According to Statistics Canada, Alberta produces the most waste per person than anywhere else in the country, at almost 1,000 kg per year. But, during and after the holidays, there is a 50 to 75 per cent increase in the amount of materials received at Calgary’s waste and recycling facilities. However, there are some simple ways to give less to the landfill during the season of giving. 

Eco-friendly holiday gift swaps

“I know it sounds super cheesy, but hear me out,” says Lea Luciano from Plastic Free YYC. “Some people value quality time more than the act of gift-giving. I personally prefer spending quality time, or doing something together, rather than buying a gift for someone that they may or may not use. 

She adds, “For your mom, you can do a cooking class together. For dad, you can go hiking. For your significant other, do an activity of his/her choice that you wouldn’t normally do.” 

Get creative and make some DIY self-care products

For those who still enjoy giving physical gifts, making homemade self-care products is the way to go. 

“If you happen to be creative, this is a perfect project for you to do. There are a lot of things you can make such as candles, soaps and even bath bombs,” says Luciano. 

“With the amazing technology we have nowadays, you can easily Google how-tos and tutorials on how to make candles. Check out your local bulk stores or refillery for materials.” 

Prepare baked goods

If spending time in the kitchen is your jam, use your skills to find some fun, festive recipes and prepare a batch of holiday goodies to gift. And don’t be afraid to get creative with cheap and sustainable wrapping options.

“Why not give your best friend who has a sweet tooth a tray of cookies?” says Luciano. “The thrift store also has [a] great selection of plates, trays and mason jars so you can package your treats nicely.”

Give second-hand a chance

While you’re thrifting for some greener wrapping options, be sure to scope out some previously loved holiday decorations too. 

“I know some people are iffy about buying other secondhand items,” But, she adds, “Holiday decor is expensive and most of the time, they are made out of plastic. Some people get rid of their decorations after one use and they often end up in thrift stores,” where they could become a potential gift. 

It’s a wrap!

A greener way, than plastic bows and paper wrapping, to wrap your gifts is to use furoshiki, suggests Luciano.

“[Furoshiki is] the Japanese art of using fabric or cloth to wrap gifts. You can use old pillowcases, old shirts or thrifted scarves to wrap up your presents,” explains Luciano.

If you still want to use traditional wrapping, consider reusing instead of newly purchased. 

“Save all your gifted tissue paper and bags from previous gifts and celebrations to re-gift this season,” she explains.

Shop local

“If you are planning to buy gifts, we encourage you to shop local. It uses less energy because they don’t have to transport items so far and you are supporting local vendors/artists,” says Luciano. 

The Bridgeland Farmers’ Market, Calgary Farmers’ Market, the Spruce Meadows International Christmas Market and Calgary Night Markets are some local shopping options to choose from. You can even support local artists from the Alberta University of the Arts at one of their infamous pie and plate sales! 

Give the gift that keeps on giving (back to the earth)

Give gifts that will help others become more environmentally conscious; shop for items like beeswax wraps for leftovers, reusable straws or steel razors. 

“If you have a friend or family member who is interested in being waste-free, give them items that would encourage them to use less plastic such as a reusable mug/bottle, bamboo cutlery set they can bring for their packed lunch, reusable straws, etc.,” says Luciano. This way they can continue their eco-friendly ways all year long!

Editors Note: This story is part of the Calgary Journal’s November-December print issue. You can find a digital version here, or grab a copy at news stands across the city.

Editor: Mackenzie Gellner |

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