I grew up in a unique household: my mom was raised Mennonite, and my dad was raised Jewish. This means the holidays were always an awkward time of year for me. Neither of my parents really celebrate Christmas, and in general, neither of them value gift giving and the collection of ‘things.’ I guess you could say, due to their upbringing, my parents are fabulous minimalists.
Since I moved to Vancouver and started celebrating the holidays with Julian (my partner) and his family, Christmas has become a new part of my life. When I spent my first Christmas with Julian’s family, I was amazed and overwhelmed by the traditions that many people enjoy this time of year: we had stockings to un-stuff, presents to unwrap, and Secret Santa to play. While it was a lot for me to take in (my family always goes out for sushi on Christmas eve and we don’t typically exchange gifts at all) I quickly started to understand why so many of my friends love Christmas.
This will be my third year celebrating Christmas, and I’m really excited! One aspect that I still have trouble wrapping my head around is the amount of waste Christmas generates. My goal moving forward is to marry my two holiday experiences and find a middle ground; I would like to participate in gift giving and receiving, Secret Santa, and the whole shebang, but in a way that stays true to my values. So in the spirit of taking steps in the right direction, here is a list of ways you can make Christmas a little greener.
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I think we can all agree that this time of year is notoriously wasteful. Here are 5 ways to reduce your waste this holiday season.
1. Make a List
The first time Julian’s mom asked me for a Christmas list, I was too embarrassed to write anything down. I wasn’t used to asking for gifts, and I felt uncomfortable telling someone what I expect or wish to get. Now, I know better! Making a wish list is actually a great way to reduce waste. If you make a big list of things you genuinely need or want, then it’s much less likely you will end up with items that you end up throwing out, regifting or donating. Plus, think about how difficult it can be to pick out a good gift for your loved ones. Providing a list makes buying a gift SO much easier; so really you are doing your friends and family a favour by sharing your wish list. 😉
2. Envelope Gifts
It may be my Jewish heritage, but I truly believe gift certificates, cheques or other envelope gifts are the best of all. Why go through the tricky challenge of picking out the correct colour and size jacket that your sister wanted, when instead you can give a gift card to the store! This ensures your loved ones get exactly what they want. And gift cards aren’t just for stores! Another favourite envelope gift is a gift certificate to a nice restaurant for date night, or a spa for a facial! Low on cash? My dad’s most cherished gift was when I created hand written gift certificates for things like “1 car wash by me” and “1 twenty-minute neck massage” etc.
3. Wrap with Care
Pretty presents are… pretty! But after you rip off all the plastic, paper, ribbon and bows, what is left? A pile of shredded garbage on the floor! A great first step to reducing wrapping paper waste, is to unwrap with care; unwrapping carefully so you can save the wrapping paper and re-use it next year is a fantastic way to keep mounds of wrapping material out of the landfill. Another option is to use eco-friendly wrapping material. Skip the plastic ribbon and plastic based wrapping paper, and instead opt for recycled wrapping paper. Get creative and try the Furoshiki method of wrapping; use cloth or fabric as re-usable gift wrap.
4. Go Plastic Free
Going plastic free during the holidays is no easy feat. Which is why it’s important to communicate with the people you spend the holidays with and band together to make a change! Don’t be afraid to mention to your loved ones that you are making a big effort to reduce your plastic waste, and that you’d appreciate little to no plastic in your gifts. Sure, they can simply remove the plastic before wrapping – but the hope is that everyone will be a little more conscientious to pick the plastic-free version of each gift. There are also loads of great reusable gifts that help to reduce single use plastic waste AND make perfect stocking stuffers – such as a nice reusable water bottle, coffee mug, lunch set, or straw!
Do you have any eco-friendly tips to help make Christmas green? Tell us below!