Making the Holiday Season Sustainable!

Written by Kristin Mullin

Written by Kristin Mullin

Why is it so important we make a change?

The holiday season is renowned for being a wasteful, consumer-driven and stressful time of year.  To help combat this, our team has decided to create our own Sustainable Gift Giving Guide with ideas on how to make your holiday season simple and sustainable.

Shockingly in Canada we collectively throw away 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper each year, that’s the equivalent of 100,000 elephants (if you can even imagine that many elephants in your head). Combine this with 2.6 billion holiday cards and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of packaging that is added to landfills during the holidays (25% more than the rest of the year) and we have created a humungous amount of waste.

But on a positive note, if each of us starts making some small changes, we can spoil ourselves and our loved ones without spoiling the planet.

How to Give Sustainably!

Think about other options before you buy – There are many gifts out there which have less impact on our planet and some that even make a positive difference!

Instead of buying a gift for a loved one, you can make a donation on their behalf. Therefore instead of giving for the sake of giving, you have an opportunity to make a real difference for those who really need it.

Another idea is to give new life to a used item by gifting it to someone who could really use it. Or, make a new gift using items you already own (Pinterest has lots of ideas).

Give experiences not gifts – There is a large misconception that during the holidays, the amount you spend on an individual reflects how much you care about that person.  The team at SK feels that time is always so much more valuable than things. Time that you spend with loved ones can never be replaced, so why not choose to share your time with a day at a local conservation area to engage with nature, go to a local show, or learn a new skill together.  

Shop for Sustainable Materials – If you do decide to purchase gifts, choose items made with sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp, wood or silk which are natural and renewable.  These items add character, texture and uniqueness to your gift and they also support sustainable farmers!

Buy Local – The holidays are about supporting our friends, families and communities. One great way to support our neighbours is by shopping in locally owned stores. As an added bonus, your gifts are more likely to be unique and memorable for those receiving them.

Cards - Store-bought holiday cards are rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a huge amount of natural resources for a single-use item. Homemade cards, created with materials you already own can be much more personal and just as appreciated. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family during the weeks leading up to the holidays.

Wrapping Paper – If you’ve got old scarves, shirts, sheets or any other textile material lying around at home, there is no need to go to the store to purchase wrapping paper.   Just last week SK hosted a workshop with Boho & Hobo all about sustainable gift wrapping and learned how to wrap gifts with a variety of different materials (and they turned out great!). If you are really stuck on wrapping paper there are more sustainable options out there, opt for more environmentally friendly choices made using fibres such as hemp, or recycled content.

Large Group Gift Giving – If you have a large group or family that you wish to buy gifts for you’ll know the familiar feeling of stress and worry about waste. Our team has thought of some options to reduce the stress and the waste.

  1. Stick to a ‘one gift’ or “Secret Santa” rule. This allows each person to get one especially thoughtful and unique gift from someone who had the time to dedicate their effort.

  2. Try a “White Elephant” gift exchange – everyone only gives gifts they find around their home with no money spent.

  3. Handmade Gift Exchange- only handmade gifts (from hand-knit scarves to cookies) may be given.

At Sustainable Kingston, we believe that small actions can lead to BIG change. Sustainable holiday giving is just one example of this.   It starts with just one person taking action and making positive impact by influencing their circle of connections, and then when that larger group shares what they have learned they can spark change throughout the community.    

From the Team at Sustainable Kingston, We wish you all a very happy, healthy and sustainable holiday season.