Manitobans everywhere already know how different this holiday season is going to look. Many long-time staples of this time of year may be off the table—including family dinners with big guest lists and even bigger spreads, and those frantic yet festive hours spent at jam-packed shopping malls.
And although some may already be mourning for those traditions, there is a flip side to this whole situation. Canadians everywhere now have the opportunity to take some big sustainability steps when it comes to preserving resources around the holidays.
Major publications like the Guardian and the Huffington Post have shared articles and studies about how extremely wasteful the holiday season can be—think about all that wrapping paper, uneaten leftovers, and mileage consumed visiting loved one. With so many of us refraining from all that this year, this seems like the perfect opportunity to scale back and refocus our efforts on what's really important.
Here are some tips you can follow to celebrate Christmas in the most eco-friendly ways.
Ditch the wrapping altogether
Controversial opinions about the joy vs distain for wrapping aside, brainstorming some ways to practice sustainable gift-wrapping is a great first step.
A 2017 study by environmental group Zero Waste Canada found that a total of 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper ends up in landfills across Canada every year immediately following the holidays. That's the equivalent of 100,000 elephants!
So, what can we do instead?
One option is to opt for wrapping your gifts in a material that you already have lying around, instead of going out to buy new ones. Think newspaper, regular printer paper, or even clothing like a scarf.
Make a competition out of it—who can come up with the most creative way to sustainably wrap their gift!
Another option is to ditch wrapping altogether and think of another way to incorporate an element of surprise into the gift. Think back to Easter egg hunting as a child. With all the time you'll save going from store to store this year, you'll have plenty of it to spend on some creative brainstorming.
Give some attention to food waste
A staple holiday favourite for many Manitobans is gathering around a dinner table with our loved ones and turning a meal into an all-night ordeal. While most of that food gets put to good use, Canadians statistically throw away about $31 billion worth of food every year.
With large gatherings postponed this year, we can take this opportunity to reduce that number. If you're preparing a meal for members of your household, consider these tips:
Find recipes that incorporate food waste. Think "root to stem" cooking, where every piece of a product is used. Whether it's making tea out of fruit scraps, or trying a part of the plant you usually discard (like cauliflower stems—yummy!), you can significantly reduce your food waste by rethinking the term "waste."
Consider cutting back on meat. Giant turkeys, hams, or roasts might be traditional and might feel necessary when you're feeding an audience of 20, but if there's just a few of you around your table this year, consider shaking it up with something a little "greener." Thanks to the Internet, there are millions of recipes available at your fingertips for delicious dishes like pesto zucchini pasta, savoury vegan stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies and so much more.
Compost compost compost! Lake Friendly followers will know how much we advocate for reusing resources, and composting is at the top of that list. When we discard of food scraps into our garbage cans, those scraps end up in landfills where they release methane—one of the most powerful and toxic greenhouse gases. One of the most effective ways to stop this cycle is by investing in a composter for your home. These bins are available at many local hardware stores and will provide you with step-by-step instructions on the dos and don'ts of composting. Get started this season so you can use that nutrient-rich fertilizer come spring!
The greatest gift of all—your thoughts and attention
Gift-giving can be one of the greatest parts of the holiday season—finding that perfect present for someone in your life and watching his/her expression as the wrapping paper comes off.
Sending a gift card might not be the norm for you, but this year presents a great opportunity to show your special someones that your love and appreciation for them are as strong as ever, with or without big boxes and bows.
Manitoba businesses are shifting to online methods of gift-giving this year, offering e-gift cards with personalized messages, gift bundles, and more. There's never been a better time to support the businesses that you want to see thrive through COVID-19. The Good Local is a great place to start to find some of the most popular Manitoba makers!
Surprise your loved ones with an e-gift. Add a special message with a FaceTime rendezvous or an invitation to a virtual game night.
No matter what your holidays look like this year, you have the full capability to make this time as festive and fun as ever.
Do you have any sustainability practices that you use around the holidays? Share them with us on social media!