Did you know that over one billion Valentine’s Day cards will be sold this year and that the majority of those cards will be tossed into the trash? As bad as that is, the cards aren’t even the worst thing that will be thrown away. Think about the balloons, teddy bears, cardboard candy boxes, wrappers and decorations that will find their way into the waste stream.  

Whether you are gifting to yourself or someone you love, there are ways to be more sustainable this Valentine’s Day.  

  1. Bake a treat – Homemade treats are so much better than what you’ll find in the stores, plus you can personalize them. Don’t settle for just chocolates. Bake some red velvet or carrot cake cupcakes — a special treat that you don’t get often. Then, frost them and add some decorative flare that makes them unique to you and your loved ones. 
  1. Gift a plant – Guys think girls love flowers. Spoiler: We do! But that doesn’t mean they have to be expensive roses from a florist. A live plant is the gift that keeps on giving all year round. Find a beautiful pot and a plant that is easy to maintain indoors — maybe consider a succulent. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and converts it to oxygen, improving the indoor air quality in your home. Plus, they are beautiful.  
  1. Ditch traditional wrapping of gifts – There’s no need for it. Often, a simple bow will do the trick. But if you really want to conceal the gift for a big unveiling, consider making your own reusable gift bag
  1. Avoid cards – Valentine’s Day is considered by some to be the second biggest holiday for greeting card sales, but are they necessary? It’s simple to make your own card (which I argue your loved one will appreciate more), or ditch it altogether in favor of you telling your valentine how you feel.  
  1. Stay put – You don’t need to go far from home to try something new. If you want a change of scenery, rent an eco-friendly hotel room in your area and act like a tourist for the day. Try kayaking down that river you never explored or sign up for a walking tour to test local delicacies. 
  1. Gift your time – There’s no better gift than spending time with the one you love. Instead of a traditional gift, plan something as a team. It could be cooking a special dinner, going for a hike or bike ride, or even playing a game or puzzle together. It’s a great way to build memories. 
  1. Jewelry is an option – Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays for jewelry gift giving. That doesn’t have to mean diamonds and gold. Consider products made of alternative metals, repurposed materials or even paper. It’s amazing what companies are doing now. But for those that still want diamonds and gold, consider purchasing vintage or second-hand jewelry.  
  1. Eat local – Sometimes, it’s just nice to get out of the house and celebrating something special like Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to try a new local restaurant. Choose a place that supports local farmers and uses sustainable ingredients. 
  1. Set up a picnic – Find a nice quiet place in a local park to set up a picnic. If you luck out with sun, mild temperatures and some snacks and drinks, it’ll be a great change from your normal routine. For areas where temperatures keep you indoors, many museums allow quiet corners where you can sit together, share a small snack and people watch.  
  1. Decoration crafts – There are few things that are easier to make than a paper heart. Think back to your crafts as a kid and start cutting! String them together and hang them in your home to create a whimsical and heartwarming décor.  
  1. Take a nighttime stroll – Get outside for some fresh air, stretch your legs after dinner and enjoy some stargazing while you walk hand-in-hand with the one you love.  
  1. Think seasonally – Are strawberries in season where you’re at? Not by me, but they can be found in every store in preparation for the holiday – flown in from who knows where. A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to think seasonally. Identify foods that are currently being grown where you live. One option for finding fresh, local produce is visiting your local farmers’ market. 
  1. Volunteer – This is a great way to spend time together, while helping the plant and the community. Help clean up a park, roadway or beach nearby. Serve at a food kitchen or sort at a donation center. Volunteer to sit outside or take a short walk with residents at the local senior living center.  
  1. Gift a garden – Starting a garden from seeds takes planning. Depending on what you’re growing, you might need to start seeds indoors beginning in February. This is the gift that keeps on giving. Start now and you can plant those outside as the weather improves, then enjoy the fruits of your labor come summer.  
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