As November comes to a close, many of us are about to kick it into high gear with holiday preparations. I recently read that over 300,000 tonnes of garbage is generated in Canada between mid November and New Year’s Day. The article was written in 2011 and I was not able to find a more recent stat, but I can only imagine how much that number has grown over the past few years. But the holidays need not be a wasteful time; with some smart planning and thinking, this holiday - and every holiday going forward - can be eco-friendly.
Here are 10 ideas to keep "green" in mind as we head into the festive season:
There are those who feel strongly about artificial trees and those who feel strongly about real trees. Personally, I prefer a real tree over a fake one but there's good and bad that come with both.
All holiday lights are not created equal. Be sure that you purchase LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. LED bulbs will save you 80-90% on your electricity bill according to the light manufacturer NOMA.
LED lights run cooler which means there is less risk for fire and less risk for burns when it comes to small children and pets. They will also save you money—on average, LED's will last 200,000 hours. Incandescent lights last 2000 hours.
Cheaper ornaments are also not known for their staying power, so a few extra dollars spent now will save you money in the future. Purchase ornaments and decorations that are durable, made with quality materials and can be used for many years to come.
Shopping locally involves less driving and is not only good for your local economy, it also supports small businesses (something near and dear to me). Items that are fair-trade, locally made, or organically grown, such as coffee or chocolate make great gifts. One of my favourite places to shop for fair-trade and organic gifts is Ten Thousand Villages.
Most wrapping paper is not recyclable, so get creative when it comes to wrapping up those gifts. Click here for some pretty and eco-friendly ideas on how to wrap your gifts this year.
As much as I love the tradition of writing cards, sending them out, and receiving them each year, this tradition is slowly being replaced by e-greetings. If you do receive real cards or have some old ones lying around the house from holidays past, here is a great activity for kids that will have them upcycling cards into pretty decorations for next year.
Gift bags are pretty and can dress up any gift to make it look extra special but many of those eye-catching bags are not recyclable. Consider gifting in a pretty reusable bag instead. Your gift recipient will have a lovely gift and the added bonus of a bag they can use all year round. 2 gifts in 1!
One of my favourite things to gift each year is something homemade. It's easy on your wallet and to me, it's a little more meaningful than buying something your recipient may not use or even like. If you give edible treats, it is pretty much a guarantee they will be appreciated, devoured, and enjoyed. Find some food gift ideas on this page to get you started.
Consider making a charitable donation in a teacher, friend, or family member's name instead of buying them "stuff." Not only will you be giving them something meaningful, you will also be giving back to an important cause of your choosing.
You are also likely to find rare and quirky gifts at smaller shops. Give one (or a few!) a try this year, you may be surprised at what you find.
After all is said and done, don't just throw everything into the trash. What you may think is trash can be turned into a new treasure. Here are some creative ideas on how you can turn some of the holiday trash into something new.
What's your best tip for having an eco-friendly holiday?
For most of their history, eco-features on cars were not really a "thing." But in the last few years there has been a huge rise in what car manufacturers are doing to make their vehicles more fuel-efficient and safer for the environment. And yes, of course, cars are cars. No matter what, walking, biking, or taking transit is always going to be the most eco-friendly choice but for most, cars are a necessity. So if you need to have one, why not buy one that contributes to making thing greener?
When I bought my current car, eco-options were not mainstream, so it has NOTHING advanced about it. It's trusty, but it's old and I'm at the point where I'm starting to do my research to figure out what I want to buy next.
I love cars in general but I have a big soft spot for GM vehicles. I've always driven a GM car—from my first all the way to the one I drive today—so naturally, I wanted to learn what they were up to when it came to green initiatives and options.
I had the chance to experience and learn about a few of those things when I test drove a 2015 Malibu for a few days. I currently drive a 2007 Malibu, so it was a HUGE upgrade and I LOVED every second of it! Who doesn't love to drive a new car?!
Take a look at this beauty:
The 2015 Malibu carries this eco-badge:
Most car manufacturer's nowadays put an eco-badge on their cars, and for each manufacturer, the badge means something different. When you see this one, it tells you that the car it appears on is the most fuel-efficient variant in this line of cars. So, the car I drove is the most fuel-efficient in the 2015 Malibu line.
The major eco-feature on this car is the stop/start technology. After getting into the car for the first time and driving it for a few minutes, I came to my first red light. Once stopped, the engine shut down. Silence. It was a bit strange at first but thankfully I had a heads up that this was a feature on this car—so I knew that I did not break the car 2 minutes into the test drive!
Here's how it works:
When you come to a stop when driving the 2015 Malibu—a red light, during stop and go traffic, sometimes even a stop sign—the system monitors vehicle speed, climate control system operation, and other factors to determine whether it is efficient to shut off the engine. If it's ideal, it shuts off to save fuel and cut back on emissions:
The engine then automatically restarts when you take your foot off the brake:
When the engine shuts off, features such as the audio system, heat/AC, lights etc. are not affected.
Start-stop comes standard on all 2015 Malibu's equipped with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and is only available on Malibu's with this engine. Which is why it is the most fuel efficient variant in the Malibu line!
The Malibu has two powertrain offerings: the standard 2.5L iVLC with stop/start technology (the one I drove) and a 2.0L turbo that does not come with the stop/start feature. Along with other technologies, including direct injection, variable valve lift control and a six-speed automatic transmission, the 2.5L powertrain contributes to fuel consumption ratings of 9.3 L/100km when city driving and 6.4 L/100km when highway driving. Click here for more fuel consumption comparisons.
In addition to adding innovative eco-features to their vehicles, GM has taken it a step further when they spear-headed two initiatives that will contribute to making the world a little greener.
Wildlife Habitat Certification
In 2012, the St. Catharines Powertrain and Kapuskasing Test Centre facilities earned Wildlife Habitat Certification. This means that these facilities have been recognized by the Wildlife Habitat Council for enhancing biodiversity and engaging community partners to promote wildlife conservation and education.
These two facilities joined 40 other GM facilities around the world who are now part of conservation programs certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
Click here to read more about GM's Wildlife Habitat Certification.
In October 2014, the Canadian Automotive Manufacturing Inc. (CAMI) continued to contribute to the landfill-free initiative by adding 11 more General Motors facilities to the landfill-free status list. This brought the total to 122 manufacturing and non-manufacturing operations that recycle, reuse, or convert to energy all waste from daily operations.
Landfill-free status helps GM avoid more than 600,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions. This is comparable to the greenhouse gas benefit of 15 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years.
Click here to read more about GM's landfill-free status.
When you think of being environmentally-friendly, what do you think of? My mind usually goes to the obvious—things like recycling and upcycling, being less wasteful, and avoiding harmful chemicals. Figuring out how to do all of those things is pretty easy. But how about something like protecting animals and their habitats. How would one even get involved in taking on something like that?
This is where an amazing Canadian non-profit called Earth Rangers can help.
Earth Rangers is a national conservation organization dedicated to educating children and families about biodiversity and inspiring them to become directly involved in protecting animals and their habitats, through initiatives such as:
Bring Back the Wild - This is a national education and fundraising program that teaches children about the importance of protecting animals by preserving their natural habitats. Bring Back the Wild raises funds to support research and the acquisition and restoration of endangered habitats across Canada.
Earth Rangers Missions - Missions are fun, free short-term assignments designed to keep children and their families engaged and actively participating in actions that contribute to the health of the environment all year round. See below for the latest and holiday-themed mission and how you can take part!
School Assembly Program - Earth Rangers visits schools across Canada to spread the word through their School Assembly Program. Each year, they visit over 600 school, teaching kids that through their actions, they can make a difference for animals.
Since launching these programs in 2010, over $1.6 million has been raised for Bring Back the Wild conservation projects! Amazing!
How can you get involved now? How about starting with their latest mission? Just in time for the holidays, the current mission is the "Homemade Holiday Mission." This mission is all about creating your own homemade holiday cards to reduce the demands for paper so your kids (and you!) can help save the boreal forests and the animals who call it home. If you are feeling ambitious, you can even make your own paper as an activity with the kids.
Take a look to find out how you and your kids can get involved:
I think this is a fun way to begin explaining and showing your kids the importance of making choices that have minimal impact on the environment and how wild animals are affected by those choices.
To continue the conversation, visit the Earth Rangers website. It is filled with tons of info about animals, how we can help them, games, educational videos and a whole lot more to get you started.