Hot Date, Cool Planet

A romantic green rendezvous doesn't have to mean picking up trash together. We plan three great green dates for you to try out.

Apr 20, 2009

He finished his food, threw the container on the ground and walked on. I picked up his litter—and my jaw—off the ground, and threw it in the trash.

He was so charming that I could chalk one time up to an accident. The second time, though, and it was time to toss the litter and the guy.

I don’t consider myself an extreme environmentalist, nor would I call myself an “ecosexual,” the newly minted term for people who date exclusively in accordance with their green values. But littering? I thought everyone stopped doing that around the same time the El Camino went out of style. Call it a blast from the past or a huge turn-off, but either way, his and my values were clearly out of sync and the relationship (bio)degraded faster than a blueberry.

Still, he got me thinking: how big is the carbon footprint of the average, non-littering date? Dinners out, drives to the theater, flowers—all of the classic staples can take their toll on the ozone. But with these three greener dates, they don’t have to. Whether you’re looking for an adventure for two, a lavish evening out or cozy night in, here are a few ideas to show that special someone you care about them and the environment.

Date 1: The Eco-Venture

Looking for something more heart pounding than dinner and a movie? Canoe or kayak the lakes on a Saturday morning and pick up something to eat afterward at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, which opens outdoors this month.

Bike through the Arboretum and stay awhile with a picnic—locally sourced, of course. Lightweight, reusable plastic dishes are ideal to pack and available at the Willy Street Co-op. For those with particularly steely thighs, Wollersheim Winery and Botham Vineyards are each located about thirty miles outside of Madison and both offer tastings and tours.

Finally, there’s no better way to get to know a person than stepping outside of your comfort zone. Enter partner yoga: between spandex garb, ninety-plus degree studios and poses like “happy baby,” the potential for comedy is high. If you’re both seasoned yogis, show off your sun salutations and help each other stretch further and breathe deeper. If not, sweat it out and laugh it off with a fellow yoga novice. Inner Fire Yoga and Jewel in the Lotus Yoga studios can schedule private sessions for two. Around Valentine’s Day, look for couple’s workshops at Inner Fire.

Date 2: A Recycled Classic

Trying to knock your date’s (organic cotton) socks off? Arrive with locally grown or organic flowers in hand and consider those socks knocked. Pick up local blooms at J. Kinney Florist, the Farmers’ Market or grab a handful of blooms from your own backyard. Planning ahead? Whole Foods can order organic flowers with two weeks’ notice.

Next, whisk your date off to a green dinner. Walk to the restaurant and eat vegetarian to make your meal that much greener and avoid post-dinner sluggishness.

If you’re downtown, make reservations at L’Etoile or Harvest, where local options rule both upscale menus. Take in some art before your meal and visit Fresco, located on the top floor of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. For beauty of the natural variety, Williamson Street’s Sardine offers an expansive view of Lake Monona.

Branch out to Monroe Street, where Brasserie V and the Monroe Street Bistro offer local fare with a European twist. After dinner, skip the trek to the megaplex in favor of a locally owned theater like the Orpheum, or support local actors and take in a play at the Overture Center, Madison Repertory Theatre or Barrymore Theatre.

Date 3: Sparks—No Electricity Required

Forgo electricity and transportation for a unique night in. The plan: trade your CFLs for candles, forget the stove and gaze into each other’s eyes instead of the LCD.

Turn your dining room into Madison’s finest bistro using local, organic ingredients. If you plan your date for a Saturday evening, you can one-stop shop for everything you’ll need at the Farmers’ Market. To go electricity-free, pick up salad greens and a variety of cheeses, sausages and breads that won’t require cooking. Talk to farmers for more menu ideas, grab a decadent dessert from Grace’s Cheesecakes and set the mood with candles from Gentle Breeze Honey.

Not planning a Saturday date? Shop Willy St Co-op for seasonal produce, or, for the culinary-challenged, grab something delicious from the deli.

Sip on a local, organic microbrew like New Glarus’ Organic Revolution or wine right from Dane County: Patrick Ducey, wine manager at Riley’s Wines of the World, recommends Wollersheim’s Domaine Reserve or Botham’s X. Alois Lageder, a Pinot Grigio out of Italy, is Ducey’s organic pick.

As for post-dinner activities, indulge your inner child with retro board games. Stop by a secondhand store for classics like Monopoly and Twister or brain-benders like Scrabble.

Now you’ve locally wined and organically dined. If no one has thrown any wrappers on the ground, lean in. That good-night kiss is as green as it gets.

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