February is now upon us and Valentine's Day is right around the corner, which means one of three things: you're either floating on the daydream of what's to come, grimacing with resent for this "Hallmark holiday," or filled with anxiety of what the heck to get your V-Day date. If you're worrying about the latter, the reality is that most Valentine's Day gifts are forgotten by February 15th, which is why I'd like to propose that this year you focus on purchasing gifts that also give back to people and the planet for a lasting effect. Whether your date is a raving success or an absolute catastrophe, your heart will be warmed by what you've done for others. Here are my top picks:
"With All My Heart" Women's Gift Set by GIVEN: $60
I love this "With All My Heart" gift set from the newest brand in the Made for Good family, GIVEN, especially for moms. The set, which retails for $60, includes a limited edition women's T-shirt, necklace made in Ecuador, heart-shaped soapstone made in Kenya, and card and is packaged inside of a special red gift box. For each set purchased, 30% of the proceeds will be donated to World Vision to aid in their projects that improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
Hand-Milled Soap Gift Set from Raven + Lily: On Sale for $17
There is possibly nothing sexier than soaking in the exotic beauty of India that is represented in this travel-size soap gift set. Made with four fragrant scents including: lavender, honey oatmeal, chai and mint, these soaps are handmade in Northern India using all organic and natural ingredients including fresh spring water, and locally grown herbs and spices. Proceeds from this collection go to fund literacy programs for the women artisans and children in the community. Each set includes a beautiful, handmade soap box, completing a lush gift that won't break the bank.
FEED 3 Bear by FEED Projects: $35
A great alternative to the traditional cliche teddy bear is this plush burlap gem from FEED Projects and Teddy Share. Each FEED 3 Bear will provide three treatments of Plumpy'Nut, a high nutrient paste, to three children through the non-profit organization, Edesia.
Everett Gimlet Tortoise Sunglasses by Warby Parker: $95
Who wouldn't be stoked to receive these sweet sunnies for V-Day? What makes these the perfect present isn't just their cool vintage feel. Approximately one billion people don't have access to affordable glasses. Glasses can increase one's income by 20 percent, enable students to see a blackboard and offer dignity to those with poor eyesight. Warby Parker works with experienced non-profit partners to ensure that each sale of their frames will give someone in need access to affordable glasses.
"Made Out of Love" Cookbook by The Honest Kitchen: $14
If your Valentine has four legs, a furry body, and a ferocious appetite, The Honest Kitchen is the way to their heart. Their Taster Kit is a great gift, featuring a variety of their whole food, human-grade foods, but what I really love is the "Made Out of Love" cookbook, which features more than 65 recipes that you can prepare (and some that you can even share with) your pets. Every purchase from The Honest Kitchen gives back to animal-related charities through their Pawlanthropy program.
Winter Anemone from California Organic Flowers: $59.95
This all-female staffed farm recognized that far too often beautiful flowers are a façade for poisonous chemical sprays and exploited workers. They've created a whole new ecosystem for raising flowers and serve up only sustainable, organic delights. Support their mission through beautiful bouquets or -- for a gift that gives year-round -- subscribe to their flower club for three, six or 12 months.
Best Friends Set of 2 from Alex and Ani: $48
Relationships may come and go, but best friends are always there to celebrate your successes and drown your sorrows in fro yo and Ryan Gosling rom-coms. Alex and Ani created these super sweet bangle sets for you and your bestie. They're reminiscent of grade school necklaces purchased from skating rink coin machines but with a mature, modern feel and much more sophisticated metals. Added benevolent bonus: 20 percent of all sales will be donated to the American Heart Association.
70 percent Dark Chocolate Hearts from Divine Chocolate: $6.99
There is nothing -- and I mean nothing -- I want more for Valentine's Day than these smooth, rich, dark chocolate hearts wrapped in perfectly shiny red foils (note: I am currently on day five of a 21-day cleanse, so pardon me while I drool on my keyboard). What's different about Divine is that their tasty treats are the only Fair Trade chocolate company that is 45 percent owned by the farmers. While Fair Trade ensures farmers receive a better deal for their cocoa and additional income to invest in their community, company ownership gives farmers a share of Divine's profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry. Purchase one of these packs and visit their chocolate and wine pairing page for a sweet date idea.
I Love You, I Love Lomo Fisheye Camera by Lomography: $89
Whether snapping sweet first dates, fun with friends or racy rendezvous, capture 170-degree spreads with this special edition gem. If you purchase through the site www.giftsthatgive.com, 20 percent of your purchase will be donated to the charity of your choice upon checkout. Oh, snap!
Fly Away for $500 Off from Classic Journeys: Prices Vary
For the extravagant gift-giver, Classic Journeys offers jet-setting adventures around the globe. From island adventures in the Galapagos to culinary adventures along the Amalfi Coast, the company is graciously offering $500 off any trip booked by Valentine's Day 2012 for readers of this article by using the code HP12. Classic Journeys was founded on the belief that tourism can provide income to local people, conserve the environment and promote understanding of other cultures. They also believe that they can leverage their relationships and successes for the benefit of those who are less fortunate and a portion of their proceeds support such organizations as Doctors Without Borders, ProLiteracy Worldwide, Outward Bound Wilderness, World Vision, American Red Cross and UNICEF.
Jerry Can Cufflinks by charity:water: $110
These cufflinks are the perfect present for the proper gentleman with a conscience. They are made of solid silver and come packaged in a beautiful black box, also featuring the charity:water logo. The best part? $50 from each pair are donated to charity: water to assist in their operating costs for bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
Make a Wish Necklace from Future:Standard: $25
If your Valentine's Day sky is lacking shooting stars, wish upon this sweet necklace by Dogeared. The necklace is accompanies by packaging that proclaims "Make a wish and put on this necklace and when your necklace wears off, your wish should come true." Even sweeter? The necklace is made with hemp and recycled silver, making the perfect organic, sustainable, biodegradable and eco-friendly gift. Sweeter yet? Purchase from Future:Standard and a percentage of each sale is donated to the organization, 1 percent for the Planet.