5 Tips for a Greener Holiday Season

November 14, 2019 | Sophi

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I’ve just wrapped up my time as Toronto Public Library's Environmentalist in Residence. Thank you to all the staff, community groups and people who attended my programs. It was great to get to know everyone at Richview Branch. I’m inspired by the individual efforts that so many Torontonians are doing to be more eco-friendly.

Zero Waste Presentation

Since the festive season is approaching, I’ll leave you with some of my go-to's for minimizing waste over the holidays. I'll cover five areas: gift ideas, gift wrapping, decorations, travel and parties.


1. Gifts ideas

Homemade food, DIY gifts, experiences and items the recipient actually needs are my picks. I like giving homemade cookies, plants, infused cooking oils, homemade body butter or bath salts. I also enjoy giving experience gifts like going out for a hike, a nice dinner, a workshop or fun class together, a night at the movies or whatever their favourite activity is. Another winner is giving gift certificates to their favourite bookstore, ice cream shop, subscription to an online streaming service or a donation to their favourite charity. 

Another option is like-new secondhand finds. I have founds some amazing mint condition gifts that are secondhand. It’s true! Places like Bunz, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace or swaps like The Toronto Tool Library’s Holiday Gift Swap coming up on December 15.


2. Gift Wrapping

I’m in love with the beautiful Japanese cloth wrapping Furoshiki. This word translates to "bath spread". It is believed to have originated in the Muromachi period (1392-1573). It refers to a square piece of cloth originally for bundling clothing at a public bath to prevent mix-ups with other bathers. It has since evolved to creatively wrap items like gifts, groceries and pretty much anything you can carry. I opt for secondhand scarves, handkerchiefs and scrap fabrics. There’s no shortage of stunning secondhand materials out there to choose from. These can be found at rummage sales, thrift shops and swaps.

Check out this "Going Green" segment from CTV’s The Social where I demonstrate one of my favourite cloth wrapping methods. Also, @zerowaste.japan has a number of helpful instructional videos for a variety of simple and beautiful wrapping techniques. 

3. Decorations

Using what’s already out there is always the most eco-friendly option. For a natural feel, collect pine cones, greenery and branches to decorate your home. Making a popcorn garland is a fun family activity that always adds a festive vibe. For more colour, find decorations at secondhand shops, on Bunz and Facebook Marketplace.

If decorating a real tree, please remember to remove your decorations prior to putting it out on the curb for city collection/recycling. Don't have city pick up? There are a number of great ways to recycle your tree like donating it to the Royal Botanical Gardens to help maintain a berm across Grindstone Creek designed to keep carp from travelling into the marsh.

Christmas tree foliage
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.


4. Travel

If you need to travel over the holidays you can pay for carbon offsets. You calculate the carbon emissions emitted by your method of travel and pay a carbon offset organization to put your money toward a chosen environmental project that lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

Another option to do carbon offsets is to volunteer for a green organization (local to your destination or home) or donate directly to green organizations of your choice.

Some great flight travel tips that I was given by my friend, @jazzmineraine is to, if possible, fly direct to your destination. Less carbon is emitted this way. If you have to stop, you could also spend money in that area by having a meal at a family-owned restaurant or stay at a local’s guesthouse to directly support their economy.


5. Parties

Opt for reusables at parties whether you’re hosting or attending. If hosting, in honour of the planet, ask guests to bring their own plates, cutlery and cups. Alternatively, there’s also the option to rent or borrow serving ware from your friends, neighbours, Bunz, or the Toronto Tool Library. The founder of the Zero Waste Station at the Withrow Farmers Market, Katrina, also offers Zero Waste Station Rentals. It's a new initiative and you can email her for more details. If you think you might make regular use of the serving ware it can be worth owning your own, and there are lots of places to purchase them secondhand.

For party attire, I love renting fun outfits (as pictured above) from places like Reheart and FreshRents.

Find more tips for a minimal waste holiday at The Zero Waste Collective.


Recommended Reads

For more tips and tricks, try one of these books from Toronto Public Library!

Vegan Food Gifts

Vegan Food Gifts

More cookbooks with food gift recommendations.

Furoshiki book

Wrapping with Fabric: Your Complete Guide to Furoshiki, the Japanese Art of Wrapping

More books on fabric wrapping.

Green Christmas

Green Christmas

More books on eco-friendly living, all year round!


Do you have any tips for a greener holiday season? Share in the comments below!