It’s easy to think of Valentine’s Day as a manufactured holiday designed to sell presents and cards. At Postconsumers, though, we think that there’s something kind of lovely about a day dedicated to telling people that you love them. Of course, we also don’t think that Valentine’s Day needs to be about buying things (or about buying things without giving some thought to how and what you’re buying). We’ve put together our list of our favorite twenty-one things that you can do on Valentine’s Day that celebrate love without destroying the planet or your budget.

(We’ll be posting one or two a day every day until Valentine’s Day. Be sure to come back for the full list if you’re seeing this early!)

1. Chalk a Sidewalk

One of our favorite alternatives to a Valentine’s Day card or really any greeting card is to chalk the sidewalk outside of your Valentine’s Day love’s home. Chalk is natural, you won’t create the waste of one-time use paper and your message will be truly unique. Of course, you’re at the mercy of the weather, but if it rains you can always change your message to a serenade and sing in the rain instead!

2. Cook a Romantic Dinner

For many people, Valentine’s Day means heading out to a restaurant for a fabulous dinner. You can be friendlier to the planet and friendlier to your wallet by cooking a romantic dinner at home. You can either choose to cook a meal for your Valentine, or you can cook together. Making food together can be both fun and sensual. After all, you never know what you may get up to in the kitchen! And enjoying an adult beverage and feeding each other while you cook is a great mood-setter. Of course, try to opt for organic and free-range products for your meal, if possible. If you are headed out to a restaurant, try to make the extra effort to find a restaurant that embraces green practices.

3. Show Some Love to People Who Need It Most

Spread the love a little further this Valentine’s Day. Before, after or instead of celebrating as a two-some, spend some time taking Valentine’s Day treats, food, love and donations to places where people don’t feel love often enough. Homeless shelters, children’s homes and animal shelters are a great place to start. You’ll be celebrating the true spirit of the season and your bond with your partner will grow from having made a difference together.

4. Purchase a Truly Unique and Handmade Gift

Not all purchased gifts are evil in nature! Purchasing a gift that supports an underserved population or that is truly unique and handmade isn’t the same as purchasing from a big box store. Consider exploring Etsy for one-of-a-kind handmade or vintage options. For women, we love recommending The Leakey Collection, which provides resources to Maasai women in Africa. You can also research local artisans in your hometown and make purchases from them. Not every gift is caving to materialism! Many gifts have unique and valuable stories that can add to your relationship and help the world around you.

5. Find an Amazing View

Sometimes a moment is all it takes! Find a high-point, take a hike, go up an incline, travel to a beautiful field, wait for the clear night sky or go to the beach. Get creative and think of a place in your town or city where there’s a fantastic view. Then take your Valentine there and just enjoy the experience together. You may want to pack some snacks or a fine wine (or juice if you’re not an alcohol drinker). Consider commemorating the moment on film with a picture, writing a poem for the occasion or even just telling your Valentine that you love him or her. If you want to take it up a notch, arrive at sunset or sunrise!

6. Go Au Natural

Nothing says “I Love You” like meeting your lover at the door…naked. Get the evening (or morning, or afternoon) started off the way we all wish that we were celebrating Valentine’s Day – entangled in the sheets. Skip the lingerie and go right to your sexiest state – clothing free! Whether you both take the day off of work to enjoy the essence of Valentine’s Day or whether you save your romping for later, Cupid doesn’t wear clothes on Valentine’s Day and neither should you!

7. Save an Animal

It’s not just humans who need love! Not only can saving an animal from a shelter be a fantastic way to spread some love in the world, but pets make gifts of love that keep giving love. If you’re buying a pet for a gift, make sure that you’re reasonably sure that your gift recipient will actually want the pet. Nobody wants to see animals saved from shelters just to get sent back there. However, the gift of a rescued animal extends the love all the way around.

8. Make a Donation

Not everybody is fortunate enough to be able to buy gifts and have fancy nights out for Valentine’s Day. And if we don’t save the planet, none of us will have that option anyway! Instead of exchanging gifts or indulging in expensive nights out this Valentine’s Day, exchange donations to worthy causes in each other’s name. Only reveal where you made your donation on Valentine’s Day and then tell your lover why the cause that you donated to reminds you of him or her.

9. Sleep Outside

Get out the hammock, the sleeping bags or even a collection of sensual sheets and blankets and sleep outside. Yes, this activity is better suited for people in warmer climates, but a snuggle in a tent in a shared arctic sleeping bag can be romantic, too. Seeing the stars, hearing the sounds of nature and feeling removed from urban living are great ways to celebrate freedom this Valentine’s Day. Just remember, there are public decency laws, people!

10. Give Each Other Massages

What’s more sensual and romantic than a massage? Read up (there are dozens of YouTube videos) on how to give a sensual massage and then treat your lover or treat each other.  To improve the experience, take the time to set the mood and create a relaxing atmosphere. We could write more than this, but we think you have it figured out!

11. Make Your Own Bath Products

Avoid purchasing bath and body products from big box stores or chain stores and instead make your own. There are dozens of recipes for bath salts, sugar scrubs, bath oils and even bath bombs available on the internet and most of them use natural ingredients. Of course, once you’ve made your hand-made bath products, the obvious next step is to share a bath with your lover so that you can try them out.

12. Create Some Art

The old adage “Nothing says love like something you made” holds true even when you’re talking about a lover. Get out the paints, chalks, or pencils and make some art for your Valentine. Of course, art doesn’t need to be limited to drawings and paintings. Whatever the way that you express your creativity is, that’s what you should do. Music, writing, metal or woodworking …even performance art! Art is one of the least filtered ways to express your emotions, so it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.

13. The Gift of Music

More than ever before, music of all types and genres is available. Even if you’re not particularly tech-savvy, finding rare music, classic music or innovative and cutting edge music is just an online search away. That means you can create a playlist that says “I Love You” in amazingly rich ways. And, with modern technology, you don’t even need the wastefulness of burning your music to a CD – you can share it directly online. Are you musical yourself? Take it up a notch with an audio file or online video of you performing the music on your playlist.

14. Attend an Event

An experience can be worth a thousand cards, gifts or even words. Whether your ideal evening out is a musical concert, an art exhibit, a cooking class, a sports event or even an academic lecture, sharing an activity will stay in your memories much longer than a box of chocolates (however we heard that you can send the chocolates to Postconsumers founder Carol Holst). You’ll always remember the Valentine’s Day that you heard your favorite piece of music or saw your team win big. Find an event you’ll both love, then share it together!

15. Watch a Romantic Comedy at Home

Almost every big movie studio around will release a romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day season, and millions of people will flock to cineplexes to see them. Ask yourself, what’s more romantic? Is it a crowded theater with some guy chomping popcorn and slurping a soda next to you, or is it being curled up on the couch with a bottle of wine and some snacks? Then ask yourself which scenario will be more romantic after the movie.

16. Learn to Say “I Love You” in Other Languages

It may sound cliché, but it’s always romantic when somebody learns to tell you that they love you in a multitude of languages. Here’s how to say “I Love You” in fifty different languages. Now, get started learning. And if you’re not comfortable doing it in person, you can always make a video so that you can have retakes!

17. Plant a Tree

What doesn’t say “I Love You” about planting a tree? The tree’s life is like the life of your love, and we don’t mean that in a cheesy way. A tree starts as just a sapling, but as it grows it flourishes, blooms and gains strength and wisdom. Okay, wisdom may be a stretch if you don’t believe that plants think! Regardless, planting a tree (in addition to helping the planet grow) is an ongoing reminder of your relationship and your love. Instead of killing trees to make paper cards, plant a tree. Be vibrant, like your partner and relationship.

18. Visit a Botanical Garden

Skip the cut flowers and their eco-miles. Visit some living flowers instead. Not only does visiting a botanical garden or nature reserve still celebrate the concept of Valentine’s Day flowers, but it gives you an opportunity to take a romantic stroll together. Cut flowers come with a variety of eco challenges, but live flowers are romantic, beautiful and a perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day together.

19. The IOU Booklet

We’re not the first people to come up with the idea of making your lover a personalized IOU booklet as a gift, but this is a fantastic way to give your Valentine exactly what he or she wants without wasting resources. Whether your IOU booklet is practical (chores they don’t want to do like washing the dishes) or sexy (use your own imagination) or somewhere in between, an IOU booklet is a great way to tell them that you care without wasting resources. Just be sure you keep all the promises you make in the booklet!

20. Write it Down!

No card can ever say what your own words do.   All you need is a piece of paper (or a blog, or an email account) and the willingness to say what you feel. If you need some tips to get started, consider telling the story of how you feel in love with your Valentine, or just how you feel when you’re sitting next to him or her. Approach writing the letter with no fear. The best words are the ones that are unfiltered.

21. Just Say “I Love You.”

Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple and just say “I love you.” Say it to everybody who needs to hear it! And then, remember to just keep saying it every day.