Ah, those warm, joyful — and expensive — December holidays! It’s a time when many people wonder, “Must we empty our pockets to fill our hearts with joy?” Green Action Centre doesn’t think so. Here are ten ways to reduce your carbon footprint this holiday season, while keeping everything merry and bright!
1. Sustainable gifts. The most important things to consider: re-gifting, crafting, consumables, experiences, e-cards, and reusable goods. Think about previously enjoyed gifts, ethical gifts, and non-material gifts (donations to a charity perhaps?). This year, think about giving something that doesn’t cost the earth. For more ideas, look at out our list of sustainable gift ideas for holiday needs. We have also thought about sustainable gift giving for children, too!
2. Sustainable food. Tis the season of baked good, dinner parties, and non-stop snacking! Our top considerations: buy and eat local food, reduce your meat consumption, avoid single-use plastics and over packaged goods, and buy only what you need (see: Let’s not waste food this holiday season). Let’s not forget about those who don’t have the same privileges this holiday season, and give back in any way we can by donating goods and/or our time to food banks or local shelters.
3. Staycation. Tempted to turn into a snowbird and head South this holiday season? Hopping on a plane produces A LOT of greenhouse gas emissions and significantly increases your carbon footprint. Enjoy a staycation instead! There are plenty of options in Manitoba from yurting and cross-country skiing to fancy hotels and nordic spa experiences (Travel Manitoba is a great place to look for inspiration). Tip: carpool to our many wonderful winter destinations through the single-trip matching feature of GoManitoba.
4. Gift wrapping. Did you know that most gift wrapping can’t be recycled? Are you aware of how much holiday waste is going to our landfills each year (see: Holiday Waste)? Consider alternatives for wrapping gifts (or maybe some gifts don’t need wrapping at all!). Draw on plain paper. Decorate paper bags with seasonal themes and cut up old holiday cards for gift tags! You can also re-use last year’s gift bags. Or use scarves, tea towels or cloth napkins for gift wrap that can be re-used. Many people send out holiday cards and photos at this time of year. Consider sending out emails or e-cards (JibJab anyone?) to save paper and reduce the amount of toxic chemicals from the photo printing process.
5. Decorations. You can decorate with handmade, thrifted, natural, edible, and compostable items. Try pine cones, berries, dead branches, fruit, leftover candy, decorated cookies, or items made from leftover packaging (Learn more from Reusable Nation here). Children always love fruit loops! IF you are purchasing decorations, be sure to ask others if they have items they no longer use or buy second hand, and make sure they are items that can be used year after year rather than disposable ones.
6. Lighting. Lights are bright and beautiful, but they also use a lot of energy. If you do decide to have lights, make sure you choose LED lights. They are by far the most efficient type, and will last much longer than the old incandescent ones. Set a timer so that the lights are on for peak enjoyment and go off when they don’t need to be on. No need to overdo it — just a string or two will send warm wishes of good cheer into the chill night of a Manitoba winter.
7. Christmas Trees. Is there a greener option for the traditional Christmas tree? Consider decorating a living plant or a tree in your yard, or creating a “tree” using recycled and salvaged materials. If you prefer a traditional Christmas tree, buy a local Manitoba farmed tree, have it chipped after you are finished with it, and use the chips as mulch in your yard or garden. Some municipalities will accept trees for chipping. In Winnipeg, check the City’s Let’s Chip In depots for opening dates in January.
8. Entertaining. Give the gift of memories over stuff. Make people the focus of your holidays. Invite friends and family over for an evening of games, songs and seasonal stories. For outdoor fun, get your friends together to go walking, skating, skiing or tobogganing (it’s a great warm-up to Jack Frost Challenge in February!).
9. Transportation. A great way to avoid the hassle of traffic and parking while on holiday errands is to walk, bike, bus, carpool, or, at the very least, trip-chain. Walking to school concerts and community events allows you to fit physical activity into your day. It’s also a good opportunity to greet people in the neighbourhood and admire holiday decorations on your street. Since the best way to get to and from a holiday party safely is to have a designated driver, why not carpool (with GoManitoba) or take transit to your destination!
10. S.N.U.B! Disposable shopping bags use up natural resources and energy, and contribute to needless waste. So why not ‘Say No to Unwanted Bags‘ (S.N.U.B.) and bring your own re-usable shopping bags from home!