Thompson Rivers University

Sustainability for the holiday season

  Posted on: November 14, 2019

As winter approaches, so does the holiday season. No matter how we acknowledge and celebrate events in December, it’s a time of togetherness, generosity and indulgence. When it comes to the season of giving, how can we embed sustainable considerations into our festive traditions? TRU Sustainability, in partnership with Downtown Kamloops, has provided this handy guide to make your holidays merry, bright and environmentally friendly.

Decorate with energy-efficient and durable products:

  • Buy an artificial tree and choose the most energy efficient brand.
  • If you prefer a fresh tree, buy local and ensure your tree was grown in ways that keep forests healthy and safe.
  • Buy a living tree you can plant outside or keep as a houseplant after the holidays.
  • Dispose of your tree at a chipping facility or return it to the environment in other eco-friendly ways.
  • Make crafts or buy locally made holiday decorations.

Use energy efficiently:

  • Consider using few or no lights in your holiday decorations.
  • Decorate with more energy-efficient LED strings.
  • When a bulb on your string of lights burns out, replace the bulb instead of buying an entire new string.
  • Plug your decorative indoor and outdoor lights into a timer.
  • Decorate creatively and inexpensively with natural materials from your yard or with items you already own.
  • Offset your carbon footprint.
  • Carpool to events or shopping when possible.
  • Celebrate the holidays under one roof.

Choose creative and community-centred gifts:

  • Shop online but don’t choose two-day shipping.
  • Implement the one-gift rule to reduce waste.
  • Keep reusable bags in the car for impromptu shopping trips.
  • Combine several shopping trips in one and use public transit, carpooling or even your bike if weather permits.
  • Give gifts that are durable, energy efficient, recyclable, made of natural products, fair trade, locally made or grown, or organically grown.
  • Buy from local merchants, craft fairs or antique shops.
  • Make your own gifts: knit, sew, bake, build, or create art; make calendars using your own photographs or a recipe book with favorite meal ideas.
  • Give experiences instead of stuff and things, like tickets to local theatre performances, concerts, sports events, local attractions; museum memberships; gift certificates for a massage at a local spa, horseback riding or a rock-climbing lesson.
  • Give your time and skill: coupons for household chores, meals, gardening, cleaning, window washing, car detailing, scheduled dog walks or lessons in computer or smartphone use for seniors.
  • Donate to a charity or service organization in the name of a friend or relative who supports that cause.
  • Consider alternatives to battery-powered toys. If you must provide batteries for a gift, be sure to buy rechargeable ones. If you are giving electronics, choose energy-saving items.
  • Buy a tree—no, really!
  • Don’t subscribe to gift catalogues, they waste a lot of paper.

Share a sustainable feast:

  • Research sustainable food choices in your area and buy locally if possible.
  • Buy snacks and beverages in bulk to avoid extra packaging.
  • Serve food with washable utensils, plates and glasses, rather than disposable items.
  • Make homemade eggnog, hot chocolate or iced tea in large quantities.
  • Don’t overcook for big meals—make only what you can eat so it doesn’t go to waste. Invite guests to bring their own containers so you can share leftovers.
  • Choose eco-friendly alcohol options by supporting a local brewery or buying organic wine.

That’s a wrap:

  • Use creative materials to make your own giftwrap: old maps, sheet music, the comic section of the newspaper or other pages you can colour. Or use a scarf, fabric, handkerchief, attractive dish towel, bandana or some other useful cloth item that is a gift in itself. Or go without.
  • Instead of a box, use tins, baking pans, or other home or garden items.
  • Send email cards or make your own.
  • Buy eco-friendly cards made from post-consumer content and printed in non-toxic inks.
  • Reuse the fronts of old cards as holiday postcards or gift tags.