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Valentine’s Day, the green way

Hello UW-Whitewater!

Well, Valentine’s Day is in a few days and I certainly do not claim any advanced romantic insights.  However, I find some inspiration in trying to craft the perfect evening that will not only show your significant other how much you care, but also will keep your celebrations lean and green.

Let’s think about the “typical” romantic evening… you make dinner reservations at the typical restaurant and deal with the traffic, crowds and potentially even a wait… even with a reservation.  The staff at the restaurant is probably working hard and might not be overly considerate or receptive to yet another loving couple… trust me, I worked in customer service for many years!  Perhaps following that, you go to a local movie theater where you run into more apathetic staff and large crowds of people.  After all of that money, time and stress of being out and about, you’ve managed to accomplish what is the stereotypical Valentine’s Day.  Tack on a gift, flowers and a card and it’s also looking to break your budget.

Now let’s paint a picture of your Green Valentine’s Day:  Let Your romantic evening begins at home.  Not only will this give you the intimacy and privacy on this special night, it will also avoid fuel consumption and the potential negativity introduced through the stress of your dinner/movie night.  Otherwise, think of an off-beat date idea… walk to Fiskum Art Gallery or take your date up to Bald Bluff Scenic Overlook or out on the Ice Age Trail if the weather is looking somewhat appropriate for a winter hike.  The Greenhouse Coffee Company has a great selection of drinks beyond coffee and is very environmentally friendly and local for a nice chat over a delicious beverage.

Let’s say you decided to stay at home… now it’s time to set the mood.  Turn off the lights and light some soy-based or bees’ wax candles that are scented with essential oils and do not have artificial ingredients.  This avoids the synthetic, petroleum-based paraffin candles that release toxic chemicals that can cause cancer.  You can turn off the lights and save yourself some money and avoid some of those carbon emissions while looking like a smooth operator!

For the guys out there, nothing impresses your lady like a home-cooked meal.  As a vegetarian, I have to suggest planning a great vegetarian meal, which can be found anywhere online to suit your lover’s taste.  If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll quickly realize how important having quality produce is and how difficult it can be in the middle of February.  While Sentry here in town usually has good leafy greens and a nice selection of produce, if you want to make a trip to Basics Cooperative in Janesville you won’t be sorry with their excellent selection of organic produce.  All produce is 15% off on Mondays and yes, a trip to Basics can even be a fun date idea if you’re interested in exploring the interesting variety of very healthy foods they offer.  And yes, even Woodman’s has a respectable organic produce section, although we’ve found the prices to be comparable to Basics but without the added benefit of supporting such a great cooperative (we are members).  Otherwise, if meat is still on the diet plan, you can find Basics has a great selection of organic and humanely raised animal products that are sourced locally as much as possible.  Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for information on sustainable seafood options, which is what Chartwells also uses in their sustainable seafood purchasing.

Of course, let’s not forget the goodies… my favorite chocolate bars are the Endangered Species Chocolate brand, but there are other great brands out there that are organic and sustainable.  Remember, the higher the cacao count, the darker and more bitter your chocolate will be but the more antioxidants it will contain.  I’ve actually grown to prefer the darkest chocolate I can get my hands on!  You can find organic wine or champagne in some liquor stores now as well… wine seems to be a little more prevalent from my experiences.   Getting organic wine is very important as grapes often have heavy pesticide use in their production.  The Greenhouse Coffee Company in Whitewater carries some organic wine choices as well.

Sustainable means something that will last, and traditional cut flowers hardly fit the bill.  Ordering online flowers is risky because they can come from a variety of distant sources and often require heavy pesticide and preservatives to stay in pristine condition.  Unfortunately, getting fresh cut local flowers in Wisconsin in the middle of February can be much more challenging (but not impossible), but there are some alternatives to consider.  Of course, a great idea is to get a wood rose that are sold on campus in the UC before Valentine’s Day.  Another option is to get a flowering potted plant that won’t wilt after a week and will be a constant reminder of your blossoming love!  Otherwise, consider a bulb perennial plant and set a date to plant a flower patch of tulips, daffodils, or lillies.  You can save the bulbs to replant somewhere in the fall.

Still need a gift?  Well, there’s no good specific recommendation I can offer…use your imagination or a Google search!  My girlfriend and I are trying to move to a completely natural, organic lifestyle so for Valentine’s Day we aren’t doing any gifts.  Instead, we are making some purchases on Lucky Vitamin to explore some of the great natural products they offer.   I am into raw foods right now, so I’m checking out a wide variety of raw food nutritional bars and supplements (along with a new exercise mat) and my girlfriend is checking out a variety of natural beauty and skin care products.  Going on this natural health and wellness journey together has been a good bonding experience for us to share, which strikes me as more romantic than buying her a piece of jewelry.  Explore a hobby together and buy each other presents for the hobby and you have the gift that keeps on giving!

Last but not least… the card.  Nothing says romantic and personal like making your own card.  So get to work… Monday is right around the corner and those weekends always fly by!  Have a good time!

Your friendly neighborhood Sustainability Coordinator