15 Ways to Spend Time -- Not Money -- This Valentine's Day

01/28/2013 12:31 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT

It's that time of year again, where for one "special" day we're reminded to celebrate our love for one another. Although I believe we shouldn't need a reminder, as a busy working mother of three, I'll take any excuse to spend more time with my family and do something special together.

This Valentine's Day, let's take a few extra moments to consider the activities we do together, and the things we buy for one another, and how they'll mean the the world. Consider trying one (or more) of the following 15 ideas:

1. Greetings of Love. Make cards for one another from what you have in your home...old magazines, scrap paper, how about that artwork brought home from school that you are not keeping? (Seriously, if you have school aged-children, you will know that I'm not an evil mother...there is only so much space we have and so many things that we can classify as precious!). Or, of course, send your love via email.

2. Pack a Loveable Lunch. Whether you're sending the kids off to school, or planning a picnic away from home, packing your healthy homemade meal in a safe (and irresistibly cute) lunch bag means less waste, and happy, smiling kids.

3. Build a Snowman. What better way to spend time with the family over this loveable holiday than to come together for some good ol' fashioned team work? I bet you didn't think a snowman could be local and organic did you?

4. Coco Loco. You can never go wrong with chocolate treats. Well, actually, you sort of can. Make sure to look for organic and fair-trade labels. When labeled "organic" you can be assured that your chocolate hasn't been sprayed with synthetic ick. When labeled "Fair trade", it means that farmers were given a fair price for their cocoa. The absolute best chocolate in the world? Live on Chocolate, Chocosol or Giddy Yoyo available at markets and healthy retailers. I could write an entire article on why it's the best, but you'll have to check out at the market or select fine retailers and try it for yourself.

5. Buy the whole bush! Most cut flowers are grown in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, and can be heavily sprayed with pesticides, fungicides and herbicides (with toxins that are banned in fields in Canada!). And we thought flowers were supposed to signify beauty and purity?! When buying flowers make sure to source local and organic ones, you'd be surprised to find out what's growing in your own backyard. I love My Luscious Backyard's organic selection. You can also go out with your family and buy a plant, a sprouting kit, or an indoor herb garden (organic, of course). You can have fun planting them as a family and it can be a reminder of something you did all together. However, if you aren't blessed with a green thumb (mine is actually black), hire a farmer. They make it easy and fun to pick the freshest, most local and organic veggies, and you can plan an entire meal around what's growing right outside in your very own backyard.

6. Create a holiday cocktail. I'm referring to one the entire family can enjoy. Choose fresh, local, organic and colourful fruits and veggies and create a delicious smoothie or juice to enjoy. We have plenty of great drink ideas in our Drinking Guide. Get each family member to create their own "signature" drink (and have their own signature reusable glass straw too).

7. Screen something. Choose a delicious (and healthy) snack - here are some of my favourites- and cuddle up under a comfy organic throw to watch a movie as a family. Choose the latest release or go with old family footage. They can be great for laughs and good memories. (Combine this activity with #8 too!)

8. Pop it up. Pop local organic popcorn (our family favourite is Nature's Way Organics). If you are curious why you shouldn't ever eat microwave popcorn, then you should be screening (see #7 above) King Corn, but maybe not with the kids!

9. Experience it all. Experience something new or old together. Go to the museum or other attractions. Go mini-golfing or bowling. Get tickets to a concert or play. Just Google some key words- you won't believe how much fun is going on in your city! If you combine your outing with a meal, choose a restaurant with a local and sustainable menu. You cannot believe how many exist, are affordable and offer favourites like pizza or burgers if your kids are picky eaters...however, make it an opportunity to find a new food to love...something colourful perhaps?!

10. Dress up or dress down. Dress up your table and yourselves or, dress down and get down on the floor. Spread out a blanket and have an indoor picnic and prepare a local family dinner together. I know, this is a stretch for some to imagine, but trying to plan it (and stick to it) could become a fun project.

11. Light it up. While enjoying a special family meal (see #10 above), set a calm mood (what family doesn't need more of that?) with 100% beeswax candles with cotton wicks. Rest assured knowing you'll be dining without the black soot and fumes (think diesel exhaust while you eat and drink, ick) from standard paraffin, lead-wicked candles. Keep your indoor air clean, and your family-time moments pure!

12. Read a Good Book. Well I'm bias since I wrote the Alphabet of Avoidance, but it's a fun, inspiring, and perspective changing read that not only identifies what we should be avoiding in order to live healthier lives, but also includes simple (and not overbearing) solutions to immediately replace the "bad" with someone better, or even, nothing at all. As a family, you can read one page a day and make a simple change (or if you're ambitious, you can read the entire short book in an hour!).

13. Have a pillow fight. As you're tossing your pillows around (and resting your head on them at night) make sure your pillows are safe and are not made from synthetic materials. Your family could be sleeping on toluene, formaldehyde, and other nasty chems. As Annie Leonard from The Story of Stuff exclaims - "there's got to be a better way to stop your head from catching on fire while you sleep than dousing your pillow in flame retardants". Although replacing your favourite worked-in pillow may seem challenging, swap it in for one that's made from organic wool or organic rubber. It's a better change for your loved ones.

14. Be playful. Play that doesn't harm the earth, provides fun and games for the whole family, and learning a thing or two is what family time is all about. Our family has always loved Anouk's Ark board games and puzzles. Each one is designed in Toronto with passion, and made with FSC certified paper and veggie based inks.

15. Take another shot. Take tons of digital pictures throughout the day (use as many cameras as your family has - no, not an encouragement to go out and buy more), and make a collage, an online album, or a screensaver from it. There is nothing like my family's smiling faces to brighten a moment.

However you decide to celebrate this day with those you love, make it memorable and get to the heart of the matter. Even when caught up in the hustle, bustle, routines and chaos on every other day, may your days together be full of fun, laughter, kindness and love...for your loved ones and our world.

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