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Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Sustainability During the Holidays

08 Jan 2018 6:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Sustainability During the Holidays

By Dennis He, January 8th, 2018


For many, the holidays are a black mark on our green report cards. While the holidays are no doubt about spending time with friends and family, it’s also a time when we spend and consume. All the wrapping paper, excessive waste at holiday parties, and unnecessary gifting goes far and beyond what we usually throw in the garbage. In fact, Canadians throw away 100% more trash between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve than any other period during the year. Despite knowing how unsustainable the holidays can be, many are reluctant to try to change any traditions for the sake of being green. It might seem like an impossible task trying to ‘green up’ the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some thoughts on the holiday season, and what can be done to make them a bit greener.

Try Balancing Convenience and Sustainability

During the holidays, it’s easy to have any efforts at sustainability go out the door. While we might compost regularly, we’re much more tempted to throw things in the trash during a post-party cleanup. Instead of using actual silverware, we opt for single-use paper trays and plastic cups because it’s easier. While it’s more convenient to get a stack of plastic plates to entertain, it doesn’t do the planet any favours.

Even if you don’t have enough cutlery to host a massive dinner party, there are more sustainable alternatives. There are many companies that manufacture heavy-duty plastic plates, ideal for parties and entertaining. They’re light and thin enough to be purchased in bulk, yet reusable too! If it’s a small gathering of friends, you could opt to borrow silverware from a neighbour, or pick up some extra plates from the local thrift store. There are many low-cost options out there that’ll let you entertain with minimal waste.

Green Your Gifting - Buy Local, Give Experiences

We’ve all had someone that’s impossible to shop for. While we’re almost certain that whatever we give them won’t be used, we’re obligated to give them something. That sort of waste really makes you wonder. Imagine the amount of effort that goes into making, say, an ugly Christmas sweater. Think about the cost of raising sheep, the electricity and additives needed for shearing and processing, and the emissions generated during shipping and handling… only to be hidden away in a closet. 35% of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closets, and the Canadian statistic is undoubtedly similar.

You might be asking if this is a wicked problem. You don’t want to seem too thrifty and give a bad gift, but you also want to gift in an environmentally friendly way. While many environmentalists have heard of the 100-mile diet or shopping local, few consider local artisans for their holiday gifting. This year, there were dozens of holiday markets around southwestern Ontario that displayed fantastic holiday gifts and treats. While it’s too late for this holiday season, consider visiting one next year to chat with local artisans and see what they have to offer. Most of their creations use local materials, are homemade, and are often one-of-a kind. Best of all, your dollar stays within the local community!

Consider giving an experience instead of a gift. While not everyone could use a new blender or sweater, there’s few people that would turn down a weekend getaway. You could also consider getting them a gift certificate to a resort, spa, or even an auto repair shop. Memberships to experiences like rock climbing gyms or community gardens are a viable option as well. Bonus points if you can gift something that supports local artisans and businesses!

Live Frugally to Minimize Your Footprint

With the new year just starting, many of us are thinking about ways to change ourselves and our attitudes. Whether it’s hitting the gym, taking up a new hobby, or something else, consider taking on another resolution: living a more frugal lifestyle.

When you think of frugal, you might think of you grandparent’s tales of the Great Depression or (closer to home) your days of eating ramen in college. But living a frugal lifestyle doesn’t have to mean that you sacrifice your health or well-being… it means that you consume less. In fact, frugality ties in very well with a sustainable lifestyle. Instead of consuming fewer environmentally harmful products, wouldn’t it be better to consume less?

Frugality isn’t too difficult to bring into the new year, but it does involve a few key steps. The first step is to figure out the differences between your wants and your needs. For example, you’ll need to set aside money for food and rent, but consider passing up on that occasional shopping splurge or new tech toy. It means you might have to sit down and figure out what you need on a day-to-day basis. It also might mean that you cut down on a subscription service that you never actually use. These are all steps that don’t cost much (it wouldn’t be very frugal if it did!) and will end up saving money and minimizing your waste footprint.

Wrapping it all up!

With all the consumption, spending, and excesses, the holidays are a tough time for sustainability. That doesn’t mean you can’t also make environmentally friendly choices at the same time! Think about your party planning practices and how you can switch to more reusable options. Consider buying local gifts, gifting local experiences, and living a more frugal and sensible lifestyle as part of your new year’s resolutions. These are all small steps that can help green up your holidays!

Happy New Year everyone!

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