Dreaming of a green Christmas
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
This may be "the most wonderful time of the year", but less wonderful is the amount of waste the holiday season can create. Whether it's from following traditions, being too busy to think about it, or perhaps just getting caught up in holiday spending and buying, many folks don't realise how eco-UNfriendly the holidays can be. There are a ton of low-effort things you can do to green up your festivities, so read on for some simple ways to green up your holiday season
Rethink the wrap:
Did you know that Canadians throw away 545,000 tonnes of gift wrap and bags every single holiday season? That's over 1.1 BILLION pounds per year - and hardly any of it of it is recyclable, due to the shiny coatings, glitter, metallic accents, and/or heavy dyes used in most papers. There are dozens of other things to use for wrapping - the only limit is your creativity!
Scarves or old cut up sheets can be used as wrap or made into bags. In Japan, reusable cloth gift wrap is very common and is called furoshiki (pictured).
Brown kraft paper used in shipping can be ironed (or not) and prettied up with a festive ink stamp or reused bits of ribbon and yarn.
Outdated maps look very cool as wrapping paper, especially if it's a travel-themed gift!
Greeting cards can be cut up and used for gift tags
Paper gift bags can be reused dozens of times if put away nicely.
Reuse or make your own decorations
It can be tempting to buy lots of new decorations each year to create a new look, but not only is this expensive, it is also very wasteful! If treated with care and stored gently, most decorations can be used for years with hardly any signs of wear and tear. Using the same decorations each year doesn't mean your house has to look the same though! Put some older decorations in a bowl with some evergreen twigs and pinecones for a rustic centrepiece.
Instead of placing that ribbon garland on the tree, weave it around the knicknacks on the mantel or sideboard with some twinkle lights. If you want to go one step further, or perhaps you really do like having a few new decorations each year, get a little crafty with reused, natural, or upcycled items. You could go vintage with a popcorn garland, classic with a few artfully arranged pine cones, or rustic with some festive painted tree rounds!
Give experiences, not plastic
Part of the reason so much waste gets accumulated over the holidays is the sheer volume of thing-buying that takes place! Most of what we buy nowadays is either made of plastic, or packaged in plastic, or has plastic parts. Once all of these objects reach the end of their life (or if the person doesn't like it or doesn't want it anymore), they end up in a landfill. This season, try reducing the amount of things you buy and focus more on experiences.
Instead of giving your foodie friend a cookbook and fancy kitchen utensil, why not get them a gift card to that trendy new restaurant? Got a crafty, artsy cousin? Send them to a pottery class or buy them a membership to an arts studio! Need a present for a golf nut? A few hours at a golf simulator is likely much more appreciated than a club cover with their face on it
Ditch the disposables
With all the extra (physically distanced!) socializing that happens over the holidays, it can be very tempting to grab that package of paper plates and plastic forks, or cover the kids table with a plastic table cloth so you don't have to deal with spills. In the long run though, these things accumulate in landfills and take centuries to break down. Use a thrift-store table cloth for the kids that you don't mind getting stained, and get your guests to help with the dishes while belting out some off-key carols (Mariah Carey, anyone?). That 'extra work' ends up becoming extra time with fam and friends!
After the tree
We've previously discussed why live trees are usually the more eco-friendly choice over the holidays, but after the festivities come to an end, it is very important to dispose of your live tree properly as well. Do not take it to the landfill - it isn't garbage! Most cities collect trees for to chip for mulch and some local organisations even run tree pick up-services as a fundraiser.
Online shopping is fast, easy, and can be done in sweatpants while eating half a dozen Christmas cookies. It is also a huge source of waste, creates a ton of greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and lacks any sort of human connection. Shopping at local stores brings down the carbon footprint of your gift and as long as you bring your reusable bags, creates little to no extra waste. and businesses has a direct positive impact on the economy of your town or city local