Valentine’s Day has become overrun with consumerism. Nearly disposable gifts line the store shelves and people spend tens of billions of dollars each year on their loved ones. This special day went from an opportunity to send poems to your sweetie to a manufactured holiday with a big budget. The good news is that you don’t need to throw your values out the window for Valentine’s Day. Use some of these eco-friendly ideas to woo your loved ones this year.
1. Eat at a Locavore Restaurant
In the U.S., the typical prepared meal has ingredients from five different countries. Many foods travel across the globe to appear on our dinner plates. Locavores, though, eat foods grown within a close proximity to home, generally 100 miles. Eating locally grown foods is a great way to support local farmers, decrease the fossil fuels used to transport foods, and source fresher foods.
There are now numerous farm-to-table restaurants across the country serving up seasonal dishes that delight. If you live in a state where the locavore movement has caught on — such as Vermont, Maine, Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, or Wisconsin — there are likely more options to choose from.
Don’t forget to make a reservation at your favorite locavore restaurant in advance. Americans spend $8 billion eating out on Valentine’s Day, so it is a very busy night for restaurants. Supporting locavore restaurants also helps keep those dollars circulating in your community and supporting agricultural production on local farmlands. If funds are tight this year, you could cook a locavore meal from home with ingredients from your farmers market (or even your winter container garden!).
2. Make an Upcycled Valentine’s Wreath
This simple wreath from Refresh Living requires just an old deck or two of playing cards and a piece of used foam board. Separate out the heart cards from the deck and then cut the foam board into a heart shape using an X-Acto knife. If your wreath is about 18 inches across at the widest point, you will need two decks of cards to make the wreath. Create the arrangement of your choice and then glue the cards to the foam using a hot glue gun. Finally, glue a piece of ribbon to the top of the wreath to hang it.
3. Sew Valentines With Scraps of Fabric
These fun creations require just cardstock and scraps of fabric. Dive into your sewing drawer for scraps, or look for cut-up, stained, or tattered clothing. These cards don’t require a great degree of accuracy so you probably don’t need a pattern or lots of precision unless you want to make a more elaborate picture. Cut your fabric scraps into hearts, flowers, or your favorite Valentines shapes. Using a sewing machine, sew the scraps onto your cardstock. For added flair, glue on buttons, sequins, or other accents.
4. Give a Potted Plant
Unfortunately, the true cost of a Valentine’s bouquet can be pretty steep. If roses are grown in a U.S. greenhouse, they likely require artificial light and heat before being flown or hauled in a temperature-controlled truck, resulting in significant energy use and carbon emissions. If flowers are grown abroad, they likely come from South America and need to be transported thousands of miles. If you really want a green Valentine’s gift for your sweetheart, consider the original green gift idea: the potted plant. Because there are so many options, you can cater this gift to the recipient.
If your sweetheart is not very good at plant care, consider giving a plant that is easy to care for, such as a lucky bamboo plant in water, aloe, a snake plant, a philodendron, or a spider plant. You can even give a plant that is good at boosting indoor air quality, such as a gerbera daisy, peace lily, rubber plant, or weeping fig.
5. Avoid Toxic Perfumes
Although you may love their smell, many perfumes contain toxic ingredients that disrupt the hormone balance in our bodies, cause allergic reactions or even cancer. Federal labeling laws allow numerous toxic chemicals to fall under the generic term”fragrance” on a product label, making it almost impossible for consumers to determine the safety of a given cosmetic product.
Pure essential oils are considered a safer alternative to synthetic perfumes and come in a wide variety of scents and mixtures. You can make your own DIY blends using a carrier oil and your favorite combination of essential oils.
6. Give Fair-Trade/Organic Chocolate
Despite U.S. consumers spending $16 billion annually on cocoa products, most cocoa farmers are impoverished. Sadly, child labor (even slavery) and deforestation are commonly associated with cocoa production. Giving fair-trade chocolate this Valentine’s Day is a great way to help support responsibly cultivated cocoa. Fair-trade certified cocoa is often shade-grown, providing wildlife habitat and protecting rain forests. It also helps ensure the farmers are paid a fair wage for their products and have safe working conditions.
Editor’s note: Originally published on February 7, 2018, this article was updated in February 2020.