Did you know the average waste per person in Canada doubles over the holiday period? Canadians already produce among the most plastic waste in the world, second only to South Korea. And we are doubling our average every holiday season.  It’s not really our fault, plastic packaging is literally everywhere, and can be really difficult to avoid. But with a little thought you can easily minimize your plastic waste this winter.  Here are a few ideas to get you started!

  1. Buy second hand or vintage to avoid packaging.

It’s inevitable; anything bought new is likely to come wrapped in some form of plastic packaging.  A great way to get around this is to buy used or vintage. This way of gift giving has so many advantages for you and for the environment. Less packaging, a lower carbon footprint, plus objects you stumble upon in vintage or thrift stores make for great one-of-a-kind gifts! Not to mention they can be a real gift for your wallet…

Good for the environment, good for your pocketbook, and you never know what you’re going to find!


  1. Make your own gifts.

If you have the time, consider making your gifts! Great options are edible – jams, chutneys or cookies. These are perfect holiday treats, that are great for sharing with family and friends. Plus, if you buy your supplies from a bulk store like Bulk Barn and bring your own containers, you can even make that part zero-waste too! You can also DIY things like bath bombs and make-up –just avoid the glitter!

  1. Avoid plastic toys wrapped in even more plastic

Kids’ toys can be some of the worst offenders when it comes to packaging and non-recyclable plastic.  Again a good way to deal with this is to buy second hand, or to look for wooden toys or alternatives to plastic.

  1. Give experiences, not things.

I don’t know about you, but my apartment is pretty much ready to burst.  I really don’t need or want any more stuff, which is why I’m a big fan of giving experiences instead.  You could gift your loved one a class – pottery, Spanish lessons, salsa dancing, guitar lessons, anything that they may have always wanted to try but never got round to.  Or even tickets – cinema, paint night, theatre, hey even the opera, why not? Even an IOU for a home-cooked meal is a nice way to give a gift without filling up their life with more stuff or breaking the bank.  Just make sure you follow-through!

  1. Make a donation to a cause that matters to them.

Donations or sponsorships can make really meaningful and impactful gifts.  Maybe it’s the environment, animal welfare, or supporting a local cause.  Make a donation in their name and share the joy of what their gift has helped achieve.

  1. Be a mindful gift wrapper

While most plain wrapping paper is recyclable, avoid using glittery, metallic, or embellished ones as these are not recyclable and tend to be covered in plastic. Shiny plastic ribbons and sticky bows are definitely not recyclable and will likely get thrown out after just one use. Get crafty, and make your own embellishment from paper, string, leaves and twigs.  If your parents and grandparents are anything like mine, they probably also save all their wrapping paper and carefully fold it up to be reused next year. This might seem old fashioned but it’s actually a great attitude that we could all use a little more of – reuse is the first ‘r’ after all!

eco christmas gift DIY

  1. Avoid loads of plastic decorations.

An incredible amount of plastic Christmas decorations are sold each year, shedding their plastic glitter and ultimately ending up in landfill or the environment.  Instead, try to reuse old decorations for longer, or shop for vintage glass baubles.  A fun activity to do with kids can be to make your own decorations with paper, or decorate your home with greenery.

  1. Give people gifts which help them go plastic-free too.

Not everyone knows about plastic-free alternatives! Why not open up your friends and family to the reusable wonders of beeswax food wraps, toxic-free food containers, portable reusable cutlery, water bottles, coffee mugs or produce bags? Once they open their eyes to the opportunities to avoid waste, they’ll never want to go back.


  1. Buy a real tree.

Fake plastic trees are definitely not recyclable, and after a few holidays most will end up in a landfill only to sit there for the next thousand years.  Real trees smell better, feel better, improve the air in your home and there are plenty of eco-friendly ways to dispose of them.  Potted tree rental services are also becoming increasingly popular, where you get a living tree for the holiday period.


  1. Avoid single-use items when enjoying a holiday meal, it might be convenient but it’s really harmful to the planet

And finally, one of the best parts of the holidays is all the delicious food. Plastic cups, plates, cutlery, straws, etc. might seem convenient when serving a holiday meal, but most won’t or can’t be recycled.  Ask yourself: Is it really worth having them sit in landfills for hundreds of years to avoid taking a few minutes to wash dishes?

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