KINGSTON – Gifts stacked high and wide under the tree. Wrapping paper, ribbons and bows as far as the eye can see. Stockings filled with small, plastic, dollar store knick-knacks. For many, Christmas has become less about tradition and more about consumption. Filling the voids of tradition and celebrations with objects and stuff.
But what about those of us who want to have a greener Christmas? One that is filled with less stuff and more meaningful experiences? One that does not include plastic packaging, paper-wrapped boxes and gifts that most often end up in the landfill?
Here are a few thoughts, tips and suggestions for creating an eco-friendly holiday for your family:
1) Choose alternative wrapping and gifting options.
Use fabric gift bags instead of paper or plastic bags. Silk scarves make excellent packaging for gifts and can be purchased affordably at second-hand shops. Or make your own gift wrap out of newspapers, cereal box packaging and old pieces of clothing. Make your own Christmas cards for family and friends using recycled cardboard boxes, ribbons and doilies. The personalization of these items will be greatly valued and appreciated.
2) Consider experiences over products.
Save products and packaging altogether and invest in experiences for the gift receiver. Would a massage help ease stress for your friend? Would your daughter enjoy a performance at the theatre? How about a cooking class for your nephew? Choosing activities that you and your friend and/or family member can do together is especially well received.
3) Shop at a second-hand store or purchase locally-made items from craft fairs.
If you are not into gifting experiences, look for gifts in second-hand shops. Many offer high-quality items for significant discounts — you can even find new in packaged products, too! If you are not wanting to buy second-hand, consider supporting local crafters and makers. The season is filled with craft shows and fairs that highlight local talent.
4) Choose eco-friendly decorations for indoors and outdoors.
LED lights are your best bet if you want to light up your home over the holidays. Turn them off at night or purchase a timer to reduce energy consumption. Make your own decorations out of recycled materials such as wood, old wool blankets, pine cones and yarn. Although artificial trees are designed to last years, most people do not keep them around for long and they end up in the dump when they start to look less pristine. Opt for a real tree or potted tree instead by supporting a small local tree farm or nursery.
5) Steer clear of disposables.
Use reusable napkins instead of paper napkins at the dinner table. Your budget and your recycling will thank you. If you do not want to purchase new napkins, take a run over to your local second-hand shop to find some vintage second-hand napkins. Mix and match styles and colours to create a modern eclectic vibe. Be sure to use your regular dishware — cups, mugs, plates, bowls and cutlery. No need to use disposables. Everyone will enjoy spending together after dinner washing, rinsing and drying dishes.
6) Create family traditions instead of focusing on gifts.
Create your own family traditions and celebrations that focus less on the gift-giving nature of the holidays and more on the time spent together. If you have a large family, why not do a secret Santa (kids included)? Make a one-gift rule for family members and friends and even choose a maximum spending amount. Spend time focusing on walks in nature, singing songs together or decorating the Christmas tree. Advent calendars can be about experiences rather than chocolates or small gifts — such as movie and popcorn night, making homemade chocolate milk together or baking Christmas cookies.
7) Become a DIYer.
Make consumable gifts instead of purchasing new items. Making your own soaps, creams, bath bombs and natural cleaning products are easy for first time DIYers. Food gifts are another eco-alternative to standard gifts. Why not bake Grandma her favourite loaf of banana bread or make your sister her favourite caramels. Pancake mixes, cookie mixes and soup bases are also easy-to-make gifts for the foodie in your family. Choose a dry recipe and pack it beautifully in a mason jar with recycled ribbon. Learn a new talent or take advantage of an old favourite and share your gift with family and friends.