With all due respect to the seasonal staple by our man Bing Crosby, it’s 2016, and this year we’re dreaming of a Green Christmas. From decorating the home to choosing and packaging gifts to traveling to eating, taking an environmental approach to the Yuletide season has never been easier. It’s something you won’t regret either. In fact, you’ll find you barely have to sacrifice your annual traditions or overall enjoyment to be kind to our planet, or to have a holiday which helps conserve the ecological balance.
So in the interest of not waking up to a big lump of coal in your stocking, here’s a Santa Sack full of suggestions on how you can celebrate a more eco-friendly Christmas and/or holiday season.
Live trees are the sustainable choice
Sure, plastic Christmas trees can be reused year after year. That said, petroleum products (PVC) are a prime component of them. And while artificial trees can indeed make return appearances, repeated use renders them less attractive. As a result, they typically get tossed to the curb at the end of each festive season. The next stop from there is the landfill, where their plastic content will last forever. On the flip side, live trees are a renewable resource that have been grown on tree farms. They are regularly replanted, conducive to air quality while they grow, and traditionally get recycled into mulch. Plus, since live trees are often cultivated and sold locally, air pollution and extra transportation costs are heavily spared. Or, even better, rent a living Christmas tree.
Consider purchasing presents that were locally made
As you probably realize, the majority of store-bought gifts in today’s marketplace are manufactured from halfway around the world. Well, both global warming and greenhouse emissions are impacted significantly by their transportation. By going to an artisan shop or local craft fair instead, you’ll find gifts that not only come without the environmental strains of international shipping, but that usually possess a story, since their origins are known.
Scale back on the outdoor lighting extravaganza
Sorry, Clark Griswold. While we concede that in years past, showcasing the most decorative and eye-popping holiday lights once symbolized your house as the winner in the neighbourhood… that era is long gone. Nowadays, the cost of electricity extends far beyond a mere utility bill. Natural resources are drained by such heavy electrical use. So go for a smaller presentation of lights and use LEDs if you can, which utilize 95% less energy than larger, standard holiday bulbs.
Start giving gifts produced from recycled materials
There are great products being created from recycled sources. Both individual craftspeople and small businesses are embracing these methods. By supporting them, you can assist in reducing the waste stream (an aggregate flow of waste material from generation to treatment to final disposition) while progressing the idea of taking available materials and getting maximum use from them.
‘Battery-free’ is the way to go
Christmastime or not, batteries that have been disposed of are an environmental hazard. Period. Now consider that about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season, according to the EPA. You do the math.
Forget Seinfeld and get over the stigma of ‘re-gifting’
We should probably thank our favourite “show about nothing” for the contentious debate about the act (and perceived faux pas) of passing on a gift you received but do not need… otherwise known as the etiquette of ‘re-gifting’. Listen, in all honesty, re-gifting isn’t the most harmful concept. If someone gives you something you have no use for, consider polite ways—meaning you should be discreet so you don’t piss off the original giver—to get it into the hands of anyone else who might need it. Frankly, you’re being wasteful otherwise.
Include more veggie dishes in your Christmas feast
We acknowledge that this recommendation is a real tough one to stomach—no pun intended. At this time of year especially. But the fact of the matter is that eating less meat reduces resources consumed, as well as the amount of nitrogen leaked into the atmosphere from the food chain. Since nitrogen is a potent greenhouse gas, we shouldn’t have to draw the connection for you.
Put your leftovers towards a food donation
Christmas always involves making gigantic portions of turkey (or what have you), appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. At the end of the night when you are cleaning up, don’t throw the leftovers away. Instead, donate them! From food pantries to homeless shelters to various charities, you won’t be short on options who would welcome it all. ‘Tis the season of giving, isn’t it? Not to mention that roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year—that’s approximately 1.3 billion tonnes—gets lost or wasted. Don’t be part of the problem! Additionally, you can donate non-perishable food items to The Daily Bread Food Bank Toronto to help those in need this holiday season.
Make use of environmentally friendly wrapping paper—duh!
Steer clear of metallic wrapping paper and glossy foil. Both are hard to recycle, and foil is especially difficult to reuse because of how it creases and wrinkles. Paper made using recycled content and/or fibres like hemp do just as brilliant and gorgeous a job.
Share your rides
Emissions from cars are a major contributor to climate change. As if you really needed us to tell you that, right? Do your small part to reduce your carbon footprint over the holidays by carpooling.
Have a happy, safe, and environmentally-friendly holiday season, everyone!
Title image via Bloglovin’.