Now's the time for heart-shaped merchandise take over store shelves.

Each year, consumers collectively spend more than $18 billion on Valentine's Day — $2 billion of which is spent on candy alone, according to CNN. But showing your love for someone doesn't mean you have to buy into consumerism. Keep it green, and share some of that Valentine's love with the earth this year.

Here are some ways you can put the eco in romance (see what we did there?):

Send an e-card: Every year 145 million Valentines Day cards are produced, purchased and promptly discarded. No need to create more waste when you can send love electronically. Send a free Valentine's Day e-card through the World Wildlife Fund, because nothing says "I love you" like zebras kissing.

Make dinner at home: Sure, dining out is supposed to be a quintessential component of a romantic Valentine's Day. But according to the Green Restaurant Association, a single restaurant in the U.S. can produce up to 75,000 pounds of food waste per year. Dining at home is a sustainable option, and you can impress your sweetie with a home-cooked, green meal, as it can be hard to ensure restaurant ingredients are local and organic. And cook together — but be careful the kitchen doesn't get too hot! Here are some more tips:

• Buy ingredients in bulk to cut down packaging and compost uncooked organic waste

• Check out for eco-friendly recipes


• Make extra and share your leftovers with someone in need to spread the love

Use green candles: Candlelight is a perfect way to set the mood while using less energy. However, many cheap candles are made from paraffin wax, which consists of alkane hydrocarbons and is a byproduct of oil refining. When burned, the fumes can contain multiple carcinogens that pollute the air. Instead, opt for soy wax or beeswax candles and check labels to be sure candles are 100 percent paraffin-free.

Donate your time: Instead of spending money on each other, why not give time together to an organization doing great work in the world? Visit CU's Volunteer Resource Center ( for opportunities in Boulder. You don't have to make a grand gesture to make a difference: Hit the trails together, or stroll down the creek path and pick up garbage. The earth deserves our affection too.

No matter how you spend this holiday, keep the environment in mind. It has loved you long before your first kiss and has given you greater gifts than a heart-shaped box. If you must buy your loved one something for the big day, gift potted house plants instead of fresh-cut flowers so that they can thrive for months after the flowers turn to waste.

If we're lucky, making green choices this Valentine's Day will help sustain the environment and romance alike, because one thing's for sure: I'm hopelessly in love with this planet. I can't wait to strap on snowshoes and celebrate Valentine's Day with mother nature (and a bar of fair trade chocolate, of course).

Drew Searchinger works at CU's Environmental Center.