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How to Have  a Green Holiday

Tips for reducing waste and lowering your carbon footprint over the holiday season.  

Having a Green Holiday does not mean sacrificing all the things you love about the season!  There are many easy, simple changes that can help you to enjoy the holidays while helping to protect the environment at the same time.  A little thought can help prevent harming the environment without having to spoil your fun!  Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

1 - Avoid using paper to wrap your gifts or use magazines and newspapers that are already lying around your home.  Hiding children’s presents and giving them clues to find their gifts will provide more fun than simply unwrapping paper.  If you do end up buying wrapping paper, make sure it is printed on recycled paper and try to save it for next year!  Remember, shiny, metallic and plastic-coated paper cannot be recycled.

2 – Choose the right tree.  Eliminating the tree is the best option for the environment, but if this sounds like sacrilege to your family then make sure you know about the pros and cons of fake and real trees.  Artificial trees can be used over and over again, thereby reducing waste, but are made with plastics and metals that are not biodegradable.  Many of them are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), an environmentally offensive petroleum-derived plastic that has been linked to cancer.  Many of these trees are made in China and need to be shipped long distances before arriving in your home.

Real trees are a better choice as they are biodegradable, healthier and can usually be bought locally.  However, you should be aware that they can be loaded with pesticides and may have been transported across the country.  Make sure you buy from a local grower, ask about the use of pesticides and buy a tree with its roots intact so that it can be replanted after the holiday season.  If your tree does not have roots, make sure it goes to a chipper for recycling.  Check out the City of Vancouver website for tree recycling options in January.

Some tree suppliers sell live trees that you can rent over the holidays. These trees are picked up by the growers after the holiday season and taken care of until next year. Two such companies near Vancouver are Evergrow Christmas Trees in Burnaby  and Carbonsync in Squamish. Both suppliers also sell cut trees, which are picked up and recycled after the holidays. 

3 – Eliminate the card waste.  Cards are an extremely environmentally damaging product so consider emailing your holiday cards this year.  If you are crafty, try making your own cards using last year’s cards and calendars. If you must buy paper cards then try to cut down on the number you send, purchase cards printed on recycled paper and try to buy from a company that donates a portion of sales to a good cause.  Also remember to use old cards to make gift tags.

4 – Slash your energy bill and make an environmental impact by choosing LED lights.  They are 90% more efficient than incandescent lighting, last longer, lower the risk of fire and if one bulb goes out, the others will continue to work!  Solar lights are even better, but are a bit more expensive.  Set your lights on a timer to save energy and do not use them during daylight hours! 

5 – The surest way to reduce pollution and waste is to buy fewer presents.  One idea is to set an upper limit on the price of gifts to be exchanged.  Perhaps consider only buying presents for the children in your family.  There are also a variety of ways to give green.  Giving homemade food gifts, Fair Trade consumables, second-hand products, “experience gifts” such as theatre tickets, personalized coupons and memberships to local museums or NGO’s are just some suggestions. Support companies selling sustainable products in Vancouver, such as Dream Designs, Fairware and Lavish and Lime.

Donate to an environmental organization on their behalf or buy subscriptions to environmental magazines.  Giving such environment-related gifts will also help to spread the word and encourage environmental consciousness.

6 – Use natural ornaments, such as holly and fruits that can be eaten or composted later, to decorate your home.  Use items that you already have in your home, such as ornaments used for other seasons and twigs and branches from the garden.  Set the table with local beeswax candles and homemade napkin rings.  Make your own wreaths from fabric remnants, pine cones, leaves, old ornaments and ribbons instead of buying wreaths made from evergreens. 

Get the whole family involved in creative projects and have fun while helping the environment! There are plenty of resources on the web to help you make your own decorations and ornaments. Check out Family Fun and AllFreeCrafts.

7 – Plan food shopping wisely and only buy what you need.  Prepare a greener holiday meal by buying local produce without packaging and recycling as much as you can, including bottles and cans, aluminum foil and composting food waste.  Shop at the Winter Farmer’s Market in Vancouver and buy your meat and eggs from an SPCA Certified retailer. Save water by scraping food into the bin before loading plates in the dishwasher and be careful not to let the tap run unnecessarily.

It doesn’t have to be a chore to find ways to celebrate a Green Holiday.  In fact, it can be fun to get creative and get the whole family involved. You may not be able to completely change your plans – but you can make several smaller changes that, when combined, significantly reduce your holiday carbon footprint.
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