SUSTIANABLE LIVING: Holiday Edition

The tree isn’t the only thing that should be green this holiday season

gifts

(Danielle George)

Marketing during the holidays is pretty intense to say the least. It seems that advertisements demand your attention everywhere you look, telling you that you can’t be happy without the product they’re selling.

You might feel momentarily elated by making new purchase, and that’s okay because you’re human. Just be aware of the economic and environmental impacts of your actions and work towards more sustainable shopping habits.

A lot of consumer items are made in China or other faraway countries around the world. The materials used are often plastic of questionable quality, and the finished item is often created in poor conditions for the workers involved. Not to mention, the carbon footprint from having those products shipped to North America for distribution is incredibly harmful to the environment.

The holidays at my house were always relatively simple, but far from sustainable. Between my parents, my sister, and I, we would always get each other a few gifts, with my parents going way overboard with how many presents they purchased. Of course, this isn’t the experience of every family, and now that my sister and I are both adults, the holidays are more about the time we are able to spend together than the items we receive.

Last year, I put a lot of thought into what I could do for my mom to show my appreciation for her while still being economical and sustainable. My partner and I decided we would cook up a massive pot of Spud Special—an Italian sausage and potato chowder—and freeze it in 2-3 serving size portions for my mom to enjoy over the next few months. I know my mom appreciated that type of gift because for months following the holiday season I would receive random text messages from her thanking me for the soup and expressing her appreciation for being able to come home to an already prepared meal.

Of course, not all families are small. Large families can be a significant financial burden come January if we’re not conscious of our spending throughout the entire holiday season. With larger groups, consider a gift swap or Secret Santa exchange in lieu of separate gifts for everyone.

When it comes to outdoor festive decor, remember that decorations don’t need to be extravagant to be festive. It doesn’t make you “better” to have more lights on your house than your neighbour. A smaller display can still have the same look and feel of the holiday spirit while using less energy.

If you’re buying new lights this year, consider LED lights as they are more efficient than traditional bulbs. Also think about the length-to-light ratio. The longer the string and fewer the lights, the better.

This holiday season, know that energy is a resource and conserving it benefits everyone. Yes, you are only one person, but setting an example and talking to your loved ones about your choice to be more environmentally conscious can nudge them towards making sustainable changes in their own lives.

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