Green Holidays: 2020 Edition

Clara Phillips, Dec. 22, 2020

‘Tis the season when West Park Healthcare Centre would usually be gearing up for the annual West Park Holiday Market, which has been a great success in the past, however, due to COVID-19, we are missing the market this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to skip out on the festivities. It’ll just have to be done (like everything else this year) through physically distant or virtual platforms. It can also be done with safe and earth-friendly practices, to help us enter 2021 with a mindset centered on sustainability.

Promoting green practices during the holidays is extremely important, especially when it comes to waste generation. Zero Waste Canada estimates that Canadians generate about 25% more trash from mid-November to mid-January than they do the remainder of the year. This waste is a consequence of consumerism and includes packaging from new purchases, food waste, and old items that were replaced with newer gifted versions. Energy usage increases due to holiday lights and increased travel boosts greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, although we likely won’t see as much of an impact from the latter this year. While West Park will not be hosting any in-person holiday celebrations this year, we hope you continue to use the adaptability and resiliency we’ve all shown this year to celebrate festivities in a new, creative and virtual way! Here is a list of tips and tricks you can use to make your holiday safe and green this year.

Purchase ingredients for your holiday cooking and baking from local markets, or if it’s accessible to you, check out the Unboxed Market, Toronto’s first zero-waste grocery store. Try to reduce your meat and dairy use in the kitchen this year with these 30 festive ideas. Challenge another family, friend, or-household to try a new plant-based recipe with you, and trial your creations over video chat!

A lot more time will be spent using digital devices this year to connect with family and friends For safety’s sake, may we suggest taking advantage of Zoom’s unlimited call times to enable and encourage these virtual gatherings? Offset this increased electricity use by choosing LED lights around your home and using a timer so your lights are only on when needed. Also, try to offset screen time with some additional time spent outdoors. Take a physically-distanced hike or build a snowman in your backyard with your kids.

Still looking for last-minute gifts? Give practical gift cards from a local business. Many businesses now offer electronic gift cards as well, further reducing waste and allowing you to purchase and send these gifts from the safety of your home. Gift an experience, such as tickets to a virtual concert, cooking class or another online event that aligns with their interests.

How about giving a gift that gives back? Giving to charities like the West Park Foundation is a great way to give. West Park even has a Matching Gift campaign for the holidays that doubles the size of your gift (until December 31, 2020). Or, consider purchasing a gift that gives proceeds to environmental causes, such as Tentree or Reunion Island Coffee.

If you’re still shopping online, you may consider sending the gift directly to your loved one (eliminating the need for wrapping paper as well!) to limit your contact with others. You can also send e-cards to save paper and postage. But, if you’d prefer to hand-deliver the gift yourself, perhaps walk rather than drive, make sure you practice proper hand hygiene before and after delivery, wear a mask and maintain a 2-metre distance!

Include a gift receipt with your present. It implies that it’s ok for them to exchange it for something that’ll be more useful to them, so it doesn’t go wasted. Many of us are financially set-back this year, and that’s okay. Your loved ones understand. So, you may consider this year to send them a note that lets them know you’re thinking of them, and if you’d like, add an “IOU” note to promise a small gift next year if you’re able.

Gifts still need to be wrapped? Wrapping paper can only be recycled if it’s not glossy or glittery and all tape has been removed. Try looking for non-laminated paper-based or pre-recycled wrapping paper, or try these very simple and effective options:

  • Make your own gift wrap with old magazines or newspapers. Not only does this idea save money and reduce your environmental impact, but you can show off your creativity by selecting colourful magazine pages, or the comic or puzzle section from the newspaper.
  • Use reusable gift wrap by BOBO or DIY.
  • Mark your gifts with tags made from plantable seed paper that will bloom once planted after use! Search Etsy to find a whole selection of styles and shapes.

Most importantly, please remember that one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is to consider their health by avoiding gatherings, wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene and maintaining a 2-metre distance from others. But that doesn’t mean the festivities have to stop! With these simple ideas, you can enjoy your holidays in a safe and environmentally friendly way, and maybe even be lighter on your wallet.

Stay safe, stay well, stay green, and happy holidays!

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