The Christmas tree industry in Nova Scotia is fully sustainable, with workers planting three new trees for every one cut. Photo: Bigstock/romrodinka

A low-waste holiday

Don’t let your celebrations take a toll on the environment

By Britanie LeFait

With the holidays comes lots of needless waste. Every gift comes in a package, whether it’s wrapped in paper, topped with ribbons and bows, or in a bag surrounded with tissue paper. Although pleasing to the eye, it means a lot more is going to our landfills. 

But there are ways to lower your family’s waste over the holidays. If each of us does just one, it can make a huge difference.

Wrapping gifts

Much of the traditional print wrapping paper is not recyclable, contributing to the bulk of holiday waste. Paper with glitter and shiny film goes straight to the garbage. If you like the printed papers, check the packaging for recycled options. 

Or go a step further and use newspaper or brown paper as wrapping. Brown paper can be saved and used for future arts and crafts. (Just remember, when recycling wrapping paper, pick off the pieces of tape and toss those.) If you have a little artist at home or enjoy crafts yourself, you can make your own designs on brown or white paper to use as wrapping. You can also use squares of fabric. There are many fun Youtube tutorials on Furoshiki (the art of Japanese fabric wrapping).

If you are like me, you have a stash of gift bags collected from past holidays, birthdays, etc. Reusing a gift bag gives it a second life and if it remains in good condition, it can be used repeatedly. 

Giving gifts in baskets is another great alternative (although not always as exciting for kids). Skip the plastic film and tie a holiday bow for an extra touch. Reusable sacks are also easy and fun. Many stores carry them with holiday prints making them an easy way to share gifts sustainably.  

You can also fill a cookie tin with homemade treats. If you ask for your tins back, you can continue to reuse them year after year.

Around the Christmas tree

A real Christmas tree is your best low-waste choice. The Christmas tree industry in Nova Scotia is fully sustainable, with workers planting three new trees for every one cut. 

The smell of a real tree is one of the best things about the holidays, but a problem for people with allergies. In those cases, pick a good quality artificial tree that will last many years.

The gift that counts

Stockings don’t have to be just knickknacks and candy. Eco-friendly stocking stuffers include: bamboo toothbrushes, fun bars of soap, rechargeable batteries, seeds, reusable water bottles, books, homemade playdough, hats and mittens, and hot chocolate packets.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by holiday shopping. When gifting to someone who “has it all,” consider donating to a charity in their name. Or choose something they can reuse for many years. And as always, shop local whenever you can, which reduces your environmental impact.  

Find more eco-mom tips from Britanie LeFait on her Instagram page raisinglittlesparks

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