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How to Have a More Sustainable Christmas

Pretty much immediately after Halloween ends, the holiday shopping craze begins. No matter what you celebrate, the stores are all the same. You'll hear the same five Christmas songs on repeat (different renditions, but they're always the same songs), you'll see big signs telling you to Buy Now and SAVE, and who can forget about the miniature shelves laced strategically throughout the place illustrating that These Weird Small Items Are Absolutely The Greatest Stocking Stuffers!?

Which is pretty annoying, but even if you're the jolliest little elf on the planet, you cannot deny that the season between November and New Years is the most wasteful time of the year.

According to Stanford University, the extra waste produced in the United States during the holidays amounts to 25 million tons of garbage. They also report that there are 2.65 billion Christmas cards each year, an amount so huge that it could fill a football field 10 stories high.

Look, we all saw the huge conversations that took part this year around environmentalism. And if you don't remember, let me give you a little recap:

Donald Trump filled his cabinet with climate-change deniers. Greenland is melting faster than ever. California had its deadliest forest fire. Millions were affected by the unusually large hurricanes that just kept on coming. CBC reported that climate change could wake up dormant volcanos. We learned about how harmful those single-use plastic straws are, and odds are you probably know someone who went out and bought a reusable one. Oh, and who can forget when the United Nations reported that we only have 12 years left to limit climate change before imminent doom?

Need I say more?

All of that being said, the Christmas season is incredibly wasteful. What do you do with all those Christmas cards? You leave them laying around for a couple weeks, eventually getting tired of them and toss them out, or you stuff them in a box, never to see the light of day again. Wrapping paper is bought and then immediately destroyed. But this holiday season, consider thinking about the impact of each item tossed in the garbage. The need for environmental care is urgent now, more than ever. And remember: it is so much more important to consider quality over quantity: giving fewer but more efficient gifts are better and loads of gifts that create huge amounts of waste.

Try eco-friendly wrapping paper.

Like I mentioned in the paragraph above, wrapping paper creates a huge amount of waste? But just how much? Around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown out each year in the United States. And it cannot be recycled due to the huge amount of plastic, dyes, and other toxic additives in the paper. Wrappily makes wrapping paper that is 100% recyclable. They even fix old, local, newspaper printing presses to make their paper. It can even be used several years in a row. But if that isn't in your budget, consider making your own wrapping paper out of magazine pages or comics. This is a great way to use up old or damaged magazines that would otherwise be tossed in the trash.

Reuse last years' decorations.

According to NaturalLiving, if every family reused just two feet of ribbon each year, the 28,000 miles of ribbon saved could wrap around the Earth and still have over 4,000 miles to spare. It's also always a good idea to consider reusing tree ornaments and other holiday decorations you keep around the house. Or better yet, make your own.

Support a local artist.

We all know someone trying to make it as a creator. Consider employing a local artist or writer to make a short story for a younger sibling. There are tons of independent creators in your city to help this holiday season, and you know each purchase goes directly to them. Use social media to check out these creators. Odds are, you'll probably be able to find sculptors, painters, musicians, authors, photographers, craft makers, embroidery artists, and more.

Give the gift of a great memory.

Buy someone the gift of a membership to a local museum or art gallery. Sports tickets are also a great idea. Check out your local community centre to see if they offer spring courses: reserve a spot for you and a friend to take a class. The community centre near me offers classes in cooking, dancing, computers, astronomy, photography, swordsmanship, camping, martial arts, yoga, and more. This ensures you and a friend will get together a couple times a month and have a great time while learning a new skill.

Check out second-hand stores.

Thrift stores and consignment shops can have great items you wouldn't normally see. I've often seen entire unused boxes of holiday cards donated, simply because they weren't the latest, shiniest, trendiest cards. Give these cards a new home instead of purchasing brand new ones. You never know, you may come across really unique, vintage designs. Thrift stores can also be great spots to find holiday gifts such as toys, clothes, books, or furniture. Check out the stores in your area, you might even find that many thrift stores donate money back into local businesses in the community.


Have a friend who loves animals but also has a tight budget? Consider making a donation to a local animal shelter in their name. Some companies, such as Save the Children, provide notifications as to exactly how the money is being spent. Also, you can even count the donation as a deductible on your tax return.

Get an eco-friendly gift.

If you are buying brand new, consider an environmentally friendly gift, such as a reusable travel mug or thermos. There are also phone cases made of biodegradable materials, stainless steel food containers, shirts made out of organic cotton, bamboo cooking utensils, backpacks made from recycled materials, reusable grocery bags, and so much more.

Give a digital gift or subscription.

Consider getting a friend a gift to a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu for movies and TV shows, or Audible to get audiobooks. You can even send a digital gift card through Steam for the gamer in your life. Did you know there are also food subscriptions? Food waste is another huge issue, especially in North America. In the United States alone, 20 billion pounds of produce goes to waste each year. Buying someone a subscription to Imperfect Produce helps reduce food waste by sending a box of fresh fruit and veggies right to your doorstep at a discounted price, simply because the food was too weird-looking to be put on shelves. This service is especially helpful to college students or people without cars who otherwise have a hard time getting groceries.

Make or bake something.

If you are a creator yourself, creating a handmade gift for someone can be so much more special than buying something. Think if you have anyone in your life with food sensitivities. Consider taking an afternoon to bake something special for them (of course, make sure you clean all your tools first). They'll probably be really happy that you took the time to create something special with them in mind. If you have frozen fruit in your house that you aren't sure what to do with, consider making a jam and giving that as a gift.

Get a lasting gift.

When it comes to gift giving, try to prioritize gifts that will have a lasting impact. Backpacks can be used year after year, small bookshelves made from recycled wood, or warm pieces of clothing that you know will get someone through many winters to come. Think if you have someone in your life that always complains about an object that keeps falling apart, and offer to replace it. Sometimes things like this can be more expensive upfront but will end up saving money in the long run if you aren't having to replace it year after year.

If you must buy new, buy ethical.

If you still have lots of gift ideas, consider buying them from a fair trade company. You can check on the back of soaps, body washes, and candles to see if the product was made with organic materials or was tested on animals. Online shops like Servv employ artisans and farmers from 24 countries worldwide, selling handcrafted items that are all fair trade. They sell items like jewellery, towels, kitchen materials, garden equipment, and more. Being an ethical consumer is important in not only reducing environmental waste, but ensuring the people creating the items are treated well, too.

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