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Rethink Romantic Gifts
We know, we know: Valentine's Day is a consumerist holiday invented by greeting-card companies, jewelers and chocolatiers. But that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed responsibly and in a giving spirit. This year, consider giving e-cards instead of paper cards, antique or recycled jewelry, ethical chocolate, organic (or home-grown) flowers, and digital playlists instead of packaged CDs. If you must wrap your gift, consider planet-friendly options.
More than 180 million cards are exchanged on Valentine's Day. Since paper is made of trees, and paper mills use immense amounts of water and emit tons of chemicals, imagine the impact it would make if all those cards were recycled or electronic. Even recycled cards, though, end up in the landfill, where they emit methane as they decompose. One alternative is to make a card out of old magazines and wall calendars. Another is to give a card made of plantable seed paper; bury it and when the paper biodegrades, the seeds grow into wildflowers.
Let love blossom
It's little-known, but the flower industry is pretty environmentally destructive. To minimize your impact, consider ordering a organic bouquet. Better yet, pluck some peonies from your own garden or bike over to your neighborhood's farmers' market to buy a locally grown burst of color (make sure to ask the farmer whether what you're buying is free of pesticides). Remember, too, that a potted plant always lasts longer.
Earth-conscious undergarments aren't just for women. This Valentine's Day, consider getting your man one of Freshpair's two green options: the Bamboo Mesh Army Trunk ($24), made almost entirely of bamboo, and the Push-Up Biker Boxer Brief ($39), which is 68 percent bamboo.
Look Behind the Shine
Vintage jewelry is a great choice for romantic souls who don't romanticize the environmental and human-rights problems associated with mining diamonds and gold. For a bold (and not necessarily bank-breaking) statement, consider a distinctive piece made from recycled metal,paper, or other repurposed materials.
Plan an Eco-Friendly Date Night
Valentine's Day is essentially a collective date night, so if you keep these green-dating tips in mind while planning your outing on February 14, or on any other night, you'll make the planet smile just as much as your significant other.
When going out to eat, choose a restaurant that uses local, seasonal, organic ingredients and has lots of vegetarian options. If you're planning a multi-day getaway, consider a staycation, camping, or a green hotel. Wherever you go, coordinate to take public transit--or a bicycle homebuilt for two.
Mother Nature Shows Some Love
On Valentine's Day, love is in the air -- or under a bug. If you and your Valentine decide to go outside to share your affection today, keep an eye for that archetypal symbol of love.
As the wonderful Adventure Journal blog (a project of Sierra writer Steve Casimiro) reports in its post "25 Awesome Hearts Found in Nature," the heart is is a shape that's not exactly uncommon in the natural world. Take a look!
Give Experiences, Not Things
If you give your Valentine a tchotchke or doodad, consider how soon it may end up in a landfill. Instead, you can plan a hike and a picnic in your mutually favorite nature spot. Other memorable small-footprint ideas include a day at an organic spa, a gift certificate to a vegetarian restaurant, a cooking or dancing class, tickets to a nearby concert or play, or a subscription to a local CSA. You can even adopt a national park in your sweetheart's name. If you do choose to give an object, check out Sierra magazine's guide to green Valentine's gifts.
Combat Climate Change . . . in the Bedroom
Going green should be something you and your partner can do together. For the truly dedicated eco-couple, there's now a way to ward off global warming even as things heat up in the bedroom.
A small French company, the Original Condom, recently began selling "luxury" condoms with a green twist: To offset their carbon emissions, the company's founders work with GoodPlanet to plant 42 acres of trees (mainly in Brazil) for every million condoms made. The Original Condom also buys its latex from sustainable manufacturers.
Choose chocolate consciously
Valentine's Day is a veritable boon for chocolate companies. Ensure that you’re supporting the most responsible confectioners by buying organic, local, or shade-grown. And if you can, resist the convenience of that frilly heart-shaped box with all those individual paper wrappings tucked into a plastic mold. Instead, go for a less packaged (but just as romantic) option.
Of all crops, cocoa demands the second highest use of pesticides first place goes to cotton). But toxicity isn't a requirement. In fact, the sweet stuff tastes better when producers honor USDA organic standards, which prohibit the use of harmful chemicals. This benefits our bodies and the earth, by preventing all those poisons from getting into the soil, water, and air. Not sure which organic chocolate to choose for your sweetheart? Check out our picks here.
Wine and Dine 'Em...Organically
Treat your honey's tastebuds at a restaurant specializing in seasonal, regional cuisine. If you're too late to grab a coveted February 14 reservation, hit your local farmers' market and gather the ingredients for an intimate home-cooked meal or romantic picnic.
Food for Thought
Fair-trade, shade-grown chocolate is nice, but a homemade treat can be even sweeter. If all the best restaurants are booked, whip up a candle-lit dinner at home. Can't cook? Keep it simple with a romantic picnic, a formula that's endured for hundreds of years: a jug of (organic) wine, a loaf of bread--and thou.
Buy local, seasonal treats
Ask yourself whether you really need those strawberries that were flown all the way in from South America. A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to think seasonally, by finding out what foods are being grown where you live. One option for finding fresh, local produce is to frequent your nearest farmers' market.