Even though we tend to be busier at this time of year, it doesn’t mean we should forget about our good recycling and environmental habits. Here are 10 holiday eco tips for you and your family. They are simple, efficient ways to make your holiday an eco-conscious one.
If you don’t use cloth or reusable shopping bags for your grocery and other shopping needs, be sure to use plastic bags minimally. If you expect to do your shopping at more than one store, see if you can get a larger bag for your first purchase. Then you can place the rest of your purchases in that bag! That way, you’re only using one big plastic bag instead of several and keeping the extras out of the landfill or recycling yard. Here in the Greater Sudbury, most plastic bags are accepted in the Blue Box program. But really, we all use cloth bags, right??
When purchasing the ingredients for your holiday baking, try to choose products that are packaged in recyclable or reusable containers. Even better…shop at a Bulk foods store to avoid extra packaging. To avoid waste, don’t buy more than you need. Try to choose ingredients that are natural and free from additives and chemicals. Organic choices are becoming more common in many of our shops.
Give away the special holiday treats in containers that your recipients can recycle or reuse again. I like to purchase used dishware and bake ware from a thrift store to use for my holiday baking for friends, family, guests and hosts. Aluminum foil, paper, polystyrene foam and many plastics can be recycled in our Blue Box program. Paper plates can go in the Green Bin. Plastic wrap and waxed paper is not a recommended choice. Often, they contain BPA, phthalates, petroleum products and other nasty chemicals. Butcher paper, Parchment Paper and bees-wax cotton are healthier choices. Stretch wrap and plastic wraps are not recyclable and must go in the trash. Crinkly plastic like all cellophanes but be trashed as well.
There has long been a debate about which is better: real or artificial. Whichever one you choose, do your research. If you prefer a real tree, try to buy from a reputable tree farm or dealer. Ask if they follow proper guidelines for replanting. You may opt for a “living tree” than remains in your house year round as a plant! Have your tree mulched at the end of the season.
Artificial trees are usually made from plastics, primarily PVC and many of which contain harmful chemicals. If you buy a new artificial tree, the plastic “smell” from it should be off-gassed outdoors for a few days before bringing it into your home. You could always purchase a used artificial tree, which is even better! Fake trees may last many, many years, but they have to go to the landfill when they are beyond repair. They cannot be recycled. Plastic is forever.
Many websites such as Pinterest have lots of ideas for non-traditional trees!
Shiny and sparkly paper sure is pretty, but it’s not environmentally friendly as it cannot be recycled. Any wrap that has foil, sparkles, waxy finishes or adornments much be discarded. All other paper wraps (even the glossy ones) can go in the Blue Box. Boxboard, cardboard and corrugated papers can be flattened and recycled.
Kids love decorating presents. Try taking a cereal box or something similar and carefully undo the sealed seams. Using hot glue, reseal the seam with the box inside-out. You now have a plain box that can be decorated with paints, crayons or markers!
Use natural fibre yarns or strings (cotton, jute, hemp, etc.) instead of plastic bows. Reuse all other bows and adornments for next year or other gifting.
Instead of gift tags, use leftover Christmas cards and cut into shapes or smaller tags.
Newspaper or magazine pages make great wrapping paper. It too can be recycled. Tissue paper goes in the Green Bin. If you’ve got rolls of old wrapping paper from other occasions, turn it inside out to the white side and decorate!
When entertaining this holiday season, use the nice dishes! Avoid throw-away cutlery and dishes. If you choose to use disposable dinnerware, try the ones made with paper or biodegradable materials. Paper plates, paper napkins, paper towels and paper straws all go in the Green Cart. Some plastic dinnerware can be recycled such as #1, #2, #4, #5 and #6 plastics. Plastic cutlery however, must be discarded. Avoid the use of plastic straws. Try stainless steel, glass, bamboo or paper ones instead. Use dish-washing time as a family bonding moment!
So many toys, electronics and games need battery power. Now is a good time to invest in a good battery charger and a supply of rechargeable batteries. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but it will keep batteries out of the landfill. Many people discard them not realizing that they can be collected in the Household Hazardous Waste program. Many stores like Canadian Tire, The Source, etc. will have a take-back box for used batteries.
There are so many different choices for indoor and outdoor lighting and thankfully most are energy efficient LED. Use your lights on a programmable timer to save even more energy. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with new LED or CF bulbs. Used Fluorescent, CF and LED light bulbs are not for the landfill but for the Household Hazardous Waste program. Old incandescent bulbs must be discarded in the trash. Old strings of lighting can be donated to most Scrap Metal collections.
Don’t throw out the leftovers!! Did you know that ALL food scraps can go in the household organics program? Meats, dairy products, sauces, gravies, nuts, seeds, shells, fruits, vegetables, candies, coffee grinds, etc., etc., can all go in your Green Bin. Bake from scratch!
Make soup from leftover turkey bones!
Opt for gifts that are quality made to prevent them from an early trip to the landfill. Homemade gifts are a wonderful way to say Merry Christmas. Think about others that are less fortunate. Donate to the food bank, infant food bank or other charities. Not only during the holiday season, but if possible. All year round. Make a generous donation to a charity on behalf of your gift recipient. Think about giving a memory gift…a special time spent with that special person. Sponsor a family. Make treats or meals for the local Soup Kitchen. Donate unwanted items to places such as the Community Closet, Genevra House, Salvation Army.
Giving. Sharing. Patience. Kindness. Honour. Smile.
Love is free. Give it freely and unconditionally.