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The holiday season is jolly and fun, but there is a downside to all the glitter and lights. According to Zero Waste Canada, during the holidays we accumulate unnecessary plastic items and then immediately dispose of decorations, gifts, and trees without a second thought. In Canada, household waste has been found to increase by more than 25% during the holiday season, producing more than 500,000 tonnes of waste just from gift-wrapping and shopping bags alone! 

But what can you do without cutting back on the festivities?  

We’ve compiled a guide for you to celebrate with less plastic waste this holiday season.  

Choose your tree wisely: You gather around it, decorate it, and enjoy a bit of greenery indoors during the colder months. Having a plastic tree may seem like a better option if you only buy a tree once, but fake trees drop plastic “needles” and have a much larger carbon footprint than real trees. Make sure to check your options online; there are a lot of real tree recycling programs in most major cities. You might even have the option of renting a potted tree for the season. 

Wrap sustainably: Swap out colourful non-recyclable wrapping paper for homemade gift-wrap made from newspapers and old calendars or wrap with reusable fabric like scarves and tea towels. You can even switch out ribbon for paper bows and reuse old cards for gift tags! Parenting tip: Kids love to see their artwork turned into recyclable wrapping paper! 

Decorate your space: It’s amazing what you can create out of newspaper, magazine pages, toilet paper rolls, or ribbons you may have around the house. Many festive items can be found in your own backyard, from pinecones, leaves, twigs, and branches.

  • Create a wreath or centrepiece this year using greenery in nature and household items.  
  • Skip the plastic baubles and garlands and opt for homemade ornaments. Salt dough or clay ornaments will last for twenty or thirty years easily and can be composted when they finally give out. If you like to change things up every holiday season, make some paper ornaments! These are readily compostable or recyclable depending on your municipality.  
  • Do you have some leftover holiday giftbags and wrapping paper? You can cut out shapes and string them together to create a festive garland! 

Spread cheer, not your plastic footprint: Host a holiday exchange with friends and family and find out who might have extra decor that they simply don’t use anymore. To get you started on a fun evening, check out these green holiday party tips

Be mindful at the grocery store: Make your holiday dinner as plastic-free as possible.  

  • Create a shopping list and stick to it, guaranteeing you only buy what you need  
  • When possible, buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste – many grocery stores now offer bulk sections where you can refill your own reusable packaging   
  • Bring a reusable produce bag for your fruits and vegetables 
  • Opt-out of the plastic bag at check out 

Plastic-free gift ideas: Not everything needs to be wrapped up and placed under the tree! Give the gift of experiences, make, or bake something for your family and friends, or do a gift swap with things you don’t use or need anymore. 

Continue your plastic free streak into the new year by signing the Plastic Pledge and committing to reducing your plastic footprint. One way to do this is by doing the Lunch Box Challenge, to find out how much plastic is in your daily lunch – and reduce it! Or, take a look at our Plastic Tips page for easy ways to minimize your plastic footprint all year round.

After all that holiday cheer, make sure to reduce, reuse, and recycle everything properly to minimize your waste. Pack away your ornaments and wrapping paper for next year, recycle – or donate – your tree if you can, and give away unwanted items so someone else can find value in them. Going green this holiday season is easier than you think!  

Posted December 6, 2022 by Ocean Wise

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