Tips for a Green Christmas

NOVEMBER 26, 2021 — It’s the end of November and we are fast approaching the holiday season. Festive music is already playing on the radio and in stores, and soon, bright Christmas lights will make the dark drives home a little bit merrier. One must admit, despite the darker and colder evenings, decorations by candlelight or twinkle lights make everything feel cozy.

As we jump into the festive season and start making our long to-do lists of the gift-giving, decorating, party-hosting, and do-gooding we have planned for our friends and family, let’s put on our green coloured glasses and do our best to be eco-friendly this holiday season. Below are some helpful tips.

Shop offline and shop local

It’s tempting to stay in and shop virtually, but why risk missing out on the treasures you can find at local craft fairs and markets this time of year? This supports local artisans and decreases your carbon footprint!

There are also plenty of local business owners in New Brunswick with decorated storefronts beckoning you in. Besides, if the cold weather is really too much for you to bear, many local businesses can be found online and some may even offer shipping.

Something to consider: thrift your gifts! Plenty of second-hand stores have items that your loved ones may have been dreaming of. You can give the perfect gift, save an item from a landfill, and save some money. You’ll also receive extra credit for creativity, because you thought to look for a secondhand option.

Gift thoughtfully

The old adage says it best: it’s the thought that counts. How often have you received a gift that ends up in the “donate” pile in the new year? While donating unwanted or slightly used items is better than throwing them away, it doesn’t always prevent them from ending up in a landfill. After the holidays, charities can actually get inundated with unwanted items and have no choice but to redirect them.

A 2007 study from the Stockholm Environment Institute found that 80 kg of CO2 per person could be saved if unwanted gifts were not purchased in the first place. It’s worth taking a moment to stop and think before the next impulse buy. There are other options for gift giving. Here are a few suggestions from Nature NB staff:

  • Bird friendly coffee (shade-grown coffee)
  • Homemade gifts, cards, or baked goods
  • A donation in someone’s name to an organization that supports a cause they care about
  • Give the gift of an experience; memories of time spent together is worth more than anything money can buy

Wrap sustainably

How many garbage bags of wrapping paper and ribbons are filled after Christmas morning? Save yourself the clean-up and offer your gifts unwrapped, or use reusable packaging.

If you like the look of wrapped gifts and you’re feeling crafty, you can sew your own reusable gift bags or use spare fabric, fabric napkins, or scarves to wrap your gifts.

Do you have some wrapping paper, gift bags or boxes, or some tissue paper still in good condition after one use? Re-gift it! Use those to wrap your gifts instead of buying new.

If you’re really stuck, buy plain brown wrapping paper (no printed images) — it’s recyclable! And as an added tip: save Christmas cards as gift tags for future years.

Buy a real Christmas tree

Artificial trees have a big carbon footprint. They’re made in factories, then travel by ship, plane, and truck to the stores packaged in a cardboard box and wrapped in plastic. Additionally, artificial trees, though made of plastic, cannot be recycled. Besides, who doesn’t love freezing their toes off with the whole family to pick the best tree at the market or farm?

If a real tree is not an option for you, try finding an artificial one second-hand. Unlike a real tree, an artificial tree can be reused year after year. Buying on used gives it a second life and avoids shipping new ones across the world.

An option to consider: buy a small potted tree for the holidays and replant it in your garden next spring. If you have a green thumb, you might even keep it successfully potted for the following season and replant it when it’s grown too large for its pot.

Decorate with natural elements

New Brunswick is beautiful during all four seasons, so let’s bring some of that beauty indoors. Sustainably forage for things outside, such as pine cones, evergreen branches and boughs, or red dogwood branches to place in decorative jars or vases, or for the mantle and window boxes. You could also dry some fruit at home to make ornaments or garlands.

Hosting a party

Instead of using disposable dishes for your holiday party, use regular dishes. No one wants to be stuck handwashing everyone’s plates after dinner, but if you have a dishwasher, you’re actually saving water! Running a tap wastes a fair amount of water, whereas a dishwasher uses 3-4 times less.

If you like the fun of Christmas crackers, you could try making your own this year! Save the money you would spend on crackers from the store with those little plastic trinkets that get thrown out the minute the party’s over — make these homemade Christmas crackers and add your personal touch. Include your own joke, piece of wisdom, or favourite treats. Start saving those toilet paper tubes!

Over the past couple of years now, Nature NB has shared some green holiday tips, and now we want to hear from you! Do you have an eco-tip you’d like to share? Let us know!

Until then, the Nature NB team wishes you all a very green holiday season!

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