02/14/2015 11:37 EST | Updated 04/16/2015 05:59 EDT

How to Have a Green Valentine's Day

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Have roses, boxed sweets and fancy dinners not been doing much for your latest attempts to woo your love? With glaring reminders of Cupid's day at every retailer in sight, it is easy to lose sight of Valentine's true meaning and "buy" your way through whole ordeal. But if you (or your loved one) beg to differ from the usual fare, try adding some creativity to your celebrations. Here are three non-clichéd ideas to celebrate your Valentine's Day:

For the love of birds

If you prefer counting real birds over dining next to pairs of doe-eyed lovebirds, there is an international bird count just in time for Valentine's Day weekend. The 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society in partnership with Bird Studies Canada.

From February 13 to 16, count the birds you spot for at least 15 minutes a day on one or more days and enter your sightings at The collective data helps scientists create snapshots of bird populations worldwide. Last year, a total of 4,296 species were sighted with a total of 17,748,756 individual birds counted worldwide!

Spread the love to your feathery friends by making a pinecone bird feeder at home and to bring on your nature walks!

Escape to a nature preserve

Whether you delight in the cover of ancient woods or the embrace of open prairies, there are many places to visit for all ages and activity levels, with some surprisingly not far from urban centres. Be it a day trip or a brisk walk, a return to nature helps you unwind from a buildup of stress.

Many parks offer equipment rental and guided tours for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing this time of year. Some itineraries may even involve a nose-to-beak encounter with the sociable chickadee.

Not sure where to go? Conservation organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) offer many publicly accessible reserves to satisfy your winter wanderlust. Be sure to pack a thermos of hot cocoa to share!

A winter-spring affair in tandem

For the stay-at-home couple, how about getting your hands dirty in a two-part bombshell affair -- seed bomb making that is. A seed bomb is essentially a nugget of soil and seed mix, strategically tossed to re-wild parts of the city. Once thrown, the bombs help encourage the spread of natives species. With cheap and easy-to-find ingredients, you can easily make a batch in winter and bomb away come spring.

To make your own Valentine's Day-inspired seed bomb, simply form the balls with a heart-shaped ice cube or cupcake tray, et voila, you have eco-Valentine's Day gifts that everyone will love. The best part: watching the seeds of your labour bloom in the unlikeliest of places and help bring back wildlife that relies on native species like from bees to birds!

Tips on how to be nature's Valentine

When spending time in nature, remember the age-old adage: leave only footprints and take only memories (or pictures). Capture nature's sweet scene only through the lens of your camera and consider making an e-card to share! Keep those heart etchings to your notebook; a tree will thank you for one less wound and scar.

You can also remember your loved ones by giving a gift in your name to organizations that help protect the environment in perpetuity.

Will you be a green Valentine this year?

Written by Wendy Ho, communications assistant at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.


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