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How to enjoy the holidays without killing the planet

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ADORN homes, illuminating nativity scenes or Santa and his reindeer. Elaborately wrapped gifts sit under elegantly decorated trees. It’s a pretty time of year, but while we’re dreaming of a white Christmas, the environment is hoping we keep it green over the holidays. Between all those pretty lights and dozens of wrapped presents, limiting waste may seem like a lot to ask, but believe us—you don’t need a Christmas miracle to make Mother Nature smile this Christmas!

Shopping—sustainability style!

Shopping for gifts is a big part of our consumer-crazed Christmas, so it’s important to be waste-conscious when hitting the mall. Remember to bring a reusable shopping bag with you, and if you forget one, try to fit as much as you can into the first plastic bag you get. Buy items with less packaging, as materials like Styrofoam, bubble wrap, soft plastic, and tissue paper are not accepted by most recycling programs.

Deck the halls with boughs of things compostable

Christmas decorations have the tendency to end up in the trash come Jan. 1. Aim to build a collection of handmade, durable ornaments that are going to last more than one week. Our family has a collection of six ornaments—one for each family member—that we’ve had for 19 years, as well as six stockings we’ve had since we can remember.

Support a local artisan and find decorations at a craft fair, or get creative and spend a snowy afternoon making some yourself. Make a wreath out of twigs and pine cones and add a ribbon for some flair, or string popcorn and dried cranberries together to make garland. As long as they are free of paints, glues, and dyes, you can compost all these decorations.

O, Christmas tree, how we’ll miss you

The number of trees that get cut down and thrown out after a week makes the environment sad. Although it doesn’t feel like Christmas without a decked out pine tree, consider decorating a potted tree that can be transferred into your garden after the holidays.

If you do get a traditional Christmas tree, make sure it gets picked up by your local tree recycling program, which turns them into mulch.

LED light up your life

Energy consumption is high over the holidays, but you can cut down both your consumption and energy bill over the holidays. When it comes to holiday lights, go LED (light-emitting diode). These bulbs last seven times longer and use 10 per cent the amount of energy as incandescent bulbs, making them a brighter, more energy-efficient alternative to traditional lights. You should also use a timer for your indoor and outdoor lights. Only turn them on in the evening, and don’t leave them on for more than six hours each day.

Wrap none of the presents!

Snowflakes are really just Mother Nature’s tears at the thought of all the wasted gift wrap piling up in landfills post-Christmas morning. Opt to use reusable gift bags when possible, and try to recycle ribbons and bows each year. If you have the urge to wrap a present, turn a copy of the Fulcrum—after reading it, of course—into wrapping paper. The black and white paper can be spruced up by adding a sprig of cedar or pine cone and some ribbon or glitter. Fun, super Canadian fact: If everyone in Canada wrapped just three gifts in reused paper or gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks. Now that’s a lot of arenas, eh?

—Merissa Mueller and Mercedes Mueller