Earth Issues

5 tips for a green Christmas

 | December 6, 2010

With its twinkling lights, gift-giving and festivities, Christmas remains one of the highlights of the year for many people.

However, celebrating in excess has become a source of stress not just for people but for the environment. Just think of the waste and energy expelled by Christmas lights or the enormous pile of wrapping paper left from opening gifts.

You can enjoy the traditional Christmas cheer without the excess. Here are five simple ways to celebrate the season while treading lightly on the planet.

Food
Everyone knows the festivities of the season include food and lots of it. What’s Christmas without a feast that you can enjoy with friends and family?

One way to make Christmas dinner special is to plan a menu that focuses on local food. Locally grown food is fresh and hasn’t travelled halfway around the world to get to your plate. Plus, it’s a good way to support your local food producers.

If you’re having a small dinner party, use real plates and cutlery. Disposable dinnerware is convenient but contributes to a lot of waste. If you have a large number of guests, use the compostable kind, like those made by Green Century Enterprises (www.greencentury.ca) in Richmond. When you’re done eating, your plants can have their share too.


Gifts

Look for stores that specialize in making merchandise from recycled materials. One example is Vancouver-based Ora Bags (www.orabags.com). Owner Randi Obernauer, who has a diploma in Fine Arts from TRU, creates stylish leather bags out of vintage jackets and skirts.

If you’re not sure what to give, a gift card is the next best thing. You’ll not only save wrapping paper, your recipient can also choose exactly what they want.

Gift wrap
If you haven’t wrapped your gifts yet, try to look for environmentally friendly alternatives like recycled gift wrap made with post-consumer waste.

If you can sew, try making fabric gift bags (www.lazygirldesigns.com) that are relatively easy to make and can be recycled again and again.

No matter how tempted you are when opening your gifts on Christmas morning, exercise a little self-control and don’t rip the gift wrap. You can reuse those along with the gift bags for next year.

Christmas cards
Next to gift wrap, Christmas cards are probably one of the biggest contributors to holiday waste. Opt for an e-card to send your greetings without the clutter.

If you think e-cards just don’t cut it, buy plantable paper cards. A company in Manitoba called Botanical PaperWorks (www.botanicalpaperworks.com) makes handmade cards and gift tags out of cotton or 100 per cent post-consumer waste. As an added bonus, these paper products are embedded with North American wildflower seeds that your friends can grow, which will remind them of you long after the holidays are over.


Christmas tree

Christmas isn’t complete without the tree. For many families, it’s become a tradition to visit a Christmas tree farm, choose the perfect tree, and decorate it with your family. People have debated whether it’s better to use an artificial tree over a real tree. It’s a personal choice—artificial trees can be reused for as long as 10 years, while live trees are completely biodegradable.

Evergrow Christmas Trees (www.evergrowchristmastrees.ca) in Burnaby, B.C. has created another option by renting out live potted Christmas trees. The trees can be as tall as seven feet and are either returned to the nursery after Christmas or planted in various locations in the Lower Mainland. The company also sells wooden ornaments made of salvaged mountain pine beetle wood. These ornaments are made at Tradeworks Training Society, a social enterprise that provides entry-level training and employment to women in the Downtown Eastside.

If you choose to go the cut tree route, remember to recycle your tree after the season is over. Kamloops provides a number of locations that will turn your tree into compost. Call 250-828-3461 for a list of locations.

Get rid of the stress and the excess. Follow these simple guidelines for a truly guilt-free Christmas.

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