People around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 by expressing their love for each other and exchanging thoughtful gifts, gestures, and words. 

Over the past few years, we've all become a lot more aware of the environmental and social cost of holidays built around consumerism, but that doesn't mean you can't still celebrate — and do good at the same time. Instead of just buying chocolates or flowers, what if you showed your love through meaningful gifts that champion sustainability, fight systems of inequality, and help end poverty?

Not only can you help make a difference in the world, but you and your loved ones can also commemorate your shared values to help others. 

Here are seven ways that Global Citizens can celebrate their love while also helping to make the world a better, more sustainable, and more just place. 

1. Buy Sustainably Sourced Flowers for Someone You Love

Flowers are probably the most traditional gift on Valentine’s Day. However, even a bouquet of red roses can have severe effects on the environment. 

The Washington Post found that 80% of the 5.6 billion flowers sold in the US are imported, which leads to increased carbon emissions. On top of that, when flowers have to travel long distances, they require more chemicals to keep them fresh for longer. 

Many of these flowers are grown in countries where the use of harmful pesticides is less regulated. Beyond destroying the natural environment, workers on the farms are also exposed to toxic pesticides that can have detrimental health effects. 

Instead of contributing to the commercial flower industry, look for sustainable florists that grow organic flowers locally to minimize your carbon footprint. You could also think about gifting plants that will continue to grow and flourish, instead of cut flowers. 

2. Plant or Protect a Tree in Your Valentine’s Name

Trees remove millions of pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and are an essential part of the fight against climate change. When you support organizations that plant and conserve trees, you can be a part of the solution for a more sustainable world, as trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. 

The Arbor Day Foundation is one of many organizations where you can honor your loved ones by naming a tree after them. Trees can be a beautiful way to share your love with someone, as trees grow stronger and can survive for years — the perfect testament to your relationship. 

Even if you don’t donate to an organization that plants trees, you and your partner can spend a romantic Valentine’s Day planting a tree in your own backyard (but make sure you do your research first over which trees are best to plant in your area). 

3. Adopt an Animal to Show Your Commitment

Adopting a pet could be the perfect way to channel your free time into good by saving an animal’s life. 

Every year, 8 to 12 million dogs and cats are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them, according to Helping Hands. Adopting pets from shelters also helps avoid the cruelty that animals experience in mass breeding facilities and inspires others to adopt instead of shop. 

The gift of a pet could bring you and your partner closer than ever before as you work together to care for the new addition to your family. 

Is adopting and caring for a new pet not exactly for you right now? You can also symbolically adopt an animal through WWF instead. In exchange for a donation supporting the organization's conservation work protecting animals and their habitats, you get a plush version of the animal you adopted.

4. Gift a Cup of Coffee or Tea That Champions Social Causes

No matter what's going on in the world, a warm cup of coffee or tea is sure to bring a smile to your loved one’s face. 

When you buy Change Please coffee, the organization supports people experiencing housing insecurity. Through training, employment, housing, and therapy support, Change Please is rehabilitating people and helping to end homelessness. 

If your partner prefers tea, Tea People helps you find delicious, award-winning teas while also supporting a social cause. Tea People uses 50% of all profits to support educational projects in tea-growing regions. 

5. Spend Time Together Taking a Class From a Local Business

Rather than dining out or heading to a restaurant (or binging Netflix on the couch), you could spend your Valentine’s Day enjoying quality time with your partner learning a new skill while also supporting local businesses. If you're not yet ready to "get back out there" online classes are abound and can be a great way to still support local businesses.

Many businesses are offering classes, from wine and cheese tasting and beer brewing to candle making or painting that you can take advantage of.

6. Give a Gift That Gives Back to Vulnerable Communities

Oxfam is one of many charities that allows you to give a gift to a community in honor of your loved one. Oxfam's services are designed to bring lasting change by providing things like goats, safe drinking water, or blankets to vulnerable communities. These are unique and memorable gifts for people who are passionate about directly helping to end global poverty. 

You can also use Valentine's Day as a reason to donate directly to all the remarkable organizations out there tackling poverty, food and hunger, climate change, gender inequality, and global health.

Global Citizen Life

Demand Equity

6 Alternative Valentine's Day Gifts to Help Make a Positive Difference

By Sophie Partridge-Hicks