Photo via Digital Sextant @ flickr
Valentine's Day might just be the most polarizing holiday out there: either you think it's a can't-miss opportunity to show your love for your spouse, friends, and family, or you think it's a lame excuse to sell more greeting cards. Of course, if you and your partner don't agree, that's when the problems pop up. You might be perfectly happy with nothing more than an extra kiss in the morning—but if she (or he) wants an extravagant dinner, memorable jewelry, and a sentimental card, then you'd better get shopping. Luckily, stores and websites are full of eco-friendly alternatives to traditional chocolates, flowers, gems, and wines, so you can satisfy your partner's Valentine's Day requirements without investing in a bunch of environmentally harsh consumer products. Read on for our favorite ways to say "I love you"—to your significant other and the environment.
Traditional Gift: A dozen roses
Eco-alternative: A dozen organic roses
Photo via XcBiker @ flickr
Take the classic route with a bouquet of stems delivered to her (at work, preferably, for maximum "awwww"ing from her coworkers)—but go the organic route with a bunch from Organic Bouquet. In addition to sending an arrangement of organic blooms, the company purchases enough carbon offsets to make every order carbon neutral. If you'd rather go the creative (and longer-lasting) route, try making flowers from recycled paper; you might feel like you're back at summer camp, but the display will last longer than any fresh bouquet.
Traditional Gift: A box of candy
Eco-alternative: Fair trade chocolate bars
Boxes of chocolate look nice on the outside, but inside they're a different story: a hit-or-miss collection of treats that get eaten within minutes of breaking off that red ribbon (like coconut-filled dark chocolate or mocha truffles) paired with the ones that get left for days (like strawberry mousse and chocolate-covered cherries). Cut out the risk with a collection of Fair Trade chocolate bars in his or her favorite flavor from companies like Green & Black or Global Exchange. Handy in the kitchen? Make your own dark chocolate truffles (using organic ingredients) with this recipe from Chef Nathan Lyon.
Traditional Gift: A romantic movie
Eco-alternative: A film of the Earth's most exotic locales (at 50% off!)
Forget Casablanca or When Harry Met Sally: This Valentine's Day, you'll want to snuggle in with your sweetheart and a copy of Spirit Films' Earth from the Air. The sweeping views of water, land, and wildlife from renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand will have you falling in love—with your sweetheart and the Earth—all over again, while eagerly planning your next romantic vacation. (See some example shots in our Arthus-Bertrand slideshow.) Budget a little tight this year? Check out our TH Deals column and get the DVD for 50 percent off, with 10% of the purchase price going to one of TH's fave non-profits Architecture for Humanity.
Traditional Gift: Jewelry
Eco-alternative: Recycled or Fair Trade gems
Jewelry is a go-to gift for Valentine's Day, but just grabbing something on your way home from work says "I completely forgot" instead of, "You're the love of my life." Put a little thought into it by tracking down handmade pieces formed from recycled metal and paired with natural stones and gems, like the conflict-free pieces from Kirsten Muenster, recycled stainless-steel from Tarma Designs, reused magazine earrings from BtheNV Designs, or classic diamonds from Green Karat. Dress your guy in cufflinks made with LED lights or fashioned from obselete subway tokens.
Traditional Gift: A weekend getaway
Eco-alternative: A stay at an eco-friendly hotel
Instead of jetting away for the weekend to the cheapest hotel in the best destination, try to find green accommodations in your vacation spot. Green Hotels offers descriptions and contact information for hotels across the country, all of which have taken eco-friendly steps like using VOC-free paint or furnishings or doing away with travel-size shampoos. Amelia Island Plantation in Florida, for example, uses green cleaners, encourages guests to re-use their towels, and installed Energy Star thermostats. (And, of course, buy carbon offsets to neutralize your travel output.) Planet Green's City Guides can also steer you in the right direction. Of course, if the economy makes it impossible to travel this year, raise the romance level with a staycation in your own city: take a leisurely stroll through your local park, spend the afternoon at a museum, and then snuggle in at home with chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. It's all the fun of a hotel stay without the environmental or financial cost.
Traditional Gift: A fancy restaurant dinner
Eco-alternative: A meal at home from local ingredients
Skip the crowded restaurants, overpriced prix fixe meals, and the uninspired chocolate mousse desserts this year and instead treat your sweetie to a homemade meal based around organic, local ingredients. Check out Kelly's lineup of romantic menus on Planet Green for inspiration, or give a collection of recipes meant to inspire romance—like The Seduction Cookbook by Diane Brown. Pick up your ingredients from a local farmer's market for a locally-sourced, organic spread, pop open some organic or biodynamic wine to set the mood, and get things cooking.