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Simple and Painless Tips for a More Sustainable Christmas

Tis the Season to Have a Sustainable Christmas

Christmas is an important time of the year for most, filled with good people, food, and gifts. However, it is also a time of year associated with an incredible amount of waste. Read below for some easy tips on how to have a more sustainable Christmas without ruining the fun.

Shop Mindfully

Gifts are a great way to show love and appreciation, but they also come with a lot of environmental concerns -- especially if they go unused. Instead, focus on shopping mindfully to get gifts that are good for the planet and your recipient. Here are some ways to shop more mindfully:

Shop Second Hand

If you’re going to be buying someone a gift, see if there are some good second-hand options available. While we don’t suggest buying worn-down clothing or tech products that are seven generations old (and obsolete), look for high-quality, gently used items to give instead.

It’s a bit more of a scavenger hunt to find the perfect present, but it can be a great way to reduce waste, support a charity shop, and save a little money in the process. After all, if you have a long list of giftees, buying a new thing for everyone will add up.

Give an Experience

Another option is to give an experience over a physical product. This might include things like massages, movie or theatre tickets, or unique local experiences like boat tours or astronomy nights at the observatory.

Experiences are a great way to show love, without all the waste that comes with physical products – especially if you aren’t sure what the other person truly wants or needs. Plus, you can make the gift a two-for-one and go with your friend or family member on their experience. You get to create memories, do something out of the ordinary, and support a local business in the process – a win-win-win.

Make and Bake Your Gifts

If experiences or second hand shopping isn’t your thing, you could always make or bake your gifts. As someone that is neither a competent baker or a crafty person, this wouldn’t be the option for me, but I would always love to receive a homemade and potentially delicious present from someone I love.

You could bulk bake cookies, Christmas pies, cake, or anything else you thrive at. Then, you can package it up in reusable or recyclable containers to give to friends and family. They could then return the containers to you or reuse them themselves!

Additionally, if crafting is more your style, you could make candles, coasters, or awesome art to give to people. Try to make it something that people might want or use and focus on using sustainable materials when making your gifts. This can be a great way to show your values and start a conversation with others.

Look for Natural or Sustainable Products

Another great option for shopping mindfully is to look for sustainable products to give to others that may just be starting out on a sustainability journey, or haven’t yet thought about it. Maybe it means giving a Keep Cup to your uncle you know gets a takeaway everyday or buying your sister some awesome shampoo bars from Ethique.

Giving sustainable products that can help replace single-use or plastic alternatives in someone’s life is a great way to introduce sustainability concepts in a nice, friendly way. It can help spur on a conversation about why these decisions matter and what we can do to make it better for everyone.

Plus, it’s a great way to stick to your own values, while still participating in the gifting tradition.

Shop Local

Finally, try to shop as locally as possible. Supporting small, local businesses is a great way to be an active community member and embrace positive change in the area. While small businesses may not always have the certifications or money to put towards total sustainability, they are often a better overall choice.

This is because small, local businesses may source their products locally or make them locally, employ others in the community, and are active contributors to more community initiatives.

Wrapping Paper Alternatives

Wrapping paper is one of the biggest sources of waste during the holiday season. While many don’t see the environmental impacts because they think “paper = recyclable”, that is not always the case. Many of the wrapping paper options on the market today contain foil or plastic, which makes them hard to recycle.

Instead, try using what you already have – old newspapers, brown paper bags and packaging, or even fabrics – to wrap your presents. Additionally, if you do want Christmas-themed wrapping, look for gift bags that can be reused year after year.

If choose to purchase paper or receive it, the most recyclable options are those that are just paper and a print. It can be shiny, like a magazine, but not layered with foils, plastic or glitter. A good trick to see if its recyclable is to tear it; if it tears easily like a sheet of printer paper (and isn't adorned with glitter), then it's most likely recyclable. If you can't tear it or it appears to be made of more than one material when you do rip it, it's likely not recyclable.

Eat More – Waste Less

Christmas is always a time for indulging in delicious foods, but that doesn’t mean we need to overindulge in waste. With a good amount of forethought and planning, we can still have all the delicious foods we love, without unnecessary waste. Here are some tips:

  • If you’re hosting a potluck event, make sure everyone chooses the dishes they are bringing ahead of time. This avoids several people bringing the same dish and having too much leftover.
  • Plan for leftovers. There are generally leftovers no matter how much planning you do, so include a meal or two that are ideal for leftovers.
  • Freeze what you can’t eat. If you know you won’t be able to finish all your food before it goes off, freeze it! Frozen meats and casseroles are good for several months, so you can eat your Christmas dinner well into the New Year
  • Donate extra pantry supplies you don’t need. If you’ve overbought (or just want to share the Christmas spirit), donate unused canned goods, pantry items, or even full meals to local community centres, food banks, or shelters.
  • Finally, compost your leftover scraps that can't be eaten either in your home compost or by taking them to a community garden.

Be Conscious of Plastic

Christmas always increases the amount of single-use products floating around. From cheap ornaments and decorations to paper plates and plastic cutlery, the holidays are full of waste. Here are some ways you can be mindful and reduce your plastic use:

  • Instead of using plastic cutlery, use normal silverware! If you don’t have enough, ask people to BYOS – bring your own silverware.
  • Make your own decorations with paper or fabric you already own. This can be a great way to spend time with your family as well.
  • Get a real tree from a local sustainable farm (and be sure to properly recycle it after the holidays – check with your local council for info on how to do this).
  • If you do use a plastic tree, make sure to clean and store it properly so you can get use out of it, year after year - most research suggests that you need to use a plastic tree for 5 years to "breakeven" the environmental impact

Save Power

Christmas decorations often take a lot of power to run. Not only is this not great for the environment, it’s not great for your power bill either.

  • If you have outside lights, look to use solar power to charge them up
  • Set timers on all lights, indoors and outdoors, to preserve power as much as possible
  • Switch to LED lights for your tree
Living Christmas Tree Lr Wm Cropped Living Christmas trees by growing a greener world

Wrap Up

The holidays are a great time to recoup, plan for the new year, and spend some quality time with friends and family. But the holidays shouldn’t be a time of excessive waste that causes harm to the world around us. Luckily, you can still have a wonderful holiday season by being mindful of your waste and choosing alternatives.

Also check out our Home Sustainability Tips and Ideas!

Start the New Year Off Right

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