Celebrate a Green Christmas

November 2019

Developing new habits takes discipline—a conscious effort to really make a change. We have all read and heard about the steps we can take in our own lives to start to live in a greener, environmentally friendly way. Christmas provides an excellent opportunity to make the jump, and put these green steps into action!

I spoke with Erin Moir, Program Coordinator at Eco Superior, to get some specific direction about what I could do to “green up” my Christmas. I wanted to fully understand a few beginner steps that I could take that would blossom into a lifestyle stretching way beyond Christmas. As Erin said, “When it comes to the holidays, whether it’s Christmas, Halloween or Easter, it is important to think about our environmental impact. Consider the packaging, gift wrapping, reusable decorations and unnecessary gift giving.”

We discussed four topics starting with Christmas trees. Real is always better than artificial. However, for many reasons, I have an artificial tree. What do I do? I can take good care of that tree so it lasts for many years. I can pass it on to someone else. But someday it will be trash, unless advances are such that it can be economically recycled.

If you get a real tree, when the season is over, make sure to get it to the city’s composting depot. Some folks leave their tree out in the yard to provide shelter for the birds, and then chop it up for the spring yard waste collection.

A refreshing question that came up in discussion was, “Do you really need a tree?” How about a large container full of beautiful dogwood branches or homemade decorations on one of your larger indoor plants? There are many exciting, creative alternatives that pop to mind.

The second topic was decorations. Be cautious if you’re buying decorations. Buy quality items that are durable enough to be used for years. Outdoor decorations have to withstand our cold weather without becoming brittle and breaking after only one season.

Try creating your own decorations using real boughs that can be composted or using cloth instead of paper or plastic. If you need decorations, visit local thrift shops or look for an estate sale. Give new life to already existing decorations.

The third area of our conversation was wrapping paper, which is made of low fibre designed to rip easily, and therefore is not worth recycling. Time to exercise the imagination again! All kinds of interesting alternatives present themselves, such as using tea towels, the comic pages from the newspaper, cloth bags or baskets without the clear cellophane.

The final part of our chat brought us to the difficult subject of toys. They are often encased in hard, clear plastic with many plastic ties or tabs holding the toy in place. All of us have probably seen the enormous waste that results from a few toys. What to do? Think about your purchase—be aware of how it’s packaged. Reduce the waste. Look for simpler toys made from natural materials. Often these toys can be found at local craft fairs. If there is a box, think about whether it could serve as a storage case. For other people on your gift list, aim to buy consumable items that could be homemade or items that are reusable.

Have a closer look around town, and as Erin pointed out, “At Eco Superior we have practical stocking stuffers that are not only impactful but mostly package free---from stainless steel straws to beeswax wrap, reusable water bottles and glycerine based hand soap, plus much more.”

After speaking with Erin, I realized that I needed to be much more aware of my attitudes and actions every day of the year. It comes down to needs vs. wants. Erin summed it up by urging all of us to “Take the time to think about your actions and how they will affect the future of our community and our planet.“

For more information and ideas about how to take green steps as well as dates for upcoming workshops - contact Eco Superior at www.ecosuperior.org

May your Christmas be merry and mindfully green!

Karen Christie is a retired high school teacher and a regular contributor to Bayview. She can be reached at kchri@shaw.ca

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