04/13/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Green Your Valentine's Day: Four Tips

I know, I know: Valentine's Day is nothing more than a Hallmark holiday, promoted mainly to increase consumerism. Or is it? Turns out you can actually show the planet some love while enjoying the amorous occasion. Here's how:

1. Choose Organic Chocolate. Of all crops, cocoa demands the second highest use of pesticides (first place goes to cotton). But toxicity isn't a requirement. In fact, the sweet stuff tastes a lot better when producers honor USDA organic standards, which prohibit the use of harmful chemicals. This benefits our bodies and the earth by preventing all those poisons from getting into the soil, water, and air. Not sure which organic chocolate to choose for your sweetheart? Check out the Sierra Club's picks here.

2. Beneficial Blooms. Almost 200 million roses are produced for Valentine's Day -- and that's just roses. To give flowers mindfully this Sunday, choose an organic bouquet. Non-organic flowers can contain 50 times more pesticides than is legal to have on food. Buying local is a good idea too, since 80 percent of flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from Colombia and Ecuador on refrigerated airplanes. Better to buy what's in season from a farmers' market or to give a potted plant, which lasts much longer.

3. Green Gifts. If you give your Valentine a tchotchke or doodad, consider how soon it may end up in a landfill. Instead, plan a hike and a picnic in your mutually favorite nature spot. Other memorable small-footprint ideas include a day at an organic spa, a gift certificate to a vegetarian restaurant, a cooking or dancing class, tickets to a nearby concert or play, a subscription to a local CSA, or a digital playlist. You can even adopt a national park in your sweetheart's name. If you do choose to give an object, check out Sierra magazine's guide to green Valentine's gifts.

4. Conscious Cards. More than 180 million cards are exchanged on Valentine's Day. Since paper is made of trees, and paper mills use immense amounts of water and emit tons of chemicals, imagine the impact it would make if all those cards were recycled or electronic. Even recycled cards, though, end up in the landfill, where they emit methane as they decompose. One alternative is to make a card out of old magazines and calendars. Another is to give a card made of seed paper; bury it and when the paper biodegrades, the seeds grow into wildflowers.

For more, listen to this week's Sierra Club Radio podcast.