8 unique green alternatives to cut flowers

Say I love you with these lovely living gifts that go easy on the planet.

I love love and the romantic gestures that come with it, so the rant to follow is not borne from a dark heart or some Grinch-ian resentment, I promise. But this: It's estimated that sending 100 million roses – the number of roses American will give their Valentines this year – produces around 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions between field and florist. (The average American household has a carbon footprint of 48 metric tons a year, notes The Washington Post in an article on the topic.)

That hefty footprint comes courtesy of the fact that 80 percent of the flowers are imported, most grown in energy-guzzling greenhouses and drenched with toxic chemicals – and once cut, require a long journey under refrigeration to arrive at your local florist. And for what? To land on your sweetheart's table for a week before heading to the landfill where they will face a long slow decline, emitting methane all the way. See? I'm totally a romantic!

Anyway. If you want to not participate in all of that, you can get sustainably sourced flowers – which is great (see more here: Show your love with earth-friendly flowers). But you can also jump off of the cliche wagon and do something a little different too. Which is where this list comes into play.

1. A Bouquet of Herbs

Flower alternativesPublic Domain/CC BY 2.0

Beautiful and unexpected, less costly than roses – and won't be tossed in a week. Fresh lavender and rosemary (and whatever else your heart desires) can all be dried and doled out throughout the year for cooking or using around the house.

2. Moss in a Bottle

Flower alternatives© Uncommon Goods

Because a mossy micro ecosystem is a wonder to behold – and this one comes in a recycled wine bottle, giving it an extra eco-twist. (Moss Terrarium Bottle, $38)

3. Edible Flowers Kit

Edible flowers© Williams Sonoma

Who doesn't love edible flowers? They are delightful. They add color, flavor and whimsy; they make you feel a little magical. Who wouldn't prefer a little edible flower garden over a bunch of going-to-die-soon flowers that you can't even eat? This kit comes with heirloom flower seeds for calendula, lemon mint, nasturtium and starflower – also includes biodegradable paper pots and soil for sowing them and a recipe for enjoying them at harvest. You could also put together your own little kit, see 42 flowers you can eat for more ideas. (Edible Flower Seed Kit, $50)

4. Succulents from Lula's Garden

Flower alternatives© Lula's Garden

Someone give this to me, please. They are succulents in a box ... and the gift box itself serves as a planter. Open, enjoy; no fuss, all love. This one is the XOXO Garden, but there are a bunch of other cute love-themed options as well. (XOXO Garden, $35)

5. An Herb Garden

Kitchen herbs© Sagaform

Another herbs-for-flowers swap, because having a wee garden of herbs on the kitchen windowsill is such a gift. Little flourishes of flavor are always on hand and waste is reduced when you can snip a few leaves rather than buying a whole bunch. Any cute pot will do – this Scandinavian mod number from Sagaform is nice for starters. (Sagaform Herb Pot, $52)

6. Forced Bulbs

Forced bulbs© dofloristry/Etsy

I have an amaryllis bulb purchased in early November that bloomed twice and then shot up a quartet of green stalks that are a statement bouquet all on their own. Almost three months of flowers/greenery for one bulb! Bulbs are wonderful – they start as a sprout and grow into an incredible bloom (or several, apparently), lasting much longer than a bunch of stems. And when all is said and done, some bulbs can be planted in the garden or forced again; the others are a small addition to the compost bin.

7. Flowering Bonsai

Flower alternatives© Eastern Leaf

A little tree. A little tree that flowers. For the Valentine looking for a new hobby, these beautiful flowering trees can be ordered with the complete kit to get started in the art of bonsai.

(Satsuki Azalea Apple Blossom Bonsai, $45 / Bougainvillea Bonsai, $49)

8. Moss ball and chain

moss necklace© Some Magic

This may be stretch if you're love is expecting flowers, but there's something wonderful about combining some greenery with a piece of jewelry – and these moss-filled globes feel like they hold special secrets. (Some Magic, $18.50)

Tags: Gifts | Valentines Day

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