‘Tis the season to be jolly…and wasteful! Last year Canadians sent 2.6 billion Christmas cards, used six million roles of tape and threw out 540,000 tonnes (100,000 elephants worth) of wrapping paper and gift bags. All the unwanted presents, uneaten food and glittery wrapping paper have made the holidays the most wasteful time of the year.
With a little planning, simple swaps and a new approach to the holidays we can do our planet – and our wallets – a favour and reduce our waste whilst we spread some holiday cheer.
The Christmas tree: buy a real one whenever possible. Fake Christmas trees can’t be recycled and are usually imported, and therefore have a large carbon footprint. According to Tree Canada “real Christmas trees are grown on family farms, representing more than $100 million to the rural Canadian economy.” After the holidays, these trees can be composted or turned into wood chips. Many cities have curbside pick-up programs or drop-off depots, just remember to remove all ornaments, tinsel and lights.
Lights: buy LED light strings instead of conventional incandescent bulbs as they usually last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less energy.
Ornaments and baubles: replace tinsel and plastic ornaments with foraged fir cones and real sprigs of holly. You can also bake gingerbread cookies and hang them on the tree, use recycled cardboard ornaments, or make your own out of materials in your house.
Gifts: Rethink presents this year and give the gift of experience. Groupon always has great deals on escape rooms, painting nights, archery, massages and so many other options for everyone on your list. You can also donate to a charity of their choice in their name. If you really want to give someone a material present, try buying local or make the gift yourself. Homemade cookies or fudge are always a hit!
Wrapping: gift bags, tape, ribbon and wrapping paper with glitter, velvet or foil can’t be recycled. Try wrapping your presents in brown, recycled paper, or old newspapers and using string or raffia to tie them up. For an added flourish, use sprigs of holly and other greenery to finish it off.
Food and Entertaining
Food: annually, Canadians throw away 2.2 million tonnes of edible food waste each year, which costs more than $17 billion. For your next holiday dinner, buy local or buy less. Buying local produce means you will be supporting your community while minimising your carbon footprint. Visit your local farmers’ market for the best in-season produce. At your grocery store, buy produce that is about to go bad – they may not be pretty, but they are still delicious! Make sure to compost any organic waste or store leftovers for later.
Entertaining: avoid serving people with paper or plastic plates and cups and break out the ‘special’ plates, you can also ask to borrow any extras from close family or friends. If you are using disposable plates then pick recyclable paper, not plastic or Styrofoam. Use linen napkins instead of paper ones and wash them in cold water to save energy.