It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But for many families with festive plans and hectic schedules, it’s also the most wasteful.
According to one survey, for example, 60% of respondents admitted to throwing away more than usual during the holiday months as they filled up their trash bins with uneaten food, wrapping paper, gift bags, and commercial packaging.1
The reality is, Canadians routinely toss about 25% more trash during the holidays, according to Zero Waste Canada.2 In fact, we throw away so much wrapping paper that the waste, combined with castoff shopping bags, is estimated to weigh as much as 100,000 elephants.2,3
As our holiday schedules grow busier, many of us also forget to take simple steps at home to shrink our carbon footprints or prepare for a more energy-efficient winter.
Luckily, it’s not that hard to shift our habits and plan for a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly celebration. Here are five ideas for ringing in the holidays this year without overstressing Mother Nature.
1. PREP YOUR HOME FOR WINTER
Depending on the amount of time and resources you have available, you could cut your carbon emissions significantly this season just by winterizing your home. According to Natural Resources Canada, around 61% of the average home’s energy usage goes to heating.4
Investing in a more sustainable way to warm up your surroundings, such as a conventional or cold climate heat pump, could be especially impactful if your current HVAC is underperforming. The Canadian Climate Institute’s Heat Pump Calculator estimates that homeowners can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year by switching from a gas furnace to a more energy-efficient heat pump.5 Replacing old appliances or things like chronically leaking windows with newer, more energy-efficient solutions can also save you money over the long term.6 Plus, you may qualify for a federal grant or loan to help fund certain upgrades.7
You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot upfront, though, to prep your home for winter. Even simple tweaks—such as sealing windows and doors or upgrading to more energy-efficient window coverings—can lower your energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint.8
Incorporating environmentally healthier habits into your routine can also make a meaningful difference. For example, Natural Resources Canada recommends dialling back your thermostat to 17 C when you’re sleeping or away and otherwise leaving it at 20 C.4
Consider an EnerGuide home evaluation to help you pinpoint what needs fixing and see if you qualify for a federal grant. An energy advisor registered with Natural Resources Canada will audit your home’s energy efficiency and provide you with a report and score.9
2. DECORATE SUSTAINABLY
Decking your home’s halls is one of the most jolly seasonal activities of all. There’s something special about gathering ’round with friends and family and relaxing in the comforting glow of a festively decorated space.
But since so much of the holiday-themed decor that’s sold in stores is notoriously disposable, it can be a challenge to spruce up your home sustainably. Cheaply produced and rarely recyclable, store-bought decorations are often made with plastic, styrofoam, and other environmentally unfriendly materials that can crowd landfills for generations.10
Luckily, you don’t have to trade style for sustainability when making your holiday decor. Thrifting is still in vogue, so consider crafting new and on-trend decorations out of secondhand finds or upcycling items already in your closet.
For example, you could transform an ill-fitting sweater into a holiday-themed pillow, turn teacups into candles, or turn leftover shipping boxes into creative decorations. Alternatively, natural decor foraged from your yard—such as dried leaves, flowers, pine cones, and branches—can make for especially beautiful wreaths and centrepieces.
If you do purchase store-bought decor, proactively look for the most environmentally friendly options. LED lights are now ubiquitous in stores and use far less energy than incandescent versions.11 Similarly, if you celebrate with a Christmas tree, think twice about choosing an artificial option. Plastic trees may be reusable, but natural trees are generally thought to have a smaller carbon footprint.2