Romance is not inherently harmful to the planet. However, when you start calculating the emissions transporting flowers on cargo planes, paper from greeting cards and miles driven to reach a steak dinner, the harm begins to grow.
Despite our best efforts, the commercialization of love is an environmental hazard, and it is hard to escape. But there are other ways to celebrate. With a little extra forethought, date night and weekend getaways and even Valentine’s Day can be fun while avoiding a carbon splurge.
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Vegan food is not for everyone, but reducing your meat and dairy consumption can be a great date experience. Try a new recipe at home by substituting eggs for aquafaba or applesauce. Test an entirely vegan meal just to see if you like it. Venture out to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant you would not usually try. At the very least, you may find a new favorite food.
One of the largest Valentine’s Day purchases is chocolate, but not all chocolate is created equal. Fairtrade chocolate is an important addition to your romance because it means the farmers oversee their futures. Fairtrade allows for more women to own farms and prevents farmers from financial ruin should the market falter. Because of this, farmers can work towards more sustainable farming practices, which keeps chocolate from falling victim to climate change. Most of the time, the chocolate tastes better too. If you are going to splurge on anything, let it be a better-tasting aphrodisiac.
Moreover, reducing your environmental impact begins with reducing unnecessary waste. Desserts for Two is dedicated to sweet treats with only two servings. Not only does this reduce leftovers and waste, but it also makes for an intimate and special evening.
Another way to reduce waste is to shop for ingredients together. Want to have a romantic, home-cooked meal? Start with a morning date at your local farmer’s market where you can pick out the ingredients you need and talk to the farmers about in-season crops, making your date a hands-on learning experience that lasts all day.
What is more natural than the great outdoors? If you follow the leave no trace principles, your romantic getaway can be cheap, sustainable and fun. If you already have all the gear, this may be the cheapest date yet because most campsites in the U.S. cost between $12 and $45 per night. Some are more, of course, but national parks have sporadic free camp days as well.
No internet? No problem. There are usually hiking trails and outlooks near campsites making even your daytime activities cheap on this weekend getaway, and there is nothing more romantic than uninterrupted quality time without media distractions.
A vegan bed and breakfast in Washington or outdoor adventures in Wisconsin mean more expensive and faraway trips can be eco-friendly too. The ideas behind regenerative travel can apply as close or as far away from home as you dare to go with your loved one. From Mexico to southern Australia, people across the world are making romantic vacations environmentally friendly with ecotourism and sustainably built lodging.
If your idea of romance does not include camping or jumping on a plane, try a staycation. Staycations help you to explore your own city while avoiding long travel days, and thus carbon emissions associated with travel. Try a new restaurant, take a walk on the beach, turn down a new street and explore. Making your own home an exciting new adventure allows you to create your own romantic adventure.
Experiences make for the best memories. Ditch the teddy bear and expensive roses and go somewhere. Do something. Try a date at a museum. Some museums and zoos even host 21 and over nights throughout the year, making it a perfect time to go somewhere you have not been in a while.
Nobody ever said a date was only one night. Signing up for a pottery, language or dance class together can be a great time to learn and engage with one another. A class is a gift that will continue giving well past its original idea. (Plus, several future date nights are already planned, so it is a win-win.)
The love language of gift-giving means that you or your significant other may especially appreciate gifts. The trick is gifting sustainably. Our go-to red roses are often flown in from Latin America, and a predicted $2 billion is spent on flowers for Valentine’s Day. Instead, try locally-grown flowers from the farmer’s market or local florists. You may even learn that your beau has a favorite flower and it is not roses.
Edible objects are some of the best gifts because they are consumed and not kept around collecting dust. If your significant other is unlikely to appreciate a teddy bear forever, try food and drink kits that come with things you need to make bread, kombucha and even sparkling wine. Many companies make similar kits, such as Soberdough’s brew bread kits that range from mimosa muffins to stout brownies.
Lastly, the card to deliver with the gift. Most cards and envelopes are, thankfully, recyclable, but as soon as you add ribbon and glitter, that goes right out the window. More and more compostable and plantable cards are on the market these days. Made from seed paper, once your message is delivered, the receiver can plant the card and grow everything from wildflowers to basil ensuring your message will live on beyond the paper. You can even learn to make your own plantable cards or your own paper out of junk mail and recycled scraps. Think of the beautifully messy date making your own paper!
Whether you stay at home or travel thousands of miles, a sustainable romance is possible. The most environmentally-friendly romantics get crafty, are adventurous and purchase consciously.
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