The holidays are just around the corner and there is still a lot to do! Buying last-minute gifts, cooking and baking, organizing parties, and decorating – all of these can be exciting (or stressful). But our holiday activities can also be a burden on our environment if not done right.
From mid-November to New Year’s Day, household waste in Canada increases by a whopping 45 per cent. Gift wrap and shopping bags are the largest contributors with about 545,000 tonnes of it found in the landfill every year.
What can you do to avoid extra waste? From gift-giving to light-stringing, here are five easy tips that will help you reduce your impact on our land, air, water – and even save some money! Here’s how:
1. Real or Fake Christmas tree?
The debate between “real” or “fake” always pops up during the holiday season. We recommend purchasing a real tree. Not only will they fill your house with that fresh evergreen scent, they are eco-friendly and aren’t made from toxic plastics (PVCs) and hazardous heavy metals. When shopping for your tree, support Ontario’s Greenbelt and head over to the closest farm. Make sure to ask if the trees are pesticide-free! At the end of the holiday season, compost the tree or recycle it according to your city’s bylaws. There are also a growing number of companies that offer potted Christmas trees for rent.
Always remember that less is more. Forego an excess of “stuff” that will end up in next year’s yard sale. Choose gifts made from sustainable materials, shop locally, or make your own gifts! Keep this Toxic Ten Pocket Guide with you when shopping to make sure your gifts are safe and toxic-free. When wrapping your gift, get creative and choose a reusable alternative like newspapers, comics, posters, maps, fabric, or cloth gift bags.
3. Light up the holidays!
LED lights last up to 10 times longer, use 80 per cent less energy than incandescent holiday lights, and cuts costs on your electricity bill. If battery-powered lights are unavoidable, buy rechargeable batteries and reuse them or recycle batteries at designated e-waste locations.
Avoid plastic decorations and make your own wreath, centerpiece, and ornaments using pine cones, gourds, and plants. Make it a family-activity and cut out snowflakes from scrap paper to decorate your walls. If you’re not the crafty-type, opt for eco-friendly options made from paper, wood, glass, and recycled fabrics.
5. Holiday Meals
Holiday parties can be stressful, especially if you’re hosting it. Try a zero-waste party using real dishware rather than the disposable kind. Your dishwasher will be full after all the pots, pans, and plates, but you will save a lot of water and landfill space by avoiding plastic plates and cutlery. Plan your dinner party menu to include seasonal, organic food from your local farmers market to create a sustainable, delicious, and healthy meal.
With these tips in mind, we can celebrate the season while reducing the environmental impact of the holidays!
Bonus: Ever wonder how to get that Christmas-y smell in your house without using toxic air fresheners? Simmer water, cinnamon sticks, cloves and vanilla in a pot on your backburner. It’s easy and will make it seem like you’ve been baking all day!