Enjoy the Holidays Sustainably

Celebrating the festive season by limiting over-consumption is a way to honour the special people in your life and the Earth they live on. Buy less, love more.

By Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko
Published November 27, 2007

Tis the season to be eco-jolly! Whether you're celebrating Christmas or Kwanza, the holiday season is often a stumbling block on the path to sustainable living.

North Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time during the year, swelling already over-extended landfills.

Not to mention the excessive amount of gasoline used during this heavy travel time. According to, if each family reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about twenty miles), we'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons.

Like many people in rich nations around the world, Hamiltonians are finding ways to eschew the outrageous waste, pressure and stress, and over spending; they are simplifying the season while retaining its true meaning of hope, peace and understanding.

Popular ways include restricting gift exchanging, donating money in the loved one's name to a favourite charity or organization and staying home for the holidays.

Time is something we never have enough of. How often do we wish we could spend more of it with someone we love? Why not give them the gift of time?

If you're planning to give presents, buying locally-made items helps support community businesses and neighbourhoods.

Look for small business establishments as well as craft shows and church bazaars where you can buy unique gifts such as jewellery, pottery, cards, and stuffed toys wooden toys with natural finishes (You'll be avoiding toxic paint and phthalates). Remember to bring your own shopping bags.

Support your local book stores and arts community by buying gift certificates or tickets to see a play or movie or band.

Consider making your own gifts, ornaments and baked goods and avoiding excess packaging. Wrapping gifts in pretty cloth or quirky newspaper works nicely. Instead of Christmas crackers at dinner give small bags with seeds or soap in them.

If you're getting a tree, a tree that can be planted or mulched afterward or a quality artificial one is a good idea. You might try buying a potted plant and reusing it every year.

Tradition calls for lights? Many stores now sell the LED kind; they might even offer a rebate if you bring in your old ones. Environment Canada sources say that buying LED holiday lights uses up to 90-95 percent less energy and lasts at least seven times longer than conventional lights. They are more durable, with no filaments or glass bulbs to break, and produce very little heat, reducing the risk of fire.

You could also try just buying nothing; you won't be alone. Not only for Scrooge, the 'Buy Nothing Christmas' movement was started by a group of Canadian Mennonites to de-commercialize Christmas and to challenge excessive consumption.

Celebrating the festive season by limiting over-consumption is a way to honour the special people in your life and the Earth they live on. Buy less, love more.

Check out Hamilton Climate Change for anecdotes from Hamiltonians who celebrate in eco-friendly ways. Visit the Environment Hamilton's website for over 63 ways you can reduce your green house gases emissions all year around.

Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a member of the dedicated team at Environment Hamilton.


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