Eco-friendly Gifts Your Valentine (and Mother Earth) Will Love

Show your loved one some appreciation this Valentine’s Day with these eco-friendly gift ideas.

Five succulents lined up in a row.

In our materialistic and resource-driven world, February 14th has become synonymous with half-eaten boxes of sweethearts and forgotten Hallmark cards crumpled in dresser drawers. While it is important to show your appreciation for those you love on Valentine’s Day (especially if you’re in a committed relationship), this doesn’t always have to mean resorting to typical displays of affection like late-night dinners and fancy boxes of chocolates. Opting for eco-friendly gifts will not only cut Mother Earth a break from climate change, but will also cut that special person in your life a break from cliche gifts. 

No matter who you’re shopping for--a tree hugger or that sentimental somebody--this list of assorted eco-friendly gift ideas will provide the DIY inspiration you need if you’re tight on money and the links to online stores if you’re tight on time. There’s something for everyone on this eco-friendly gift list. The only question is, do you know that special person in your life well enough to pick it out?

DIY Declarations of Love

A stack of white cards that say "I love you because..."'
Writing someone a letter on scrap or zero waste paper is the perfect eco-friendly gift to let them know how much they mean to you. Image courtesy of Smashed Peas and Carrots. 

Handwritten letter

Writing a heartfelt letter to someone you love--whether it’s your mom or your partner--is one of the most sincere and genuine ways to show how much you appreciate them. If you’re doing Valentine’s Day right, you likely won’t get through the day without professing the words “I love you” in some way or another, and if writing is your thing then take a shot at crafting somebody a letter.

You can save yourself quite a few bucks by leaving the fancy cards at the Hallmark store. Instead, opt for something a little more sustainable like the blank paper from your home printer or the looseleaf from an old notebook. You can even gather the mishmash of art supplies in your house to decorate the card in a way that reflects your personality and the relationship you have with your loved one. While all of this may sound juvenile, making your own card means relying on your own words, which will seem a lot more personal to a loved one than a long-winded poem on a store-bought card.

If you’re not an artist or would prefer a cleaner look, you can always buy a more sustainable form of stationary, like these beautifully hand drawn zero waste cards made from seeds. Using either method to write a note of appreciation--whether its an appreciative note to a friend or a romantic love letter--is a gift that will never go out of style.

Digital photo collage/montage 

If you really love someone, odds are you have dozens of photos of them saved to your camera roll. But have you ever done anything with these photos? 

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to not only show someone how much you appreciate their company, and there’s no better way to do this than to create a photo montage that captures the best moments you’ve shared together.

While this idea may seem intimidating for those who shudder at the thought of mixing technology with creativity, you can use several photo collage apps to help turn your photos into a final product that is as much aesthetically pleasing as it is meaningful. If you’re feeling extra creative (or just extra cheesy), you turn your photos into a video montage with meaningful music playing in the background (perhaps you and your partner’s favorite song). Perhaps this isn’t the best gift idea for cynics, but it’s paperless and sentimental, making it a great eco-friendly gift idea.

Make A Big Gesture: Gift something from Nature

Two people stargazing.
Naming a star after a loved one is a great eco-friendly gift idea that shows how much you love living in the universe with them. Image courtesy of Star Register.

Plant a tree 

Nothing says you love the environment more than planting a tree. And nothing says you love your significant other more than planting a tree for them. Love for the environment, love for your significant other--there’s nothing better than that wonderful combo. 

The nonprofit organization The Trees Remember plants trees in national forests that have been damaged by fires. In exchange for a small fee, you can plant a tree in loving tribute of a loved one. The gift comes with a certificate that specifies where the tree is planted, the option to include a personal message to the recipient, and a tree charm that will remind your loved one of the tree planted for them, even if they are never able to see it in person. Planting a tree is not only a novel gesture to show someone your love and appreciation, it actively helps save the planet, which makes it the ideal eco-friendly gift, especially for someone who’s always thinking about Mother Nature. 

Buy a star 

There is no bigger gift you can give--both physically and symbolically--than naming a star after someone. This idea is not for the faint of heart--don’t do it for someone who is weary of big gestures or afraid of commitment. With that said, if you do need a way to express your affinity for someone living on earth, show you love by naming a star after them.

For just $35, you can buy a star in the sky that can be seen anywhere in the world year-round. This eco-friendly gift idea comes with a certificate displaying the name of the star as well as its location in the sky. It’s also perfect for people who are in a pinch, as CosmoNova offers an option to access your star’s certificate via email as opposed to in the mail. 

Or just buy a plant 

Are you in a relationship with a modest person who gets little put off by big gestures? Consider looking down from the sky a little and buying them a small and manageable house plant instead. If your partner has a green thumb feel free to get them anything that fits their taste. If they’re a little new to the gardening game, consider buying them a succulent, which requires minimal effort to maintain. 

No, buying your partner a succulent from Lowe’s isn’t quite as lofty as naming a star in the sky after them, but the thought is still there, only this time it’s a little more tangible. You and your partner will be reminded of your growing relationship every time you look to see the plant blooming on the kitchen windowsill. The concept is a little sappy, but for the right person it can make the perfect gift, especially if their heart beats faster just by the thought of helping the environment.  

When all else fails, there’s quality time

Two people sitting on the floor sharing a plate of pancakes.
Prioritizing time with a loved one this Valentine’s Day by making them dinner is a great gift to show your appreciation while also being environmentally conscious. 

Sit down for a meal together

Quality time is the bread and butter of any relationship, and there’s no better way to show someone you care about them than to do what you enjoy most--spend time together. Carving out a few hours to have a meal with someone you love can be a great gift that shows how much you appreciate them and how well you know them. 

What you eat isn’t necessarily super important as long as you show your special somebody some attention--turn your phones off and focus on each other! With that being said, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to try out that fancy place around the corner that has the cuisine you both like. Or, if you’d prefer to stay home for the evening, home cooking your partner’s favorite meal, even if it’s not to perfection, can be a romantic gesture that shows a significant amount of effort and consideration. 

Recreate your first date

Yes, another sappy idea that will likely have you and your partner traveling down memory lane for the remainder of the evening. But if you’ve used up all your exciting ideas on past dates, reviving an old idea can feel as refreshing as doing something new.  Not to mention, it will harbor much more meaning than any movie that just hit the theaters.

Revisit the location where you had your first date might mean making adjustments when necessary. Where was it? A park? A diner? Your little cousin’s baseball game? Depending on the weather and the location where you currently live, doing exactly what you did back then may not be feasible, but this will only add to the adventure. You and your partner can come up with ways to reimagine what you did way back when on your first date, being creative when necessary and just going along with it. If you really want to make it a realistic experience, try finding that outfit stored away in the back of your closet that you wore the first time you and your partner went out.

Regardless of which eco-friendly gift you choose for that special someone in your life, it’s important to think about the person you are shopping for. What do they like? Are they a big gesture type of person or do they prefer modest displays of affection? Are they a foodie? A star gazer? Whoever you love, there’s always a great eco-friendly gift that will not only show them how much you value preserving your relationship, but how much you value preserving the environment as well.

Kaitlyn Nuebel

Kaitlyn Nuebel is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh with double majors in nonfiction writing & communication and rhetoric.
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