A lot of men feel pressure when it comes to Valentine's Day gifts, but you don't have to get your loved one something expensive or even store-bought to make the day special. Sometimes things you can't buy are more romantic than anything you could get at a jewelry store or flower shop. Not only does it show your dedication through the effort of creating something or spending time with your loved one, but it's not a bad idea for Mother Nature either.

While diamonds and roses are a lovely surprise, they are somewhat cliché and aren't exactly good for the planet. Mining diamonds produces roughly 143 lbs. of CO2 emissions per carat and lab-created "girl's best friends" still have an environmental impact with about 26 lbs. of CO2 into the atmosphere per carat. Flowers have a double downside – they don't last forever and are often flown to the United States from warmer climates such as South America. Not to mention, they are typically transported in temperature-controlled trucks across the country to reach their destination at the flower shop. In short, even small bouquets tend to have a pretty extraordinary carbon footprint.

But you don't have to go the traditional route for Valentine's Day. With one in four men picking out flowers and another 11% headed to the jewelry store, set yourself apart and cut down this year's carbon footprint with one of these thoughtful and eco-friendly gifts.

  1. Cook for your significant other. While dining out may be a nice evening, cooking a meal for your loved one is especially intimate. Find out what your valentine's favorite meal is and spend the time and effort cooking it at home. But don't forget to add a little dash of romance!
  2. Make love coupons from recycled paper. From the backs of envelopes to newspaper, we all have too much paper in our homes. Instead of throwing it out, find a creative way to upcycle it into coupons for favors such as back rubs and doing the dishes. It's the gift that keeps on giving!
  3. Create upcycled paper flowers. If your significant other is the type that expects flowers, use your crafting skills to make a paper bouquet from various materials around your house. Not only will you get brownie points for putting love into the project, you'll make something custom that lasts a lot longer than cut flowers.
  4. Plant flowers. If you don't think your flower lover would appreciate craft paper flowers, plant some in a recycled pot! Planted flowers should last for at least a season and don’t require the transportation methods of cut flowers. While they may not bloom until spring, you can find a clever way to mark the spot and thus mark your love.
  5. Make a mixtape. Well, an actual mixtape may be outdated but even a playlist on a USB drive would do the trick. Save your carbon footprint by taking a tip from the classic years of middle school and finding the perfect tracks for the one you love. Nothing says "I love you" like a mix of carefully selected ballads.
  6. Gift an heirloom. If you're really serious about the person you're with, ask your family if there are any heirlooms that might be up for grabs. Typically, getting Great Grandma's necklace says a lot more than a store-bought diamond or gemstone. Not to mention, it's essentially recycling and spreading the lifespan of the initial carbon footprint it created.

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