Former Tribune editor Erin Hitchcock

Former Tribune editor Erin Hitchcock

Ways to keep your Christmas green

Let’s face it: while Christmas time can be fun and exciting, it can also be stressful and environmentally damaging.

  • Dec. 11, 2014 4:00 p.m.

Erin Hitchcock

Special to the Tribune

Let’s face it: while Christmas time can be fun and exciting, it can also be stressful and environmentally damaging.

According to the Recycling Council of B.C., every year Canadians spend approximately $4 billion on wrapping paper, decorations, and gifts; exchange two billion Christmas cards; and generate 545,000 tonnes of waste from wrapping paper and shopping bags.

By adopting just a couple of the following ideas from Scout Island Nature Centre’s environmental educator Sue Hemphill and Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS) water wise educator Mary Forbes, you can still have a joyous Christmas and reduce your environmental footprint.

“Tradition is important to the human soul, so find traditions that are good for you and good for the Earth,” Hemphill said.

Gifts: Buy presents locally that are made out of local materials, Hemphill said.

The annual Earth Friendly Holiday Event recently held at the Central Cariboo Arts Centre showcased numerous ways to make Christmas gifts and ornaments and served as an alternative to a busy night shopping.

Have fun making gifts out of repurposed items and buy used. Try talking to your family about donating to a charity or organization.

Forbes suggests pre-purchasing tickets to a local arts and music festival and, she said, don’t feel bad about re-gifting items you don’t want.

Wrapping: Wrap your gifts in reusable, cloth bags, or items around the house, such as old maps as Hemphill has done in the past. Forbes suggests making cloth bags out of old pillowcases. Save any gift wrap you do receive for the following year. Use recycled cards for gift tags or write directly on the package.

“Sixty per cent of our waste generated from the holidays is packaging, and you can completely avoid it,” Forbes said, adding the Station House Gallery wraps items in old clothing patterns, and the CCCS also offers upcycled banner bags at its office, Dandelion Living, Cariboo Growers, and the Station House Gallery.

Tree: For a real tree, cut down a small one that is close to another tree. This may help nearby trees thrive. Look for a used, fake tree (never buy a new one). Forbes found a used tree and LED lights at the share shed, where many used decorations are found after the holidays.

Decorations: Replace any old lights with LEDs (old lights can be taken to BeeLine Courier for recycling). Timers help reduce energy usage. Hemphill advises not having lights up too long before and after Christmas. Get creative, Forbes said, by turning old wrapping paper into origami crafts or reusing the shell of an old, incandescent light bulb by hanging a piece of holly inside.

Food: Keep it local, organic,  fair trade and/or homemade as much as possible, Hemphill said. Try making one or two items from scratch you previously bought pre-packaged — let your inner chef come alive.

Get outside: One of the best ways to help our environment is to enjoy it.

Take a walk through the woods, follow the tiny footprints nature leaves behind, and resolve to make your own footprint a little smaller in the coming year.

For more ideas or to share your own, visit the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society and the Scout Island Nature Centre’s facebook pages at and