Reusable straws make a great sustainable gift. OLIVIA REID PHOTO

Easy Being Green: Giving Sustainably

We’ve almost made it — almost survived what has been quite a tumultuous year. This year will definitely be one for the record books, although sadly not in a good way. 

Many of us have had our lives deeply affected by the global pandemic. But I know that many people, including myself, may hope to use the holiday season as a bit of a distraction from the rest of the stress and chaos. 

As part of that, my goal is to help you find ways to enjoy the holidays safely and sustainably.

There is a lot of pressure to buy gifts for others at this time of year, but this is not the most sustainable approach to showing others that we care. The environmental costs of shipping, manufacturing and (eventually) disposing of the goods we buy are things we should always consider when we purchase something new. 

Even with the restrictions around COVID-19, I believe there are better ways to demonstrate that we care. Unfortunately, sharing time together, meals and hugs are not a great idea in most cases this year, so we’ll have to be even more creative. 

We all know about video conferencing as an option, but there are many more opportunities out there. So perhaps instead, try going ‘together’ (separately) to online concerts, eating the same dish together or playing cards online — to be as together as possible this holiday season. 

Find ways to be part of one another’s lives, share laughs, and stories safely. There are some interesting and novel ways to share experiences online — plays, movies, escape rooms, virtual visits to aquariums and museums and so on. 

Although I know there is an allure to ordering quick, easy and cheap gifts for others, I encourage you to take a bit more time and think of ways to shift gift-giving into something that can support our local organizations and our economy. 

Keep the items as sustainable as possible. For example, buy some creative zero-waste home products at one of our local shops. 

Think about supporting artists — they often fall through the cracks on government supports. This can include more than just wall art, but also beautiful ceramic pieces, jewellery, knitted goods and more. There are a number of online maker and craft shows, so you can support them safely. This can also avoid the need to ship which may suffer from delays this year. 

Give gift certificates for local eateries and cinemas that people can enjoy when they feel safe to do so, while supporting the businesses right now when they need it most. Or drop off a surprise food basket or baked treats. 

Another way to pick up some useful items without the large environmental cost is to find used items. Give items a new life, and delay the time before they end up in our landfills. 

It’s also important that we think about the most vulnerable among us and consider making donations if it is something you can do.

Regardless of your approach, in all likelihood, this will be a holiday season unlike any other. It will be our creativity, patience, flexibility and humanity that will help us to get through it. 

I hope you have as good a holiday season as possible, and stay safe, if not for yourself, then for the people that you care about most.