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5 ways to be way more eco-friendly this holiday season
MONTREAL -- As much as the holidays are about family and festivities, it can also be a time of great waste, which is some pretty bad news for the planet.
After all, how much leftover turkey, stuffing and Yule log can you really eat before it goes bad?
How many times can you reuse wrapping paper, tissue paper and gift bags before they start to look a little on the old and weary side?
Though small changes are always good, Colleen Thorpe, director general of non-profit organization Equiterre, insists it’s time to wake up and start really putting the planet’s needs before our own.
“How about just doing the holidays completely different?” she suggests.
What does that mean?
“2019 is a year where a lot of people woke up to the climate change, the ecological disaster,” she said. “We have to do things radically different and have unprecedented change. This holiday, which has become a holiday of abundance, has to change pretty quickly.”
If you’re looking for a few ways to be more environmentally-friendly these holidays, here are a few simple tips:
Give the gift of time
“What if we say gift-giving doesn’t matter? This is all about being with people you’re connected with – your loved ones and your family,” Thorpe says. “We could say buy locally, but after that I would say, don’t give. Give your time and give your energy and your love and think of activities to do, but don’t make it into a holiday of material gifts.”
If a no-presents holiday seems too much to handle, Thorpe says consider a gift-swap where you re-gift something you’re not, using rather than buying something new from the store.
Reconsider your Christmas tree
“We’ve known for years it’s not sustainable to cut down a tree to use for a couple of weeks and then throw it out,” Thorpe notes. “Many people say children are stuck on the tradition. I would say, maybe it’s more the parents who are stuck because you’re the ones who create traditions for your kids.”
If you’re not quite ready to give up your tree, Thorpe suggests buying a second-hand reusable tree from a thrift store or garage sale that will last for years to come.
“Have a meal where you’re happy to have the meal and you’re nourished, but you don’t feel stuffed like a turkey,” she says. “Health-wise, it’s a problem. The idea that we indulge during the holidays and then make new resolutions in January is a bit ridiculous.”
An additional tip: Consider buying local and organic when you can – and reduce the amount of packaging you take home by bringing your own bags and leaving behind any plastic you don’t need.
Decide how, and where, to spend your cash
“You sort of get caught up because you have that pressure to consume, it’s very entrenched,” Thorpe states. “If we take away some of that Christmas pressure of rushing around and buying presents, then we will have more time to be thoughtful of the type of holiday we want to create.”
Before heading to the store, think of what you have at home to work with and see if there are ways to recycle any materials. If there is something you absolutely need to buy, choose to support local businesses rather than giving your hard-earned dollars to big box stores.
Share your knowledge
Thorpe acknowledges that people are in very different stages of ‘awareness’ when it comes to the climate crisis, especially around the holidays when we maybe don’t want to ‘sacrifice’ for the ‘greater good.’
“I think we have to be actors of change and we have to do it in a nice way and not be confrontational,” she muses.
She points out Equiterre has, over the last few decades, offered many easy tips on how to be more eco-friendly. Now, Thorpe insists, it’s time to really decrease our ecological footprint – especially during the holidays.
“We look at these indulgences as the secret to happiness, but what is meaningful to people and what is happiness is creating bonds,” Thorpe says.
“It’s a personal journey. You have to start somewhere. You have to start making these changes, but just reflecting on this abundance is a change that has to happen.”