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A Sustainable Holiday Season (Even in a Pandemic)

For a lot of us, the holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year.

Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, or something else, this is a great time to slow down and appreciate what’s truly meaningful in life. Or is it? Along with these positive aspects, the holidays can come with a lot of unnecessary, and overdone, consumerism. According to Zero Waste Canada, each Canadian tosses about 50 kilograms of garbage over the holidays! This is not to mention the amounts of presents that are purchased and gifted, many of which are never really used and appreciated. But cutting down your carbon footprint during this time doesn’t have to mean foregoing the festivities at all! Simply being a mindful consumer, and doing your research prior to making purchases can make a big difference.


Presents

One of the biggest sources of waste (and costs to you!) is purchasing gifts. Particularly when gifting to children, oftentimes quantity is favoured over the quality. There are a few things you can do to help avoid excessive spending and waste relating to gift-giving this year!:

  1. Purchase thrifted, second-hand items. If you are comfortable doing so this year, stores such as Value Village, Good Will, and independently owned shops offer great options that are more affordable, and can be better quality as well. For specialty/specific clothing items, try a clothing purchasing app like Depop! If you want to be COVID safe shopping on Facebook Marketplace, Bunz, or Free and For Sale can be good second-hand shopping alternatives.

  2. Rather than ordering from Amazon or other controversial corporations, support independently-owned shops and businesses, locally if possible. Checking out a local market, or sites such as Etsy are great places to start when looking for unique and beautiful gifts!

  3. If you prefer to buy new gifts for your friends and family, choose ones that will have a positive impact on the environment. Check out https://packagefreeshop.com/ for fun eco-friendly gifts supporting a female business-owner. For items such as natural face masks, bath bombs, and shampoo bars, try https://www.lush.ca/en/discover/naked/. If you prefer an in-person shopping experience, take a look at this list of sustainable shops in Montreal. http://thegirlintheocean.com/eco-friendly-montreal-sustainable-shopping/


  1. It may sound cliche, but making your own gifts is both rewarding and fun. You may choose to create a different item for each person on your list or to customize a bit more and dive into your creative, crafty side. Homemade gifts really show you care and spent time on providing something, rather than just stopping by a store. Check out https://botanicalpaperworks.com/blog/eco-friendly-homemade-holiday-gifts/ for a list of items you can make at home with affordable products/ingredients, or things you already have at home.




Food


One of the best parts of the holidays is the food! Whether you prefer an elaborate dinner or delicate sweets (or both), there are many ways you and your family can make what you eat this year a little bit more sustainable.

  1. Rather than purchasing items that come with a lot of packaging, ask yourself if there’s a way you can make the item at home without the plastic. For example, can you find a good recipe for fudge rather than buying it from the grocery store wrapped in cellophane? Can you make cookies at home without the need for a container?

  2. Try more putting more plant-based alternatives on the table this year. You don’t need to switch to a fully vegan household for the holidays, but just making a few easy swaps can make a big difference. Try adding a few vegetable side dishes at the dinner table, or using a butter alternative when baking.



  1. One of the biggest sources of waste at this time of the year is food waste! Leftovers after celebrations are inevitable, but make sure they are not thrown out or left to go bad in the fridge. Send leftovers home with guests in reusable containers, and compost what you can. Meals for Milton-Parc https://www.facebook.com/mealsformiltonparc/ is a local initiative dedicated to feeding the unhoused community in the neighborhood of Milton-Parc, near McGill campus. For more information and ways you can get involved or volunteer, visit the link.



Decorations


When we think of the holidays, we tend to think of elaborate light displays, large decorations, and complicated setups. Rather than spending more money on new and improved decor this year, consider more sustainable alternatives.


1.Get a real tree, and a potted one if you can! Artificial trees may seem like a more eco-friendly option because they are reusable, but using a real tree is actually much healthier for you and the environment. If it is possible, look into getting a potted tree which does not have to be thrown out after the holidays, and can instead be watered and reused. https://dailyhive.com/montreal/places-buy-christmas-tree-montreal-2018 Has a list of 10 places in the Montreal area where you can purchase a live tree!



2. Cut down on the number of lights you use. Although they may look beautiful, lights use a ton of electricity, and eat up your energy bill! Using other decorations that don’t require energy (such as ornaments), and candles for lighting, look great and keep us closer to our pre-holiday electricity consumption.


These ideas are far from creating a zero-waste holiday, and only provide a quick introduction to the world of sustainable holiday practices. I hope you’re feeling inspired to make some adjustments, or maybe you already do many of these things! Feel free to leave a comment on any other ideas you have.


Enjoy a happy holiday everyone, and a smooth transition into the New Year!




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