Photo: Sean McGrath

VALENTINE’S DAY, AS A BILLION Hallmark cards have told us, is about love. Usually, the focus is on romantic love, but it’s just as often love between parents and children, brothers and sisters, or totally platonic friends who are definitely not going to hook up after a night of drinking wine together while whining about being single.

There’s no reason, though, that the love we celebrate shouldn’t extend even further. Why not celebrate love for our fellow man? Why not celebrate love for our planet? So maybe instead of spending money on a restaurant that’s jacked up its prices for the holiday, you should buy your partner a different kind of present: one that says, “I want to make this world a nicer place for you.” Here are some gift ideas.

Save a tree.

Trees are one of the most effective solutions to the problems of climate emissions: they naturally absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, cleaning the air of the crap we pump into it. So naturally, it’s a big problem when trees are chopped down.

Stand For Trees is a non-profit which focuses on saving forests, and for Valentine’s Day, they’re doing a project called “Love You A Tonne,” in which you can pledge money to a specific forest. Generally speaking, a $10 donation takes 1 tonne of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Save a child.

You know all of those friends of yours who have November birthdays? Those are Valentine’s babies. There’s no shortage of children who owe their existence to holidays and celebrations — the NFL highlighted so called “Super Bowl Babies” last week, for example — so why not honor that by making a donation that will save a child? One of the most efficient ways to do this is to give to organizations like the Against Malaria Foundation, which provides mosquito nets for people living in areas with high incidences of malaria. Malaria kills around a half a million people every year, and of that half a million, about 70% are kids under the age of 5.

So giving a few bucks can go a long way towards saving kids lives. $100, for example, can protect up to 60 people from malaria for three or four years. That’s huge.

Save a mother.

Be honest: You don’t love anyone more than you love your mom. So if you’re going to give a Valentine’s Gift to your mother, it would make sense to give her a gift that saves other moms. One of the best ways to do this is to give to the Fistula Foundation. Fistula’s are particularly nasty medical conditions that tend to develop in areas where women get pregnant too young and don’t have access to proper medical care. In short, it’s a hole that develops between a woman’s vagina and her other internal organs after prolonged labor. The hole causes leakage, which can cause a horrible stench that makes the woman stigmatized in her community, and can lead them into even deeper poverty.

The good news is that there’s no reason for these to exist anymore: we have the technology to fix the vast majority of them, and it’s relatively cheap to do. The Fistula Foundation repairs fistulas in the developing world (primarily Africa and Southeast Asia) for an incredibly low cost. A donation to them could save a mother and her child from trauma and poverty.

Save a life.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, a professor at Ohio State and a social entrepreneur, says he received his best Valentine’s Day gift ever last year:

“Instead of candy and liquor, my wife suggested giving each other gifts that actually help us improve our mental and physical well-being, and the world as a whole, by donating to charities in the name of the other person.”

They did their research, and using an online calculator at the effective altruism website The Life You Can Save, they figured out how to make their money go the furthest. Tsipursky’s wife donated to the Against Malaria Foundation, while Tsipursky himself gave to GiveDirectly, a non-profit which does exactly what it suggests: it gives money to the extremely poor in Africa.

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