13 tips for a greener holiday season

Going green for the holidays doesn’t need to be painful. It can actually shake things up and add a fun, inventive spirit to your celebrations. Here are 13 holiday tips that will reduce waste and save energy, without turning you into the Grinch!

1. Send E-Christmas cards

Ditch outdated paper holiday greetings in favour of fun online versions. In 2005 Canada Post delivered 787 million cards, letters, and parcels, using 575 daily flights and 6,000 postal vehicles. That’s a lot of wasted gas and carbon monoxide pollution! You can deliver your heartfelt greetings with a few simple clicks instead. Many e-card sites are free so you can save cash at the same time.

2. Give second hand goods

Instead of worrying about the latest toy trends or the coolest new gadgets, surprise your family and friends with antiques, vintage collectibles and second hand treasures that nobody else will have. You can have fun scouring flea markets and thrift stores or check out e-bay to find out what goodies are up for sale.

3. Switch to LED Christmas lights

LED Christmas lights use 90% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. They’re available in outdoor and indoor varieties so you can string them on the tree and light up your whole house without feeling guilty or raising your electric bill. As a bonus they also last longer and are safer because they don’t heat up.

4. Carry reusable bags

Christmas is an unpredictable season where any outing can turn into a gift-buying excursion on a whim. Stashing reusable bags in your purse or car will prepare you for any shopping emergency and prevent plastic bag waste.

5. Entertain by candlelight

A constant stream of holiday guests means a full house of brightly lit rooms. Why not dim the lights and entertain by candlelight instead? The irresistible warm glow will capture the Christmas spirit and conserve energy at the same time.

6. Skip battery-powered gifts

According to energyquest.ca.gov, 40% of all batteries are purchased during the holiday season. You can reduce hazardous waste by choosing gifts that don’t rely on battery power. If the gift it too good to resist, spring for a pack of rechargeable batteries to reduce future pollution.

7. Turn the heat down

It may be chilly outdoors, but Christmas is the perfect time to snuggle up by the fireplace and get cozy in oversized sweaters. With all the extra bodies around the house, and the non-stop cooking and baking, you can easily drop the thermostat a couple of degrees and people will still keep warm.

8. Be efficient in the kitchen

Sometimes it’s the little things that really add up. Being organized and efficient in the kitchen can make a big difference in energy usage. Resist the urge to open the oven and savour the aroma of baking cookies. Put lids on all simmering pots and pans to keep the heat in. Take all your ingredients out of the fridge ahead of time so you only have to open the door once.

9. Gift experiences, not stuff

We’ve all had the frustrating challenge of buying presents for people who have more stuff than they could possibly use. Save yourself the hassle and give them an experience instead: a spa day, a sporting adventure, a fancy restaurant dinner, etc. An experience gift also allows you to spend more time with someone you care about.

10. Resist the lure of paper plates

Disposable tableware may reduce the number of dishes you wash, but you’ll be left with bags full of garbage and a guilty conscience. Using your real dinnerware makes for a much classier, less wasteful, Christmas. You can still cut down on dirty dishes by handing out cute Christmas markers that people can stick on their plates and wine glasses so they won’t keep grabbing new ones.

11. Prepare a local menu

Give your Christmas dinner a local theme and stick with foods that are grown, raised, or prepared in your area. You may have to sacrifice a few favourite treats but you can feel good about reducing your carbon footprint. Your guests will also rave about how fresh and delicious everything tastes.

12. Ditch wrapping paper

Put away the shiny rolls and stick your presents in gift bags instead.  Paper and cloth gift bags come in all kinds of cute Christmas patterns and can be reused year after year. They’re also a huge time saver, eliminating hours spent fiddling with wrapping paper and scotch tape. If you need to tear paper for it to feel like Christmas, you can use newspaper, to wrap gifts, but the tape used may still make it difficult to recycle.

13. Get a “green” tree

There’s an ongoing debate over whether fake trees or fresh-cut trees are better for the environment. The fresh-cut option obviously means cutting down a living  tree, while manufacturing fake ones creates toxic air pollution. You may want to try a “living” tree. It’s a live tree sold in a planter, with its roots fully in tact. You can buy it a week or so before Christmas and transplant it to your backyard (or some other outdoor space) right after the holidays, but requires some maintenance and knowledge of growing to make sure the tree is successfully transplanted. Learn more about what type of Christmas tree is most environmentally friendly for you.