The holiday season’s here. And that means it’s time to enjoy time with loved ones and maybe even treat yourself to some homemade goodies. Wholesome, enjoyable traditions like these make the holidays truly the most wonderful time of the year.
Along with family time and indulgence, giving is an important theme over the holidays. Many people take the opportunity to donate time and money to charities in need this time of year. And we also give a lot of things, as evident by the billions of dollars spent by consumers for their coworkers, friends, relatives and loved ones. While there’s nothing wrong with this tradition, it’s not overly environmentally mindful.
According to Zero Waste Canada, the average Canadian produces up to 25% more trash between mid-November and mid-January than the other months of the year combined. And in wrapping paper and gift bags alone, the amount thrown away annually totals a whopping 540,000 tonnes!
Here are a few simple ways to make your holiday season eco-friendly; it just might become your new tradition.
Gift experiences, not things
Many families opt to take a vacation together over the holidays instead of giving physical gifts. It’s a wonderful option for spending quality time together, making lifelong memories and reducing the waste that comes with gifting things. But hopping on a plane to the tropics, isn’t the most eco-friendly choice when you consider the environmental impact of flying. If you’d like to get away this winter, consider a destination closer to home. Canada may not offer beaches and pool-side margaritas in December, but there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had tobogganing, ice skating and snow fort building.
There are plenty of smaller-scale experiences you can gift too. For adults, tickets to a local theatre or cinema make for a wonderful present, and so do gift cards to restaurants, spas, escape rooms, etc. And if you’re buying for kids, consider gift cards to trampoline parks, arcades and waterparks.
Carefully consider what gifts you give
No one knows your family better than you do, especially when it comes to your own children. So, when your kids ask for presents they don’t need or will quickly lose interest in, be sure to carefully consider what gifts you give. Practical gifts like a bicycle are great for a variety of reasons. Biking’s great exercise, gets your kids outside and away from the television or other electronics, and of course bikes are an environmentally friendly way to get around. Other gift ideas with the environment in mind are backpacks or lunch kits, with the intention of limiting single-use plastic bags that are said to last up to a thousand years before deteriorating and impact our wildlife.
Eco-friendly cards and wrapping paper
Each year there are 1.5 billion cards and nearly 450,000 kilometers (the moon is only 384,400 kilometers away) of wrapping paper thrown away. When able, opt for sustainably-sourced cards and avoid glitter which can’t be recycled. Another option is to go digital and create personalized cards online to reduce your carbon footprint. When it comes to wrapping, reuse gift bags, or use brown recyclable wrapping paper. And where possible, try to steer clear of ribbons and tinsel as they’re not recyclable.
Buy a "green" Christmas tree
Of course, most Christmas trees are green, but by this we mean one that's eco-centric. Sure, fake trees are fairly easy to set up, make for less mess and are shaped perfectly. But then again, they don't have that natural, earthy aroma. So, if a real tree is more your speed, there are plenty of Christmas tree farms throughout Canada. Consider buying from a local farm if you know of one. If not, go online to see what's available. When the time comes to take down ornaments, consider taking the tree to a local recycling centre, where it can be repurposed for use as firewood or grounded down to wood pellets.