Five tricks to making this holiday season more eco-friendly

The snow is falling, the shopping centres have been renewed with a fresh surge of energy, and holiday music surrounds us at every turn. Yes, Christmas is once again around the corner.

Of course, with all the craziness this month brings, it’s easy to forget to be green during the holiday season. But with these five tips, you’ll realize having an eco-friendly Christmas isn’t so hard after all.

1) Switch to LED lights

So much energy is wasted during Christmas, with people leaving lights on all day or using the wrong type of bulb. To light the night the right way, choose LED lights over regular incandescent lights — they are up to 90 per cent more efficient and can last up to 200,000 hours indoors because they emit less heat, according to Joanne Levoy, an employee in Canadian Tire’s seasonal department.

“I light my house with LED lights,” Levoy said. “You don’t have to worry about replacing the bulbs because they can last up to five years. They’re really good for the environment, too, because they use less power, meaning they consume less energy. And who doesn’t like saving money on energy bills?”

2) Decorate a real tree

While at first artificial trees seemed like a God-send, what with the lack of fallen pine needles, spiders and work involved with finding the perfect tree, they are not actually the right choice at all, said Susan Pittonet, the tree supervisor at Calgary’s Green Gate Garden Centers. In fact, they are a danger to the environment and one’s health. Most artificial trees are made of metal and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) derivatives, which uses tons of energy to make and creates harmful by-products of lead.

This house in the community of Deer Run show its eco-friendliness and Christmas spirit by using LED lights for its display. Photo courtesy of Dara Defreitas “It’s definitely a personal preference,” Pittonet said. “But many people do prefer real trees just because of the smell. Also, it’s not like forests are in danger either,” Pittonet continued, “all Christmas trees are grown on tree farms, meaning when the trees are cut down, more trees are planted in their place.”

3) Cut back on your use of plastics and Styrofoam

This holiday season is host to more parties than any other time of year. And with all those parties, it’s easy to see why people use disposable plates, cups and cutlery, but the effect our decisions have on our landfills is disgraceful. And while you may think you are helping the environment by recycling them afterwards, think again.

“There’s a big difference between biodegradable and compostable,” said Lauren Mangion, a Healthy Homes advisor from Green Calgary. “For instance, not all biodegradable products are created equal and a compostable product is only compostable if you actually put it into a composter, not the garbage bin. Do your homework and dispose of these products properly.”

Besides, as Magnion said, parties always look classier when you use your own permanent dishes. The water and effort required to washing the dishes is far less of a problem than dumping all your deposable dishes in the landfill.

4) Limit wrapping paper

It’s amazing how much money and resources are wasted on gift-wrapping when, in the end, it all gets thrown out anyways. This year, ditch the usual Christmas wrapping paper and go for something more environmentally friendly, such as recycled shopping bags or newspapers, pictures or gift boxes. If you still prefer wrapping paper, though, Magnion recommends buying recycled wrapping paper.

5) Stop giving in to buying gifts

While Christmas is known as the season of giving, that does not mean you have to spend hours at the mall buying the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. There is so much energy and resources that are needed to keep up with what this holiday has become, that it’s time to take a step back and remember that it’s more important to show your love in ways that don’t encourage consumerism. This year, volunteer your family’s time to a worthy cause, buy a gift certificate for a service (such as a massage, oil change or hair cut), or give a gift that you made yourself. And remember, re-gifting is never a bad thing!

On average, Canadians spend $800 per person on gifts, specialty foods and “stuff,” according to Green Calgary. This result in an extra few million tons of waste sent to our landfills as a present from us to them.

But if you follow these five simple tricks to making your Christmas a greener one, you’ll be helping the environment as well as yourself.

And really, what better gift is there than that?

lgilbart@cjournal.ca