Seven ways to have a more sustainable holiday

Sponsored feature: Live Green Perks


The holidays are a time of joyful overindulgence: eating too much, travelling too much, spending too much, watching too much TV. And depending on how you celebrate, it can also be one rife with waste, excess energy usage and greater carbon emissions.

With all the shopping, cooking marathons, parties, dinners and work events, it’s easy to forget the good eco-conscious habits we practice throughout the year. 

But it’s just as important to be mindful about ways to have a more sustainable holiday season. The City of Toronto is making that easier by providing incentives through its Live Green Perks program, where you can get deals at local green businesses and services as well as help the environment.

Here are seven ways to celebrate sustainably this holiday season, from easy-to-implement first steps to more ambitious goals for the eco-warriors.

The small steps:

Scrap the glittery gift wrap

Sparkly wrapping paper and glittery ribbons look eye-catching, but they’re actually not recyclable. To cut down on waste, wrap your presents in non-metallic paper. Brown craft paper can be prettied up with reusable bows and fabric ribbons, or fresh sprigs of eucalyptus or spruce twigs. Or to take it a step further, make the gift wrap a part of the present and wrap it vintage silk scarves or patterned cotton dish towels.

Give experiential gifts

It’s not a surprise that the Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo went viral this year. Our residences are already overflowing with so much stuff, most of which will eventually end up in the landfill. This holiday, consider giving an experiential gift like tickets to a theatre, gallery or museum, or a private lesson at a local bakery or dance studio. These presents are just as thoughtful, and they’re great for last-minute shoppers since you can usually print off the tickets and passes yourself at home. Live Green Perks offers members discounts on many experiential gifts – from the ROM, to New World Wine Tours and much more.

The medium steps:

Skip one-day shipping and shop local

Yes, online shopping is super convenient – who wouldn’t want to avoid a crowded Eaton Centre? – but it’s also terrible for the environment. Amazon alone generated 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, which is nearly the amount of emissions Switzerland produces. In Canada, freight vehicles accounted for about 10.5 per cent of the country’s emissions. If you want to lower your carbon footprint, consider shopping at neighbourhood brick-and-mortar shops. In addition to supporting the local economy, you’ll also avoid all the extra packaging that comes with online shopping. If the gift you’re eyeing is only available online, opt for in-store pick-up rather than delivery.

Shop second-hand for holiday attire 

The average Canadian purchases around 70 new articles of clothing a year and a whopping 12 million tons of textile waste end up in North America’s landfills every year. So if you want to buy a new outfit to rock at a holiday party, remember the second R: “re-use.” Hit up one of Toronto’s many vintage shops and consignment stores to find stylish, gently worn pieces for a good price. Common Sort is just one of a number of consignment and vintage stores that are part of Live Green Perks and boasts locations in the Annex, Riverside and Parkdale and carries a mix of cool retro gems and modern brands ranging from Zara to Marc Jacobs. Plus, the city’s Live Green Perks program offers 10 percent off regularly-priced merchandise at Common Sort. 

Make ethical choices at the dinner table  

In recent years, Canadians have become more concerned about the environmental impact of meat production and either switching to plant-based diets or decreasing their meat consumption. Here in Ontario, incorporating seasonal vegetables into your holiday dinner menus is surprisingly easy, since squash, potatoes, carrots and parsnips are all in season. If you want to take it a step further, including more vegetarian options for your holiday meal. But if ditching the turkey at the holiday table is a hard sell for your family, source it from a butcher that sells steroid- and hormone-free meats, like the Friendly Butcher. You can get 10 per cent off organic, locally-raised chicken through Live Green Perks.

The big steps: 

Go plastic-free at holiday soirees

Disposable cutlery, plates and cups are convenient, but they also have a big impact on our environment. In a single year, Canadians generate around 4.6 million metric tons of plastic waste. If you love to host parties, pick up inexpensive bamboo dishes and cutlery, and borrow extra wine glasses from groups like The Sharing Depot, which is a membership program where you can household items. Bonus: you can get 10 per cent off the annual membership fee through Green Live Perks.

Choose the greenest travel options 

There’s a reason why this past summer, environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg opted for a two-week boat voyage from Sweden to North America. Flying has a massive impact on our environment. When travelling over the holidays, choose the most environmentally-friendly options, like taking public transit, trains and busses. If you need to drive, try to arrange a carpool. You’ll lower your carbon footprint and share road trip snacks.

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