Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Sustainability for the Holidays

Whew. It’s been a long time since I’ve got myself together to write a blog post. Let me get back to it!

If you’re anything like me, the holiday season can be a little bit of a nightmare. I love being able to spend time with my family – in fact, if that’s all Christmas was about, I would be thrilled! Food and family, that’s what I want!

But that’s not really the way it works. I come from a long tradition of Christmas like it is on TV – lots of gifts, food, and general holiday excess. And it can honestly be more stressful for me to receive gifts than it is to give it, as I dread being left with a pile of unsustainably made, highly packaged items that I don’t need, no matter the good intentions that went into them.

I’ve had to introduce things slowly into my family, and some changes have stuck, while others are still a battle. But I do have ways that you can make changes for things that are within your control.

Gift giving

There are a lot of great eco-blogs and suggestions about how to be more eco-friendly in your gift giving. Here are a few suggestions:newspaper-wrapping1

  • Reduce and reuse wrapping. Try newspaper or home-decorated recycled paper.
  • Give homemade gifts. If you think about it far enough in advance, homemade items like candles are pretty easy and fun, or edibles like granola, party mix, or baking. For the planners and homesteaders, I love to give home canning or preserves.
  • Like they say at Metro Vancouver, give memories, not garbage. Tickets to plays, concerts, comedy shows, or plans for experiences like taking someone out to dinner and a movie, some kind of lesson, bowling, or Science World.
  • Give the gift of time. For the new mom, 10 hours of babysitting, and for a friend or colleague, offer to teach them something you know (i.e. Candlemaking, home canning). If you have any special skills like plumbing or carpentry, the gift practically makes itself!

Travel Footprint

Many people travel long distances for the holidays to see friends and family, and though I usually recommend the staycation and avoiding flights where possible, family is key and if yours is far away, going home can be the most important part of your year. Invest in quality carbon offsets for your trip. Although there is much debate about the value of carbon offsetting, when flights are non-negotiable, they can be one small way to give back.

Avoid Excessive Consumerism

Boxing Day, like Black Friday, is a nightmare for the environmentalist – so many people, buying so much crap that they don’t need and didn’t know they wanted before it was on sale, or getting a newer version of the same gadget they already have. I actually heard a tech expert on the radio stating, as though it was an obvious fact, that everyone gets a new TV every 3 or 4 years. Seriously? Not necessary. Skip the malls, and stay home with a movie and hot chocolate, or plan a games day with

The summer's preparation for Christmas giving

The summer’s preparation for Christmas giving

friends and family to eat all the leftovers.


Food is a major part of the holidays, so it’s an important piece to consider when thinking about the environmental impact.

  • Where does your turkey come from, and what kind of life did it have? A lot can be said about the horrific conditions of factory farms. If you’re eating meat for the holidays, support local farmers, and invest in a free-range, organic turkey.
  • Buy local – visit the Winter Farmer’s market for your dinner ingredients if you can, buy local organic wines and microbrew beers, and take advantage of seasonal goods for things like pumpkin or apple pie.
  • Don’t make too much. Leftovers are great, but will it all be eaten? So much food goes to waste, and food should not be going to our landfills, taking up shrinking space and releasing greenhouse gases as they decompose inorganically. Dump whatever leftovers you can into a big pot of soup, and compost what’s left.

Save Energy

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Too many lights?

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Too many lights?

The holidays are a time when a lot more energy gets used. Reduce your impact on the electrical grid.

  • Consider whether you really need holiday lights, and how many. Use less energy intensive lights, and when they’re broken and burnt out, dispose of them properly.
  • Turn down the heat. Ever been to a holiday party where you could walk around in a tank top and shorts? With more people in the room, not to mention heat produced by cooking and baking, there is no need to crank the heat. Turn it down well before people come over, and encourage visitors to be comfortable in pants and sweaters, rather than dresses meant for summer weather.
  • Use kitchen energy efficiently. Try to do as much baking in a row as possible, to reduce the amount of times you need to heat up the oven. Think ahead to plan for thawing items, to avoid use of the microwave. Keep drinks outdoors, and eliminate the need for the beer fridge.

Give Back

It’s an often mentioned theme, but giving back to your community is a great way to celebrate a time of year meant for love

Give a gift that gives in more than one way

Give a gift that gives in more than one way

and family. Many charities count on donations received during the holidays for their yearly budget, so open your chequebook and be generous. Find out the favourite charity of a family member or friend, and make a donation in their name. If money is a problem, take some time to volunteer at a busy shelter or food bank, if they need it, or commit to volunteering in the New Year.


I have found that by making as many small and large changes as possible, I can reduce my own holiday stress, as fewer things I encounter directly oppose my own values. Every year, I make more changes, and encourage my family to do the same, and small changes don’t detract from the overall holiday traditions. Less stress means a merrier Christmas!