With the holidays rapidly approaching, you may be turning your attention to preparations for the festive season. The holiday season is filled with excitement, and yes, stress and excess! As we continue our series on sustainable living, let us slow down and unpack the options available for a very merry, and sustainable holiday season.
Are Real Christmas Trees Environmentally Friendly?
In our home, holiday preparations always start with the Christmas tree. We typically buy our tree at the beginning of December and recently pondered the question: Are real trees more environmentally friendly than fake trees? According to The Nature Conservancy, the answer is yes, there are number of reasons to buy a real tree.
Most artificial trees are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with nearly 90% of trees shipped from China increasing carbon emissions and resources. The David Suzuki Foundation notes, most artificial trees are not recyclable, and you would need to use it for 20 years before it’s “greener than a real tree”. They suggest eco-friendly alternatives such as an indoor potted Norfolk Island pine for year round use, a rented tree, a DIY tree, here is a link to some great DIY ideas, and a potted tree that you can enjoy over the holiday season then use it to beautify your garden in the spring. If this sounds like a plan for you, here are instructions for Caring for Live (Potted) Christmas Trees from the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario.
For my family, we love the tradition of choosing a tree, setting it up and enjoying the fresh pine scent as it falls over, and we scramble to set it up again!
If you choose to buy a real tree, buy from a local tree farm and be sure to check your local municipality for recycling options. Your tree will keep on giving long after it leaves your home, providing mulch for parks and gardens, improving fish habitat, and restoring stream banks. Photo by Vika Kirillova Unsplash
Green Gift Giving Tips
Now that we have chosen your tree, let us turn our attention to the gifts that go under it. Here are tips to help you enjoy stress free “green” gift giving.
- Gift an experience to friends and family. Time spent together is one of the greatest gifts, consider a sports event, restaurant, concert, outdoor activities, movies or dinner and board games.
- Think outside the gift box! Gift dance, art, or music lessons. Maybe a spa day or cleaning service, yes please!
- Share gifts that support causes your loved one’s care about. For example, donate on their behalf to charities that support the vulnerable, or protect wildlife, the environment, or humane societies.
- Choose gifts that will last, think quality not quantity. Look for labels such as Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard, Responsible Wool Standard - Textile Exchange and FSC-certified, ensuring products are sustainably and ethically produced. Shop locally supporting the unique retailers and services in your community.
- Made with love! Handmade gifts are truly special; they are both thoughtful and meaningful. Do you knit, bake, sew, or are you willing to try something new? Unique DIY projects from homemade pressed flower candles to bath bombs are easy to find online. Here are 11 Sustainable DIY holiday gift ideas. Photo by Preez on Unsplash
- Re-gift an item that you have no use for. I will admit, I frowned on the idea of regifting, but perhaps regifting just had a bad rap, pardon the pun! Instead of cluttering your cupboards or worse throwing it out, why not give a new item to someone who will enjoy and appreciate it? So, go ahead and regift to your heart’s content! Photo by Preez on Unsplash
Wrapping it up!
You don’t need plastic and tinsel to present beautifully wrapped gifts. There are many eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas that are easy and affordable. Try a no-sew fabric bag, or the traditional furoshiki fabric wrap. My favourites are a simple kraft paper or organic cotton or linen kitchen towel used as wrap, secured with organic cotton yarn or ribbon, and decorated with a sprig of greenery. Photo by Natalia Arkushaon Unsplash
Eat, drink, be merry and green!
Although one of the most anticipated events during the holiday festivities, dining with friends and family can also be the most wasteful. The David Suzuki Foundation reports that up to 40 percent of festive food is wasted. Here are tips to help you reduce waste and lessen your holiday footprint.
- Take a head count and be realistic about how much food you will need. Don’t hinge success on consumption.
- Planning will help you prepare for leftovers, ensuring they don’t end up in the trash.
- Instead of plastic wrap, choose eco-friendly storage options such as bees wax food wraps and glass storage containers.
- Donate food and other goods you don’t need. Here are 6 apps to help you reduce waste.
- Shop locally, choosing seasonal products and organic options when possible.
- Include more plants and eat less meat. According to a World Wildlife Fund article, the livestock industry generates 14.5%1 of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. It requires huge amounts of space, water, and feed. There are a variety of meat alternatives that are widely available and a smorgasbord of vegetarian Christmas dinner ideas online.
There is an abundance of information online to support your efforts to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. How ever you choose to spend the holiday season, know that every little thing you do to reduce your eco-footprint has a lasting impact, more so when we all work together.
This holiday season, I hope you will slow down, keep it simple, and enjoy good times with friends and family.
Photo by Vika Kirillova on Pexels