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How to make your white Christmas green

Tips on how to give your holiday celebrations an eco-friendly nudge. Environmentally-friendly gifts, decorations and food ideas

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Feeling the need to green your white Christmas this year? But dread the thought of wrapping your gifts in newspaper cartoon pages? Not to worry—we’ve got some better ideas for you.

We asked Lindsay Coulter, the Vancouver-based David Suzuki Foundation’s “Queen of Green” and Jed Goldberg, the president of Toronto-based Earth Day Canada to help us with some fresh ideas to go green this holiday season.

Gifts

Give experiences. “I like the idea of giving experiences to people—so a pass to a yoga studio for some classes, or a pass for a massage, or offer to take people out to dinner at a nice restaurant,” says Goldberg. “These are things that can sometimes be more appreciated and can be unique.” Other ideas include theatre gift certificates, museum memberships, cleaning service gift cards and more.

Regift unashamedly. Rather than shop for a new consumable, just pass along that holiday-themed chip and dip bowl you got from your sister-in-law (because you already have three anyway!)

Make your gifts. No lopsided clay bowls here—think more personal items such as a homemade family recipe book where you pass along treasured recipes, or show off your culinary chops by making liquors, spice sets and more.

Think E, not paper. “Cards that you send out can be sent electronically,” says Goldberg. Avoiding the paper trail and packaging that comes with sending cards cuts down on the environmental impact of saying “Happy holidays.”

Wrap wisely. Easiest solution to wrapping? Pick up some pretty, reusable bags—there are plenty of choices, styles and sizes available these days.

Try a theme suggests Coulter for this year’s gift giving—such as giving everyone homemade gifts, or items you picked up from local artisan fairs or craft bazaars. Other ideas include fair trade gifts or donations to charities.

Decor

Go natural. “In terms of decorating, rather than running out to the store and buying store-bought decorations, use found, natural things. They are also really more conducive to the holiday season,” says Goldberg. “Using pomegranates and oranges and gourds and edible things as decorations for instance. Or bulbs—amaryllises, so things that are colourful and festive and can later be planted in your garden.” Also think outside the house—pick up pine cones and evergreen branches to spruce up your place (and your gifts—these can also double as lovely gift toppers).

Do double duty. Bring “live” hostess gifts, or take home gifts for dinner guests. So these would be plants that could act as décor around the house such as poinsettias, or maybe a small flat of herbs to use in the kitchen over the winter and replanted in the spring, says Goldberg.

Food

Avoid the canned…cranberry sauce that is. Instead, cook from fresh and make your own sauce with cranberries, sugar or locally-sourced honey and water. It really is that easy. Not only are you cooking local, but avoiding the cans also limits your exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA) that can be found in cans. Ditto for other side dishes such as corn or peas, Coulter notes.

Source your food Catering your party this year? Look for caterers who use local and organic food to prep your munchies. “Or if you’re doing it yourself, you can even find more local and organic food in large supermarkets now. So when you’re planning your menu, think about it in those terms,” says Goldberg.

Toss the nonstick Non-stick pans contain harmful chemicals such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), notes Coulter. Instead, she suggests cooking with stainless steel, glass or cast iron cookware to keep PFOA at bay.

Avoid the disposable plates, cups, cutlery and more for this year’s events. Got too big a party for your dishwater to handle? Look around for a nearby party rental store that can rent you all the glass and dishware you might need. “It’s actually a lot easier,” says Goldberg. “You don’t have to wash them afterwards—you just put them back in the box after the party and send them back and it’s washed by them.”

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