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5 ways to be green this holiday season

In my house, we celebrate Christmas. I love spending time with family and friends, eating my Mum’s delicious Christmas cookies, I love watching the whole lineup of holiday movies (Love Actually and It’s a Wonderful Life are favourites) and taking a moment to slow down, relax and enjoy all the goodness of the season.

What I am not crazy about, however, is our urgency to impress each other with expensive gifts. With mall shopping at this time of year comes HUGE amounts of stress, unnecessary expense and worst of all – environmental waste.

Christmas wishes for the summit left by passers by on a christmas tree at the Bella Centre, COP 15, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark. © WWF-Canon / Richard Stonehouse

To ‘green’ your holiday this year, try these tips to cut down your consumption and send less to the landfill. It won’t hurt your wallet either!

1. Make your own gifts or give the gift of charity or time. This year, when brainstorming your Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas gift ideas, make the homemade pledge, and check out websites like Etsy and Pinterest for great gift ideas that will rival anything you’ll find in the department store.

If crafting isn’t your thing, give a gift that will make a difference: Donate to a charity, pay for an art class, or offer up your own domestic or handyman skills as a gift. Consider giving no-waste gifts such as music or sports lessons, memberships to a gym, local orchestra or a museum, favours like babysitting or tickets to a sporting event or concert. Make a donation to a gift recipient’s favourite charity, or commit to volunteering with that organization.

Check out our green gift guide for more eco friendly gift ideas.

2. Don’t waste money on wrapping paper When I think of my own Christmases past, I can picture the big black garbage bag in the middle of our living room, splayed open to collect our once-used wrappers, bows and tags. Over 25 years of gift giving… that’s a heck of a lot of paper!

If you’ve got a stack of old newspapers, use those. Jazz it up with a bit of twine and some dried berries and you’ve got a Bohemian-looking package without the price tag. Cool pages torn from art magazines, old vintage T-shirts and reusable shopping bags can also act as gift wrappers.

3. Switch to LED lights. They use 80 percent less energy and the new ones are just as cute as the regular ones. This one is a no-brainer.

4. Send e-cards or recycled cards. My parents sent out more than 50 holiday cards this year, and we are just one family of the millions that celebrate the holidays. If everyone decided to nix the usual method of a greeting card, and opted for e-cards, we’d save a LOT of paper. Many stationary suppliers are also offering cards made on recycled card stock, and although they can be a dollar or two more, it’s worth it.
5Recycle your Christmas tree:  Real Christmas trees can be recycled in a variety of cool ways. They can be turned into mulch and used in gardening and landscaping or chipped and used on hiking trails, paths and walkways. Christmas trees have also been used for erosion control, soil stabilization and shoreline maintenance. Use Earth911 to locate your nearest Christmas tree recycling program. In some areas, community groups, like the Boy Scouts, will come and pick up the trees curbside for a small donation and take them to the nearest recycling center for you.

Happy, green holidays to you and yours!