Life / Health

Five ways to make your Chrismas a little greener

Canadians produce double their normal volume of waste per person during the holidays.

Take a hard look at your fridge and cupboards before you shop, and then make a list, so you don’t end up with doubles.

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Take a hard look at your fridge and cupboards before you shop, and then make a list, so you don’t end up with doubles.

Deck the halls with ... piles of garbage? Canadians produce double their normal volume of waste per person during the holidays. Even the thriftiest among us are guilty of going overboard in an attempt to make the season special. With input from Tammara Soma of U of T's systems lab, here are five ways to cut down on crap and prioritize quality time and making happy memories.

All together now: Don't make too much food

Take a hard look at your fridge and cupboards before you shop, and then make a list, so you don’t end up with doubles. Look for foods such as produce without unnecessary packaging. Soma laid down a whole lot of holiday hosting wisdom, and it boils down to keeping the amount of food in your house under control. She said on family favourites: Three kinds of meat is to many. One vegetable side is enough. You don’t need rice, dinner rolls, and mashed potatoes — serve the one your family looks forward to the most. Remember kids eat less. If you pile their plates high, it’ll just go to waste. Be clear with guests about what you’re making and remind them (kindly) not to bring extra.

Long live leftovers

Immediately after the big meal, ask for a couple of volunteers to help you pack up the remains of the feast for people to take home.

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Immediately after the big meal, ask for a couple of volunteers to help you pack up the remains of the feast for people to take home.

Even if you've budgeted carefully, leftovers are a fact of life. Soma suggested getting your guests to bring containers instead of surplus food, and save up a few reusable or compostable takeout containers as well. Then, immediately after the big meal, ask for a couple of volunteers to help you pack up the remains of the feast for people to take home. That makes the prospect of crafting meals from leftovers more manageable. Label and freeze what you can't eat in time. Bring on the turkey soup!

Give gifts the waste-free way

Challenge yourself to wrap in anything but wrapping paper.

Torstar News Service

Challenge yourself to wrap in anything but wrapping paper.

"Experience" gifts produce no waste at all: theatre or sports tickets, trips, group activities, date nights. For kids, Soma suggested a gymnastic or piano lesson, a visit to the movies, or a gift supporting a favourite cause. A book exchange makes a nice replacement for a gift swap. And challenge yourself to wrap in anything but wrapping paper. Decorate paper bags, or wrap in fabric that can be used year after year — that's the tradition in Japan. Vancouver's Create Memories, not Garbage campaign has lots of cool wrapping ideas, including old maps and out-of-date calendars. The website also has a massive list of present ideas, from handmade items to pre-loved treasures to gifts that last such as cast-iron cookware.

Ditch decorations

Natural greenery and pine cones can also make lovely decor.

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Natural greenery and pine cones can also make lovely decor.

"Decorating is great, but there are more sustainable options than buying cheap plastic decorations that are not durable," Soma said. Here are a few ideas: Use leftover wrapping paper to make a garland, string up popcorn and cranberries, or turn old toys into Christmas tree ornaments. Natural greenery and pine cones can also make lovely decor.

Choose and dispose of your tree wisely

Make sure to dispose of your tree properly: Take off all the decorations and tinsel and recycle or compost it.

Torstar News Service

Make sure to dispose of your tree properly: Take off all the decorations and tinsel and recycle or compost it.

A 2009 study by the environmental firm Ellipsos comparing the environmental impacts of a real Christmas tree to an artificial one reused for six years found the natural option was the clear winner. Plastic trees — a petroleum product — contribute three times more to climate change and resource depletion. Natural trees are carbon sinks with big environmental benefits, even if they end up getting cut down. Just make sure to dispose of your tree properly: Take off all the decorations and tinsel and recycle or compost it. Many cities have a pick-up program.

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