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Celebrating a Greener Holiday

By Kate Wilczac

The winter holidays are truly a wonderful time, when we stop our busy lives to celebrate with family and friends and bring light and green things into our homes during the darkest days of the year.  Our spirit of giving can sometimes lead to excess, however, when faced with the post-Christmas morning mess of heaps of wrapping paper, discarded plastic toys and junky ornaments ready to be tossed in the trash. Here are some tips to help keep your Christmas less wasteful and more sustainable.


Consider giving less, but more meaningful gifts, this year. What about treating each other to experiences rather than things? Can your gift support your local community and help to make changes for the better? Here are some suggestions and links:

·      Create family memories with a membership or gift card to a favourite local museum

·      Connect your family and friends to their local foodways with a membership to a CSA, a gift certificate to a local seed supplier, or even choose a project for them – for instance, potatoes are very easy, exciting, and inexpensive, to grow in containers or in a corner of the garden

·      Do you have a skill? Can you make something that will be treasured and well-used? It’s not too late to spend a weekend making a simple set of shelves ,  knitting a quick scarf or hot water bottle cover,  or sewing a soft blanket to keep your loved one warm. A Saturday afternoon in the kitchen would let you give boxes of holiday cookies or jars of preserves to colleagues, family and friends.

·      Not so handy? Not much time to spare? What about searching your local craft markets for unique, hand-made gifts that won’t get tossed in the trash.

·      Local classes can inspire and give skills that will last a lifetime, not just the few days around Christmas. Music? Cooking? Horseback riding? Pottery? Search online or at your community centres, colleges and universities for lifelong learning courses for adults and programs for kids.

·      Give thoughtful, gently-used gifts by combing used bookstores, music stores and craigslist for the perfect book, album or dining room table

·      Make a donation in someone’s name to a favourite charity

·      For more ideas, see MetroVancouver’s “Create Memories, not Garbage” campaign.

Tip: When giving gifts, consider alternatives to new wrapping paper. Can you re-use previous gifting materials, such as gift bags? What about buying or making reusable Japanese fabric wrap, furoshiki



It’s cold outside, and you want your home to be warm, well-lit and inviting for your family and friends. Here are some tips and links to keep your energy use down while celebrating the season.

·      Switch your conventional outdoor string lights for LEDs for energy savings of up to 90%.

·      Lower the temperature on your hot water heater and your thermostat (the difference of a degree or two can save as much as 10%), and seal up your windows for big energy savings

·      Consider switching to a green energy retailer for the new year. For an extra $1-2/day, you can ensure your home energy comes from clean , local sources.

·      Park your car for the holidays and get around your community with alternative transportation. It’s cheaper and often easier to move your family around the city on a bus, by foot, or even on winterized bicycles


·      Eat fresh, eat local! Find out what foods are in season in British Columbia, and visit a farmers market or local supplier to stock up for your holiday meals. Root vegetables, nuts, kale and cabbage are all great foods to warm you up on a cold day.

·      Try to avoid buying food with excess packaging, and bring your reusable bags along with you to the grocery store.

·      Use reusable containers to bring food to others, and have a supply of reusable containers handy to send leftovers home with your guests. 

·      Finally, consider celebrating a vegetarian Christmas, or at least reduce the meat at the table to lower your family’s total energy consumption, and to help create healthier eating habits.

These are just a few ideas for greener holiday celebrations. As you approach the New Year, think about changes you can make to your life in the New Year to help make a more sustainable future for us all.

Warm wishes for a “green” holiday season! 

Kate Wilczak

Project Assistant

BCSEA Climate Change Showdown