The average North American throws away 4.5 pounds of garbage every day, and sadly this number goes up by 25% over the holiday season. Insane! As environmental awareness increases and scary stats about plastic pollution become more and more devastating, people around the world are taking a stand and making a commitment to live a zero-waste lifestyle.
The zero-waste life is all about producing as little trash as possible. This is accomplished in part by:
- Refusing all single use plastics
- Buying from bulk stores using reusable containers
- Viewing all purchases as a vote for the type of world we want to live in
And since so much of what’s for sale today in the world is not aligned with zero-waste, you will save a ton of money.
This time of year is so busy that it’s easy to let your environmental principles slide, but I am here to give you some simple tips on how to reduce the amount of waste you and your family creates this holiday season. How could your celebrations look if you considered the impact on the earth, water and air with every decision that you make? Something to think about. If you go into December with that question in mind, you will be surprised at how easy it is to reduce your personal environmental impact.
1. Adapt Holiday Traditions To Be More Sustainable
Firstly, it’s ok if holiday traditions change over the years as your family grows and as our environmental commitments strengthen. For example, many people have the tradition of getting a new set of pj’s each Christmas Eve. But with all the information on how devastating the fashion and textile industry is on the earth, more and more families are opting out of this once seemingly cheery exchange. Fast fashion pyjamas made of synthetic fibers just don’t bring the same joy they used to know that we understand the truth behind the low price.
When it comes to altering the traditions you have, start by having an honest and respectful conversation with your family. Find out what aspect of the holidays they truly enjoy. Most adults talk about spending time with family and enjoying a soul nourishing meal made with love by Grandma, not the exchange of physical gifts. There are no rules for creating new holiday traditions, just as long as they bring true happiness for us and Mother Earth.
2. Try Using Creative Alternatives To Plastic Trees
Upwards of 80% of Canadian households partake in the tradition of the Christmas tree. From my plastic hating view, I think a real tree is more environmentally friendly than a fake one (and most environmentalists would agree with me), but if you already have a fake one please try your best to take very good care of the tree so it can be enjoyed for many years to come. And if you do get a real tree this year, purchase it from a local nursery to reduce on carbon emissions during transport and make use of your local municipal tree recycling program.
If you don’t have a fake tree and want to avoid buying a real one, there are lots of creative alternative ideas you can find online. My personal favourite this year is the Scandinavian approach of using a found branch to hang and decorate. Take a walk through your local wooded area and find your magical Christmas branch! I personally hung small dogwood branches from my windows adorned with my most loved Christmas ornaments and I find it really makes the place quite festive.
Have you heard of a Christmas forest? I know of some families who buy a potted plant each year and decorate that for their Christmas tree. Once the ground thaws in the spring they plant the tree and then as the years go by they have all these beautiful trees in their yard.
3. Use Handed Down or Reusable Decorations
Every time I see an inflatable snowman or Santa outside on a lawn, my poor eco heart breaks a little bit more. Made from synthetic, non-biodegradable nylon, draining electricity through its plastic encased motor, the life cycle on these cheaply made decorations are just too short in regard to how long the trash garbage will be left for the earth to deal with. Every dollar store in North America is currently jammed full of crap holiday decorations that look awfully tacky and aren’t made with longevity in mind. I have no idea who buys these actually thinking they look nice! Thankfully, zero-waste alternatives are available to pretty much everyone and even Martha Stewart would approve for how classy they are.
When it comes to zero-waste holiday decorations, I encourage you to ask your grandparents to hand you down their decorations. Antique decorations were well made and can be cherished as family heirlooms year after year.
If antiques ain’t your style, go to nature to find some beautiful decor. Natural garlands and wreaths are quite easy to make, look stunning and bring a beautiful smell into your home. Just please be mindful when collecting branches and boughs. If a forest isn’t nearby for you, head to your local produce department for some oranges, slice them up, and dehydrate them in your oven to make gorgeous decorations for your home. They also taste super yummy too!
And when it comes to lights to sparkle through the season, choose LED lights. They last much longer than other lights while using less electricity. Or avoid electricity all together with natural beeswax or soy candles.
Stay tuned next week for when I share part two of my sustainable approaches to a zero-waste holiday.
By Trish Jane
Trish Jane is a holistic nutritionist living the zero waste lifestyle in Waterloo, Ontario. With a passion for sustainability and an environmental degree, she made the full fledged commitment on July 1, 2017. Thankfully her husband and toddler daughter are on board and now have a mason jar on the counter as their household garbage can. For more information follow her on her journey to less on Instagram @zerowastetrish.
For more sustainable tips and how to effectively recycle and divert your waste check out some of our past blogs 4 Ways To Get Your Kids to Recycle and How To Avoid Buying The Wrong Kind Of Compostable Material For Your Eco-Friendly Event.
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