• Your guide to an eco-friendly holiday

Your guide to an eco-friendly holiday


The holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends, but between food, gifts, trees and decor, we also create a lot of waste!

So how can you minimize your impact on the environment this holiday season? We’ve done the research and have some great tips and tricks to make your Christmas the greenest yet!


You know that Christmas dinner you’ve been looking forward to? It could be the most unsustainable meal of your year! A typical holiday dinner can rack up thousands of kilometres in imported ingredients, not to mention the mountains of food waste and support for industrial farming practices that can be harmful to animals and the environment (Canadians bought 3.9 million Christmas turkeys last year).

Here are a few tips to minimize your culinary footprint:

  • Buy local food. Here’s why.
  • Eat more plant-based foods. Rethink the turkey on the table and consider challenging yourself and your family to cut out the meat this holiday. There are so many amazing vegetarian holiday recipes. Like these, and these and these… 
  • Buy organic, if you can. Here’s why.
  • Don’t buy more than you need. Plan ahead so you know how much to buy, let guests serve themselves (rather than piling their plates high) and compost any waste.
  • Make the most of leftovers! Freeze what you know you won’t eat or set up a leftover food swap with friends or neighbours.


Do we really need more stuff? Most of us certainly don’t, but British Columbians still spent an average of $520 on gifts alone last Christmas. Why not try something different this year?

  • Donate. Give the gift of a healthy community by supporting a worthy cause in the name of a friend or loved-one.
  • Bake or make. Healthy (or not so healthy!) homemade treats (spiced nuts, vanilla and homemade Irish cream are YWCA staff favourites), experiences or DIY gifts (check out this list for ideas) let you skip the stores this season.


If you’re wrapping gifts this year avoid traditional wrapping paper at all costs. Not only is it expensive, it’s also made from virgin wood. Here are some great alternatives based on the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

  • Reduce: choose gifts that don’t need to be wrapped or hide gifts around the house and turn Christmas morning into a treasure hunt!
  • Reuse: gift bags or paper you have collected throughout the year can be repurposed.
  • Recycle: wrap your gifts in newsprint, butcher’s paper or recycled paper (old maps work well and look great).

Want to get really creative? Try fabric gift wrap using the furoshiki technique. This easy Japanese technique is an eco-friendly way to wrap your presents (see this instructional video to learn how).

If you really can’t live without wrapping paper this year, look for 100% recycled paper or paper with a high post-consumer percentage. 

And don’t forget ribbons and other accessories. Bows and ribbons take a lot of resources to produce and ship, and are often made of non-recyclable plastics. Reuse the ones you already have, and then switch to fabric ribbon (twine and butcher’s paper look great together. Add a foraged pinecone or some holly and voila – wrapped perfection).


Natural or artificial?

Proponents of the natural tree point out that artificial trees are typically made from the nastiest of plastics: oil-derived, pollution-releasing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Once finally disposed of, the artificial tree will ring in the holidays at the landfill... for hundreds of years to come. 

Meanwhile, proponents of the artificial tree point to the impact of harvesting trees, as well as the pesticides, herbicides and fuel it takes to grow and ship them. All this for a tree that may end up in the landfill anyways. (If you are buying a real tree, avoid the landfills by participating in a tree recycling program.)

The verdict:

According to an Ellipsos study an artificial tree has three times more impact on climate change and resource depletion than a natural tree (assuming you keep your tree for six years).

But wait, there’s a third option! If you want a truly “green” tree this year, opt for a living tree. You can rent a tree or buy one that you keep year-round inside our outside. 

Decorations & lights

Ditch the tacky tinsel; it’s expensive and hard on the environment. Look to nature to provide your decor. Pinecones, nuts and fruits add an organic festive look to your decorations. Adorn tables in edible decorations like cranberries and mandarins. 
If you’re putting up lights this holiday, be sure to use light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs), they’re 90 percent more efficient than traditional holiday lights. LEDs also last longer, up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for standard incandescent bulbs.


Spread joy this holiday season

The holidays should be a time to celebrate with family and friends. But for a single mother struggling to provide the basic necessities for her children, it can be a season of stress and heartache.

This month, we’re asking supporters to spread joy this holiday season by making a one-time or monthly donation to help families in need. And there’s more, if you make a tribute donation in the name of a loved-one we’ll send them this beautiful hand-painted card by local artist Jazmin Sasky, as notification of your gift.

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