably for gifts. Vendors are selected through applications depending on which category they fit into.

‘A lot of us are focusing on things that people can value and appreciate that doesn’t generate waste for us or for the consumer.’

— Shomok Alshuriti, owner, Woven Boutique Co.

With the event held just before Valentine’s Day, encouraging sustainable shopping was highlighted by some vendors.

There are have been several reports covering the environmental impacts that the annual holiday for romance brings because of the transportation impacts of delivering gifts. According to ABC News, U.S. citizens buy nearly 198 million roses for Valentine’s Day, along with 180 million cards and 58 million pounds of chocolate.

Critics also target the chemical pollution caused by the cut-flower industry, the result of growers using intensive agrochemicals for their short-cycle production. This leads to negative effects on air, soil and water supply, say environmental advocates.

Figures from report by ABC News. [Infographic © Audrey Pridham]

As well,  heavy amounts of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere because many flowers are being grown in Colombia and other South American locales and then flown to the U.S. to satisfy consumer demand.

Shomok Alshuriti, owner of Woven Boutique Co., was offering a sustainable solution to the Valentine’s Day dilemma at 613 Flea. Her business centres around hand-crafting crochet flower bouquets, which she initially created as a gift for her mother.

“I like bringing it to a personal event like 613 Flea because it brings in a lot of different kinds of people and you get to personalize it,” Alshuriti said.

Her main tip for shopping sustainably for gifts is to start looking at small, local businesses that may sell products that don’t involve heavy chemical inputs or long-distance transport.

“A lot of us are focusing on things that people can value and appreciate that doesn’t generate waste for us or for the consumer,” she said.

Another business at 613 Flea, ForgetBKnot, had a similar goal. Owner Brenda Lewis became invested in macrame during the pandemic, which led her to selling “boho” inspired products such as plant hangers.

After creating a makeshift cactus plant out of macrame to include in a photo, it received a lot of attention. Since then, her business thrives on creating small macrame replicas of different plants and flowers, such as orchids and roses, that are meant to “bloom forever.”

“Orchids are beautiful, they sell many in the grocery stores,” said Lewis. “But even people who are plant people can’t get them to bloom again, because they’re not easy.”

smiling female vendor poses wearing sweater with heart
Carissa McCaig of Copious Fashions shows off some of her upcycled clothing at the 613 Flea Market on Feb. 10. [Photo © Audrey Pridham]

Hand-crafted replicas of flowers weren’t the only sustainable products being sold. Carissa McCaig, owner of Copious Fashions, sells clothing that is repurposed from fabric and other pieces of clothing that are either stained or damaged.

The main piece of advice she said people should take to heart on Valentine’s Day is asking: “Do you actually need something?” Then, she said, she encourages them to find products that will have long-lasting use.

“Try to find something that isn’t just a throwaway Valentine’s gift,” she urged, suggesting it’s better to find “something that the person would really like and be able to implement into their life forever.”

McCaig explained that one of her best-selling pieces was a heart sweater made from used fabric, which she said would speak to the “eco-conscious nature” of the person you intend to shop for if they also appreciate upcycled clothing.

The next 613 Flea market is set to take place Feb. 24 at Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavillion. Entry is free for all visitors.