How to Go Green: Dating

couple hugging photo

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The world puts a lot of emphasis on dating: it's the point of reality TV shows, the plot of countless movies and sitcoms, and the subject of endless conversations among pretty much all single people (and their friends). The general consensus? It's not always easy to find someone you want to spend all your free time with--and if you are passionate about environmental causes, or only date vegans, or won't look twice at someone who owns an SUV, your pool just got a lot smaller.

But there are plenty of ways to find a match that shares your love of all things eco-friendly. And once you've met, it's not so hard to make sure your entire relationship--from your first date to your first time meeting the parents--falls on the green side. Choosing green restaurants that serve locally-sourced food, toasting your anniversary with organic champagne, and settling in on sheets made from sustainable fibers all make falling in love, well, natural.

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Top Green Dating Tips

  1. Find a date
    For most of us, this is easier said than done--even when you aren't narrowing the field down to eco-minded singles--which makes finding a date who shares your enthusiasm for all things green nearly impossible. Let the internet do the hard part for you by signing up for green dating sites like Green Singles, Green Passions, and Planet Earth Singles (there are also sites aimed at vegetarians and vegans, if you want to get specific). Not into online dating? Try local in-person speed dating or, better yet, skip the bar scene and volunteer with an environmental organization to make a difference while looking for true love.

  2. Make a green impression
    You can have an incredibly traditional first date--dress well, pick up the girl, bring chocolates--without sacrificing your green cred. Just choose your clothes and accessories carefully by picking sustainable fabrics, vintage pieces, or organic fibers (need suggestions? Copy these sure-fire celebrity looks. And if you're the type who was raised not to show up empty-handed, try Fair Trade chocolates or organic flowers. Carpool if it makes sense--though if you live on opposite sides of the city, public transportation may be the greener option.

  3. Eat local
    For a conventional get-to-know-each-other activity, few things are simpler or easier than dinner in a restaurant. Choose one that serves up dishes made from local, sustainable ingredients, paired with organic wine, beer, or champagne, and you've just ordered up a can't-miss meal.

  4. Think big
    If getting together for dinner isn't your style--or if you've moved past that stage and you're looking for more couple-y activities--find new hobbies you can share with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Volunteer together--get started with these sites-or take up outdoor pastimes like biking, skiing, snowboarding, or jogging. Hit up the farmers market, the thrift store, or the antiques fair to do some shopping, or plan a picnic; a date doesn't have to be consumer-driven and carbon-heavy to be fun and memorable.

  5. Give green
    Whether it's your first holiday, birthday, or anniversary together, there comes a point where you have to cross that relationship threshold: giving gifts. Luckily high-schoolers are on the right track with their mix tapes: a homemade gift is greener and more romantic than anything you can buy at the store. Musical? Write a song. Artistic? Paint a picture. Not even remotely crafty? Try tickets to a sporting event or concert.

  6. Date local
    Okay, obviously we don't expect you to let go of The One just because he or she doesn't live in your town. But dating someone who lives in your city will save countless tons of carbon each year--especially compared to relationships that take place cross-country. If you are in the midst of a long-distance relationship, counteract your drives or flights with carbon offsets, and keep your infrequent time together as eco-friendly as you can (as if you needed another reason not to leave the house).

  7. Set the mood
    Start with romantic touches that inspire your sex life while going easy on the earth--like candlelit dinners (save energy!) and dual showers (save water!). From there, green your bedroom activities with organic cotton or bamboo sheets, lingerie made of sustainable fibers, organic massage oils, and natural aphrodisiacs--locally sourced when possible, of course.

  8. Meet the parents
    A lot of the tips you kept in mind while dating each other come into play again here, as you're introduced to the parents. You can't go wrong with meeting in a restaurant--especially if his dad refuses to eat tofu and you're a die-hard vegetarian--but why not try cooking at home to make them feel especially welcome while showing off your commitment to the environment? Trade paper napkins for cloth, serve a meal made with ingredients fresh from the farmer's market, and create centerpieces with Mother Nature's elements. You'll have control over the menu--though it might be worth choosing a veggie option other than tofu to keep Dad happy.

  9. Take the next step
    Ready to leave the dating scene and get engaged? Congrats! No matter what the wedding magazines tell you, it is possible to keep the Earth in mind while you're putting together your big day. Buy carbon offsets for your guests, serve locally-sourced foods at your reception, and set up a registry that celebrates your love of the outdoors with camping equipment and your future as a domestic goddess (or god) with recycled dishes and lead-free glass. For more details, check out our guide on How to Go Green: Weddings and stay tuned for the upcoming guide for How to Go Green: Engagements, where we'll run down everything from popping the question with eco-friendly jewelry to toasting with organic champagne.

  10. Exit gracefully
    Not all dates end with meeting the parents and getting engaged. If you're realizing that the person you're dating isn't going to be the person you marry, then it's time to think about moving on. Make your case in person, instead of over the phone or over email (this saves energy, too--assuming you don't live 1,000 miles apart) and, if it's not an amicable split, try to refrain from burning all your mementos: who knows what kind of toxins are in that stuffed animal you won together at the State Fair. Instead, channel your energy toward pulling weeds at a CSA or cuddling the pets at your local animal shelter--you might just meet that next special someone in the process.

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Green Dating: By the Numbers

  • 89.8 million: The number of single people over age 18 in the U.S. as of 2005.

  • 904: The number of dating services in the U.S. as of 2002.

  • $932 million: The estimated revenue of online dating sites in the U.S. for 2011.

  • 40 million: The number of people who met their partner through an online dating site.

  • 39.7 million: Carbon emissions, in pounds, resulting from the love-related travel of a "medium-distance relationship" (like New York City to Chicago).

  • 424: The number of cities, across the world, where you can find a Green Drinks event.

  • 41: The number of countries--including Belize, Singapore, and South Korea--where you can find a city hosting Green Drinks networking events.

Sources: Green Drinks, Metrics 2.0, U.S Census, MSN, Slate.

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Where to Find Green Dating Sites

Green Dating Sites
Green Passions
Green Singles
Earthwise Singles
Planet Earth Singles
Vere Chocolate
Terra Nostra Organic Chocolate
Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates
Organic Flowers
Organic Bouquet
Diamond Organics
California Organic Flowers
Eco-friendly Jewelry
Green Karat
Moonrise Jewelry
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Green Dating: From the Archives

Dig deeper into green dating in the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.

Make a good impression on a first date with tips for buying green wine and putting together a green wardrobe. Once you're more serious, look into green gift giving with our 50 Ways to Please Your Lover gift guide.

Still looking for that perfectly green other half? Treehugger keeps you updated on green speed dating, singles services, and dating advice and tips. Or hey-maybe your future partner is right in front of you.

If you're already working on a relationship-even if it's long distance--spice things up with an eco-friendly pet name and ideas for green dates. And even if the two of you don't agree on every green step, you can at least compromise in the bedroom.

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Further Reading on Green Dating

Here are some other worthwhile sources of information on green dating.

Get back to basics with HowStuffWorks and their explanation of How Online Dating Works. Discovery Health also has The New Dating Rules for hip, modern dwellers of the 21st century, as well as some tips for Dating for Dummies.

Check out the The Huffington Post for How to Find Love in a Greener World, or NOW magazine's article on Hunting Down Environmental Hotties. Are You an Eco-Sexual? Take this Gaiam quiz to find out.

Read about one woman's search for a green date on Seattle PI, and for a comprehensive list of green dating sites, try Elephant Journal.

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Green Dating: Getting Techie

Organic Wine
A good bottle of wine can keep conversation flowing on even the most awkward first date, but how do you know if the one you've chosen is really organic? Wine has more stringent organic requirements than nearly any other food on the market: it can be made from entirely-organic grapes and still not receive USDA organic certification if the vineyard adds sulfites, a naturally-occurring preservative. (This is why organic wine gets a bad reputation for taste: without preservatives, it doesn't hold up as well.) A bottle that says "Made from organically-grown grapes" often has additional sulfites; even so, it's 99.9 percent organic.

Cut Flowers
It's pretty obvious which vegetables are out of season in your area, and when-tomatoes in January? Please-but the same goes for flowers: there's a reason rosebushes aren't thriving in December, so the bouquets at your local grocery store should give you pause. Growing flowers in European hothouses on or South African farms uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and tons of carbon--and that doesn't include the environmental cost of shipping those blooms to the U.S; many farms also spray their buds with pesticides to keep the flowers bright and bug-free. Buy organic, in-season blooms instead, and if your first date is in the winter? Skip the flowers and choose Fair Trade chocolate.

Long-distance Dating
Everyone's definition of long-distance dating is different-we know a couple who lived 45 minutes apart and considered that a LDR, while another couple traveled between Philadelphia and Phoenix once a month for more than two years. But no matter how far you are, that additional travel exponentially increases your carbon footprint. Slate's comprehensive estimates on dating long-distance shows that even a medium-distance couple--like one going back and forth from Washington D.C. to New York City--can contribute 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year; the locasexual movement suggests avoiding that output by looking for love closer to home.

How to Go Green: Dating
The world puts a lot of emphasis on dating: it's the point of reality TV shows, the plot of countless movies and sitcoms, and the subject of endless conversations among pretty much all single people (and their friends). The general

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