To many, Christmas is the most, wonderful time of the year. But what if we told you it’s also Earth’s BIGGEST ANNUAL Environmental Disaster? We’re not trying to be a Grinch, but the holiday encourages people to:
- Drive & Fly.
- Gobble down turkey.
- Give gifts that are never used.
- Bake treats that are never eaten.
- Wrap gifts in unrecyclable glossy glittery gift bags.
- Purchase more and more decorations and ugly sweaters.
- Make online gift purchases from multi-national billionaires .
- Chop down pine trees to decorate our homes and workplaces.
Here at Random Acts of Green, we think it’s time we rethink environmentally harmful holiday rituals and traditions. Check out our Guide to a Green Christmas for some ideas on how to lower your environmental impact during the holiday season.
1. Opt for e-cards instead of paper Christmas cards.
Humans send enough Christmas cards that if we placed them alongside each other, they’d cover the world’s circumference 500 times. That’s 2.4 billion Christmas cards in being sent in Canada and 6 billion Christmas cards being sent in the United States, ALONE. If everyone sent one less card, it would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. E-cards are a great alternative to paper cards, reducing waste. EcoJot has launched e-jots, a subscription-based card shop that enables you to send as many cards as you like, whenever you like to whomever you like. If you do have old Christmas cards, repurpose them and use them to create gift tags.
2. Re-think your Christmas gifts and choose sustainable.
Give the gift of sustainability this year! Eco-friendly gifts are a wonderful way to spread the Christmas cheer while keeping the planet clean. When going shopping, support local businesses so you can support your local economy. This also reduces transportation emissions for your gift. Second-hand or homemade gifts are unique, meaningful AND sustainable. You can also give the gift of an experience, such as a Dohjo Muay Thai Fitness class, or a trip to an outdoor sanctuary, with a company like Yours Outdoors. Donating on the behalf of someone is a wonderful, eco-friendly and charitable gift to give to your loved ones! Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags when going shopping!
3. Ditch the Turkey this Christmas.
At Christmas in 2019, 2.7 million whole turkeys were purchased in Canada. In the United Kingdom, the University of Manchester recently noted in a study that the U.K.’s combined Christmas dinners produce the same carbon footprint as a single car travelling 6,000 times around the world. That is just in the U.K. alone. This year, ditch the turkey and choose a plant-based Christmas dinner. Check out La Dee Da Sauces, Wholly Veggie, The Very Good Butchers, Sorry I’ve Got Plants and Everything Nice for some plant-based dish ideas.
4. Choose a sustainable gift wrap.
We can’t avoid wrapping gifts to give to others, but we can avoid the unsustainable wrapping paper and gift bags that we tend to use. In Canada, 545,000 tonnes of waste is generated from gift-wrapping and shopping bags each year. Most of the glittery wrapping paper, tissue paper, bows and gift bags we use have too many additives, which makes them difficult to recycle. When choosing a wrapping paper, look for paper wrap that can be recycled. Alternatively, fabric makes for a wonderful gift wrap that can be reused for years to come. Check out The Kind Matter Company who is stocking joywrap– a sustainable gift wrap. They are reusable, washable and require no tape or ribbon to close! You can also give old materials a new life, like newspaper or old maps, by using them as a wrapping paper.
5. Reduce your food waste this holiday season.
In the United States alone, 28 billion pounds of food gets wasted every year during the holidays. With eyes bigger than our bellies, food waste is no new thing around the holiday season. Do you really need all those nibbles and extra desserts in case your guests go hungry? Before doing your annual Christmas food shop, take a list and stick to it. Don’t let the supermarket offers stray you into thinking you need that extra box of after eights. Not only will you be saving money, you’ll be reducing your waste. When you do have leftovers, use reusable containers and wraps, like Abeego Beeswax Wraps, to store the food. Use every bit of food possible when cooking! Store vegetable scraps to use for soup stock instead of throwing them away. When a food has gotten to the end of its life, compost it!
Check out Speedibin or The Box of Life for composters that can give your food waste a second life.
6. Opt for sustainable holiday decorations.
Decorating your house during the holiday season is a great way to spread the Christmas cheer and to keep your house lively. Instead of buying new holiday décor, search for second-hand decorations from thrift stores, or Facebook marketplace. You’d be surprised with all the Christmas decorations you can find! You can also rent your Christmas decorations and Christmas Tree with Ruckify. Tinsel and plastic décor are difficult to recycle, and most Blue box programs don’t want them. Rather than using plastic décor, decorate with natural, biodegradable items like cranberries, popcorn and live flowers and greenery. When putting up Christmas lights, opt for LED lights. LED bulbs use up to 95% less energy than traditional holiday lighting. When setting up your lights, use an automatic timer to turn the lights off when they aren’t needed, like when you’re asleep. When your electronic Christmas décor has reached the end of its life, recycle your e-waste or batteries at places like Nurse Scrap Metal.
7. How to make shipping more sustainable.
Online shopping for gifts has become a safe option for many people this Christmas season. However, this form of shopping can be damaging for the environment with the greenhouse gases emitted and the packaging waste. When shopping for online gifts, choose ground shipping rather than air shipping. Ground shipping uses less fuel than air transport. You can also support businesses that use eco-friendly shipping packaging materials, like Hub Labels or UPM Raflatac, or EcoEnclose to ship their products in. When choosing to ship items, make a bulk order instead of multiple single orders to reduce the packaging needed and greenhouse gas emissions. You can also choose slower shipping. Patience pays off for the planet. Delaying a delivery’s arrival means fewer trucks are on the road, and cuts down on the number of trucks that aren’t fully packed with deliveries. Customers who wait up to five days for home delivery could help decrease carbon dioxide emissions by about 30% in the last mile of a delivery, according to research by Josue Velazquez, a research Scientist at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.
8. Choose travel options that lower your carbon footprint.
Christmas is going to look a little different for everyone this year. Whether you are traveling to see family or not, you can lower your environmental footprint. Carpooling with others is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. Making sure your car is winter weather ready is not only a great thing for safety, it is also an easy way to lower your carbon. Simple things can all make a difference, such as; checking your tire tread and inflation pressure, using high gears safely, not leaving the car idling in long queues and utilizing the start/stop facility if you have one. Think about travelling during quieter hours and cruising along in top gear to save fuel and carbon! Since your travel plans may be on hold due to COVID, take the time to learn more about sustainable travel with Impactful Tourism Consultancy.
9. Opt for sustainable cleaning options.
Christmas time makes for the biggest messes to clean up. When cleaning up, choose sustainable cleaning products that will lower your environmental impact. Dish washing blocks, like these from Ardent Earth, reduce the need for plastic bottles, decreasing the waste you create while cleaning up. Laundry strips, like these from TWIG, are a great way to reduce the packaging waste. Use reusable Swedish Sponge Cloths and Tea Towels, like these from Ten & CO., to clean up in a sustainable way. Swish Maintenance offers green cleaning products that will ensure you lower the health and environmental impacts of your cleaning. You can also use refilleries to stock up on your favourite, sustainable cleaning products while ditching the plastic packaging. Check our members Sustain Eco, The Refill Stop, and The Green Jar for your refill needs.
10. Make a new sustainable tradition this holiday.
Make a new, sustainable tradition this holiday! Participate in an annual Christmas Day Bird Count or take your family on a nature walk. You can also bundle up and take a stroll to admire the holiday lights in your neighbourhood. Bring a garbage bag to collect any litter you see along the way, as well. You can plant a tree to symbolize the value of nature. Bring back a fading tradition by organizing a caroling party to spread some Christmas cheer, or have a craft night and upcycle some DIY Christmas décor. The possibilities are endless! While doing these activities, reflect on how you are helping the planet and make some New Year’s resolutions about how you can help the planet even more.
From the Random Acts of Green Team, we hope you have a very Merry and Sustainable Christmas!