The holidays known as "the best time of the year" is also probably the most wasteful time of the year.
If you're like me, you wake up on November 1st, take out your Christmas decor, put on Christmas music and get more and more happy as lights and decorations start appearing throughout the city. But this year, I've committed to reducing my environmental impact. And the first step is to learn and educate myself on what effect my actions and habits have on the planet!
Read on to learn some shocking facts about waste generated around Christmas time and tips you can follow to have a more eco-friendly holiday!
Christmas time has an increase in production, consumption and disposal. Majority of items, such as decor, gifts, packaging, and food is sent to landfill where it damages the environment.
The more waste we send to landfill the more methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) that gets released into the air, and the more the temperature of the Earth rises. Plastic waste ends up blowing from landfill sites into the oceans, affecting millions of species living in the sea.
This also increases the likelihood of natural disasters happening across the world such as droughts, floods and hurricanes. These can have a devastating effect on habitats, examples including California’s wildfires.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's, American households generate 25% more waste. That's about 1 million extra tons of trash each year.
In Canada 545,000 tonnes of waste is generated from gift-wrapping and shopping bags each year.
Canadians use 6 million rolls of tape to wrap up Christmas presents every year.
A total of 6 million Christmas trees are said to be discarded every year. According to a survey from 2017, 14% of people said that they would be binning their artificial Christmas tree, rather than reusing it the following year.
The Carbon Trust calculates that the carbon footprint of a 2-metre high real Christmas tree is 16kg of carbon dioxide (if it ends up in landfill).
According to Unilever, 4.2 million Christmas dinners were wasted in the UK in 2014. This figure equates to approximately 263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies, 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding, 17.2 million Brussels sprouts, 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes!
How can you still celebrate Christmas and the holidays without leaving such a large impact on the planet? Check out these tips and suggestions and be sure to share them with your friends and families!
Let's let go of the "shop till you drop" mentality. Our planet cannot sustain this way of living. Majority of items purchased are often discarded within the first 6 months of using them, ending up in the landfill. This year, aim to be more conscious about what you're purchasing, where you are buying from, and if you really need to purchase that new item.
1) Support Small Businesses:
Shop local and directly support your neighbours and small business owners verse large corporations. Especially during this pandemic, it's more important than ever to be there for our communities!
Purchase gift cards! Whoever said gift cards are inconsiderate is wrong. You can support small businesses and people are able to choose what they want, it's a win-win! Giving people the option to choose their gifts reduces the chance of items ending up in garbage or simply unused
2) Wrapping Gifts:
Opt out of purchasing wrapping paper. Most wrapping paper isn't recyclable and adds up a lot of waste for a single use item. Wrap your gifts in newspaper, recyclable paper, reusable fabric, or my favourite: reuse gift / shopping bags!
Use as little tape as you can and opt for reusable ribbon/strings
Avoid glitter or confetti in your gift boxes
3) Gifting Experiences:
Gift an experience instead of materials. For example: a homemade meal, create a video, spa day, date night in or out, try a new activity, making a new tradition, etc. There's endless ideas out there and I guarantee the memory itself will be a great gift!
4) Giving Back:
If you have the means, make a donation to your local charity, shelter, food bank, non-profit and give back to your community
Volunteer with community groups
Organize a food drive
Share fundraisers with your loved ones and ask them to make a donation instead of giving you a present this year
It's been a tough year for all of us, but we can help spread some joy and hope in our community by being there for each other!
Many Christmas decorations, such as plastic and glass baubles and tinsel can’t be recycled, so you should reuse them or donate them to charity shops when you no longer want them.
If you love holiday candles with their festive glow and seasonal scents, choose those made of beeswax, soy or vegetable wax rather than paraffin, which doesn’t burn as clean.
When replacing your Christmas lights, choose LEDs. They consume less energy and last longer, which results in less waste over the years. You might also consider reducing the size of your light display. Chances are, the only one who will notice you’re using fewer bulbs is Mother Nature.
Set holiday lights on a timer so you don’t forget to turn them off before you go to bed or if you’re away overnight.
Instead of buying new tree ornaments, craft your own. Bonus points for using recycled materials or items you would have tossed in the landfill otherwise. It’s a great crafting project to keep the kids busy when they’re on break from school.
Wreaths can also be recycled as long as they’re made from natural materials (like ivy, holly or fir tree clippings) and they’re not covered in excessive amounts of glitter!
Check out your local thrift stores to find some great secondhand decorations and give it a new life! When you’re done using them, store it safely to reuse next year or donate them back to charity shops, thrift stores, community/church groups, schools, etc! Make a goal of throwing as little into the garbage can as possible!
Now, although we aren’t allowed to have any gatherings outside our immediate household which means no big Christmas parties or dinners, you can still plan a small, intimate and sustainable Christmas with your family.
It’s important to bring some cheer to this holiday, for your mental health and for getting through such a difficult time of life!
Decorate your table with recycled or reusable materials. Instead, use reusable table covers that you can wash afterwards and decor you can reuse or donate afterwards
Don’t use plastic, single use cutlery and plates for your holiday dinner. Opt for reusable dishes.
What you cook is just as important as the plate / decor you use! Try vegetarian or vegan dishes as they have a far less environmental impact, and there's thousands of delicious recipes out there!
If you are going with meat-based dishes, look for meats, like poultry, that have a smaller carbon footprint.
Food waste is an issue year-round, but especially so during the holiday season. Be realistic about how much food people will eat, stick to your grocery list, avoid foods nobody like (ahem...fruitcake), and only take as much as you are going to eat!
Cleaning the house before you celebrate? Choose non-toxic, natural and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.
For a truly sustainable Christmas tree, think about purchasing a smaller containerized tree to decorate, and then plant it in your yard later in the spring.
This has the dual benefit of keeping cut trees out of the landfill and making a beautiful addition to the yard, as well as sucking up carbon dioxide, shading the house in the summer, and reducing soil erosion.
Even if you live in a small apartment, purchase a small slow-growing containerized tree such as a Norfolk Pine and keep it to reuse each Christmas.
Did these tips and facts help you? Spread the word and share them with your family and friends by sharing this post!
Connect with us on social media and tell us how you're going to be more sustainable this holiday! Check out The Sustainable Act podcast and join our community in being more green!
To a sustainable future!
THE SUSTAINABLE ACT
WITH SMIELY KHURANA