—by Heidi Cardenas, a freelance writer with a keen interest in gardening and natural living

Valentine’s Day is all about red—red roses, red hearts, red boxes of chocolate—you know the drill. So this year, why not mix things up by adding in some green?

To celebrate your love for Mother Earth, try one of these creative ideas for gifts and activities that are equal parts red and green.

Get Creative With the 3Rs

You can score major romance points by embracing the simplest of green efforts: DIY. Using recycled or upcycled materials to make your own cards and decor not only saves the environmental impact of producing and transporting new materials, it also makes a lovey-dovey card even more special, and adds flair to table decorations for that surprise homemade dinner you’ve planned.

An easy place to start is simply to incorporate the word LOVE into any decor, using supplies you already have on hand like scissors and recycled paper. You could also hit the second-hand shop for some unique elements. For example, is your valentine an avid reader? Grab a few pages from a beat-up classic and black out everything except certain words that create a message of love. Check out examples from contemporary poet Tyler Knott Gregson for inspiration. Is your valentine a music lover? Craft paper flowers from old sheet music.

You could also get crafty with sentimental items you’ve held onto throughout your relationship. Still have the movie passes from your first date or a handwritten note from your first Valentine’s together? Frame it!

For more creative DIY ideas like those, head over to EcoMyths’ Pinterest board.

Buy Sustainable Goodies

Natural foods stores like Whole Foods carry Equal Exchange's sustainably produced indulgences, like these festive dark chocolate hearts.
Natural foods stores like Whole Foods carry Equal Exchange indulgences like these festive dark chocolate hearts.

For many people, Valentine’s Day is nothing without candy. Make it the eco-sweet kind by choosing organic, shade-grown cocoa products from companies like Equal Exchange and Endangered Species, which both get a thumbs up from the National Wildlife Federation for sustainable practices.

Why go the extra mile to look for shade-grown options? Traditional cacao farms are contributing to deforestation of the world’s tropical forests, which is in turn linked to shrinking migratory songbird populations.

To find a bouquet as eco-lovely as it looks, stick to organic, locally grown options wherever possible. Local Harvest has a handy search tool to find organic stems grown in your own neck of the woods. Or, just do your research when shopping around. Big companies like FTD are introducing more eco-friendly and fair trade options, too.

Make It a Date…to Volunteer!

You don’t need to skip the fancy dinner to dedicate some of your day to volunteering for the planet. Taking a couple of hours to do some good can be a great bonding experience, and makes for an even more memorable date.

How to? First up, find out right now if your organization of choice is sponsoring a volunteer event on Valentines Day proper—if yes, sign up. If no, go renegade! Take your date on an impromptu litter pickup in your favorite natural spot. Bring along some gloves, two bags (one for trash and the other for recycling), and a couple of festive drinks to toast your mutual eco-goodness.

Then over your candlelit dinner, take a few minutes to brainstorm with your valentine other ways the two of you could get together to support a favorite environmental cause. Over dessert, plan your next date—at a park!

Give Some Green

Green gifts abound! Instead of lavish spending on gold and diamonds, why not make a donation to your Valentine’s favorite eco-friendly cause? Some nonprofits have come up with clever ways to showcase your contribution as the gift it is, from Arbor Day Foundation gift trees to the NWF’s Adopt-an-Animal program.

Whatever you do this Valentine’s Day, you can share the love with Mother Earth simply by combining your favorite red and green traditions.

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