You're probably here because you googled this topic, or your girlfriend/wife sent this to you in an email as a not-so-subtle hint. Well, I say to you, "Congratulations!" and "I'm sorry."
Congratulations, because you're in love with someone who cares about the world and their role in it, so she's probably pretty awesome. I'm sorry, because the chance of you screwing this holiday up is higher than normal. In fact, you probably already screwed up Christmas and her birthday, even if she was too nice to say so.
EcoCult to the rescue. I've put together a primer on picking out the perfect gift for her that says, "I love you so much, I spent hours finding this Fair Trade trade/eco-friendly/recycled/organic/non-toxic gift." She will squeal, I promise.
How could you mess up flowers, you say? Flowers are, like, natural! Ah, but that's why you need my education, my friend.
Now, I know you would never buy bodega or grocery store flowers on this Very Important Day, but even flowers from more high-end shops come with problems. Many flowers are shipped all the way from South America. Your girlfriend will not like that, because that involves very high carbon emissions and probably some shady labor practices. Also, like produce, many flowers are sprayed with pesticides. No bueno.
Really, flowers shouldn't be a Valentine's Day thing, because where the hell do you get locally-grown flowers in February? Hello, it's been blizzarding for months. But ideally, you need to get flowers that were grown locally in a hothouse, and grown organically. Or at least grown on a South American farm that is certified Fair Trade.
Nationally, you have Organic Bouquet, though the quality looks about the same as what you would get from other national flower chains like 1-800 Flowers, so order early and tread carefully.
You can also search for a local flower supplier on the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers' website. Or you could just google "organic flowers" plus your city, and see what turns up.
Your sustainably minded woman won't care how much you spent on that fancy perfume, if it's a conventional kind from the department store, full of toxins and fake scents. In fact, she probably avoids all beauty products that say "perfume" in the ingredients, because that is code word for, "We don't want to tell you what chemicals we mixed to get this lotion to smell like cucumber."
To make her happy, you're looking for a natural perfume made in America from essential oils and real, botanical ingredients.
OK, this is a hard one always--jewelry is very taste-specific. But if you are dead set on getting jewelry for your love (and you think you know her style well enough to pick out just the thing) then there are some things you should know.
Mining for the metals used in jewelry is terrible for the environment. Imagine a moonscape, worked by exploited and impoverished people in third world. Same thing for precious stones. Ever seen Blood Diamond? Also, you don't want to get her something made in China or Bangladesh, because just the manufacturing conditions could be slave-like.
Your woman will appreciate jewelry that is either beautifully up-cycled, certified as conflict free, made from sustainably sourced materials, made responsibly in a developed nation, or all three. Below are some romantic finds, from least to most expensive.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get her chocolate from the convenience store. If she is in the know, she'll view chocolate from conventional sources as tainted by slave and child labor.
Instead, buy her thoughtful chocolates made from Fair Trade cocoa and organic, real ingredients, ideally in sustainable, plastic-free packaging.
My best suggestion is to find a small, locally owned chocolate shop in your city and verify that they use fair trade cocoa. Your girl likes to eat local and support small businesses, and chocolate is no exception. But if you are at a loss, I've recommended some of my favorite brands below.
What's that you say? You would rather share a romantic experience than give her yet more stuff? Good boy, there's a reason she chose you!
However, by now, you should have noticed she cares deeply about the food she eats--where it comes from and what the ingredients are. That doesn't necessarily mean she's vegetarian or vegan. She might love a steak--as long as it's from a grass-fed cow. So make sure to treat her to a restaurant where she feels free to order anything off the menu without guilt.
How do find an eco-friendly restaurant? Well, it's not entirely easy, but here are some steps to take to find the right place in your city:
1. If you live in New York City, peek at my list of bookmarked restaurants on Yelp, where you'll find a large selection of sustainably-minded, organic, vegan, farm-to-table restaurants, and filter them by neighborhood, cuisine, etc. My favorites include ABC Kitchen, Craft, Prune, Fat Radish, Print, Mas Farmhouse, Roberta's, Rosemary's, Blue Hill, Back Forty, Hearth, Bell Book and Candle, and Il Buco. And look up a nice place to get a good cocktail before or after your romantic dinner.
2. If you live elsewhere, Googling or searching on Yelp for "Farm to Table" will yield a wealth of results.
3. Also use the Green Restaurant Association's searchable website to find certified and rated green restaurants in your state or metropolitan area.
4. If you're wondering if a restaurant you like sources their ingredient responsibly, go ahead and call! Just ask them, "Can you tell me where you source your ingredients from?" If they seem confused by your question, then don't go there. If they can easily answer and say something like, "We get our meat from Such and Such Farm," or "We source most of our ingredients from local farms in the Tri-State area," you're on to something good.