holiday decor in a small living room

10 ways to be more eco-friendly this season

LIVE greener | 9 MIN READ | 2020-12-09

The holidays can be a happy season for many, except maybe the planet. From sustainable wrapping paper to knowing where to recycle your tree when you live in an apartment building – here are 10 ways that we can all be more eco-friendly this holiday season (our gift to the world!). 

Have tips you’d like to share? Send us a DM on Instagram or Facebook (@MintoApartments). 

#1: Wrap it up (sustainably) 

canadian christmas waste facts

“Christmas waste in Canada” – Information Source: The Canadian Press/Zero Waste Canada (2017)

Did you know that approximately 545,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags were tossed in Canada in 2017 alone? That’s 100,000 elephants of weight, and that was reported three years ago (meaning it might be more, now). 

“Gift bags, tape and ribbon can’t be recycled. Some cities, like Toronto, will recycle plain paper gift wrap but anything with glitter or velvet or foil on it has to be plucked out.” – The Star

Here are some alternate options for wrapping gifts this season, without using brand new wrapping paper or gift bags:

1. Use fabric instead.Furoshiki” is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts with fabric. Wellness Mama shares great examples of what you can use to wrap like scarves, cloth napkins and tea towels (all gifts in themselves!).

2. Spare newspaper, scrap paper or magazines. Creative and cool!

3. Reusable fabric bags. These are cute, widely available and can be reused by the gift receiver for shopping, travelling and re-gifting! 

4. Recycled paper wrapping and bags. If you haven’t started yet, keep all gift wrapping and bags from past birthdays and holidays to reuse. You’ll save a lot of money over time this way, too.

5. Go without it altogether. Gift wrapping is fun, but so is holding a gift behind your back and giving the receiver three guesses (or asking them to close their eyes and putting the gift in their hands!). A different way to do it, but very eco-friendly. 

#2: Avoid fast fashion and toys altogether

couple in bedroom giving gifts to each other

This tip involves mindful shopping. Here’s a super eye-opening fact from Zero Waste Canada: 

“Within 6 months, only 1% of everything the average person buys is still in use, the other 99% has been discarded”.

Think about what your receiver needs or wants and search for good quality gifts that you know will be put to good use. Bonus points if you purchase from a sustainable, local business! Which brings us to our next tip…

#3: Need we say it? Shop local!

thank you for shopping local sign

Whether you buy local gifts, give local gift cards or donate to local charities – we strongly encourage supporting local businesses this year (and always). 

We did an Instagram poll to gather a list of favourite small businesses across Canada (and there are a lot!), so we wrote a blog post on it.

Click here to read all about local businesses to support in Toronto, Ottawa, London, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. 

#4: Give gifts that promote sustainability

table with candles cups and bowls on it

Have a very non-eco-friendly family member or friend? Teach them how to change with items like:

Bees wax food wraps – to help reduce plastic waste.

Reusable dish cloths – do you know people that still use J-cloths or paper towel? Let’s help them stop that habit.

Tea towels – because paper towels are expensive and wasteful! 

Face masks (the cute, reusable kind) – because face mask litter is everywhere these days.

Shopping bags and totes – to help reduce single-use plastic waste.

Reusable straws and straw cleaners – because we should all say “No” to plastic straws.

Reusable water bottles – can be very cute gifts, especially if your friend’s go-to drink is a single-use plastic water bottle.

A shower timer – for that friend that spends hours in the shower. It’ll save them money on utilities, too, which is helpful. 

Bamboo or linen towels – because cotton is one of the most pesticide-laden crops on the planet! Bamboo is a sustainable alternative and linen towels are small, meaning you can put more in the washing machine at once, reducing overall loads. Plus, they’re very European-chic.

100% recyclable, plantable cards – because holiday cards contribute to a ton of waste, too. Give the gift of a card that they can plant in their windowsill that will sprout into beautiful flowers. We love that! 

A plant – because they’re colourful, reduce stress, clean the air in your home and you never know, you may turn them into the happiest plant parent there ever was.

For more eco-friendly gift ideas, head to our LIVE greener section on the blog. We’re always talking about products that will help reduce our impact on the planet, among many other tips.

#5: At the end of the season when it’s time to trash the tree…

potted mini tree on a dresser in a living room

If you put up a decorative tree in your space during the holidays, the best option by far is to buy a potted tree. That way when you’re done with it, you can:

Put it out on your balcony;

Gift it to a friend with a yard; 

Plant it in a park nearby; or

Ask the seller if they take trees back – many do and will replant them for next year!

Many people think buying a fake tree is the best way to go, however they can be made with non-biodegradable PVC (plastic) and sometimes metal toxins like lead. Considering they last on average 2-3 years, it’s actually not better for the environment to buy a fake tree over a real one.

If you prefer the traditional route (buying a real tree), here’s how you should recycle your tree if you live in an apartment building:

1. Make sure that all lights, tinsel and decorations are removed first. 

2. If you put your tree in a garbage bag on the curb, it’ll go to the dump. Instead, try:

Donating your tree to a national park or local trail. Holiday trees can be shredded and provide the perfect mulch for walking trails, parks and gardens. That’s the big “Reuse” of the three R’s. 

Contacting city pick-up programs. Most large cities offer programs to turn your tree to mulch or woodchips. Do a web search for “holiday tree recycling program” near you to find local programs. 

Dropping your tree off at recycling centres like Home Depot and others. Again, a quick online search should help you find one!

3. If you miss drop-off or pick-up collection periods, cut up your tree and place it in your building’s green bin (compost). As long as it’s in small chunks, there will be no issues.

Check out this website for more tips, tricks and ideas when it comes to being eco-friendly with your tree around the holidays.

#6: Reuse holiday décor (or donate it)

a dog sitting on a couch beside a christmas tree

Single-use holiday décor? We beg you to differ! If you purchase sturdy, good quality décor that you have room to store in your apartment or storage locker, we say go for it – and don’t forget to use it every year.

However, if you find yourself running to the dollar store to purchase any- and everything that’s cheap and cheerful, we hope you’ll consider whether it will last and whether you’ll use it again.

We encourage everyone to have a storage bin on-hand for seasonal décor items. That way, whatever you buy can be used again – saving you money in the long-term and reducing household waste. If you’re short on space, try a long, flat one that can neatly fit under a bed.

#7: Meal plan and prep 

lemons inside a reusable cloth bag

Food waste is a big issue during the holidays. Many of us stock our fridge to the max and make elegant meals, which is great (we love food)! Here’s what you can do to reduce the amount of food wasted this season:

Meal plan & prep: Plan meals ahead of time (including how many people will be eating), take inventory of what you have, plan how you can use leftovers to add to the next meal, and buy groceries accordingly. 

o Serving guides online will help you determine how much food or drink is needed if you’re having a small get-together with your bubble at any point this year.

Use that freezer: If you love to bake, shop in bulk or cook too much, don’t fret! Everything can be frozen and thawed at some point to reduce waste. If you bake a double batch of cookies, freeze one for later.

Creative leftovers: If you’re not one for leftovers, get creative with them. There are a ton of tips online for using leftovers in a “fresh” way, like making soups, casseroles, fun poutines, pastas, nachos, and more. 

Use peels and bones to make stock: “Don’t Waste the Crumbs” has some great tips on how to do this – check it out here.

Share vegetable scraps with your pet: Don’t throw out ends or peels – add them to your dog’s dinner!

#8: Give gift receipts

person holding a gift box with a ribbon

We’re going to restate this fact from Zero Waste Canada: “Within 6 months, only 1% of everything the average person buys is still in use, the other 99% has been discarded”. For real.

That’s why tip #8 is to include gift receipts when you give. Isn’t it better that your gift gets returned rather than tossed? That way, nothing is getting wasted and hopefully, the receiver will exchange the gift for something they’ll keep. 

#9: Recycle old electronics (properly)

yellow rotary dial phone on a table

There are lots of lucky people out there who get a new phone, tablet or other electronic devices as a gift. 

If that’s your situation, don’t throw away your old ones. Many electronics are included as hazardous waste and should never just be tossed out in the trash. Instead, try:

Donating them to goodwill, local charities or thrift shops.

Recycling them at collection locations near to you (like at Staples stores). A quick online search should help you find one! 

Posting on social media or reaching out if you know someone who needs a new device.

#10: Unplug your string lights sometimes

pile of books with string lights around it

String lights are so cute, there’s no denying that! But you can’t see them when you’re sleeping or working during the day.

Rather than leaving lights and other electronic decorations on 24/7, try unplugging them sometimes to save electricity (and some money). Then when you’re relaxing and will enjoy them, plug them back in for magical, holiday ambiance in your home. It doesn’t hurt to unplug other electronics you’re not using, either.

Happy (eco-friendly) holiday season everyone!