Written by: RSE Staff on December 22, 2014

The holiday season calls for spreading cheer through gifts, decorations and celebrations. Between mid-November and January, Canadians on average, produce over 545,000 tonnes of waste. Luckily, the majority of the holiday waste can be curbed through conscious-consuming, recycling and adequate disposal of unwanted goods. Here are five ways to have a sustainable holiday:

1)      Eco-friendly Gift-wrap and E-Cards

During the holidays, the average Canadian family sends almost 45% more waste to landfills and much of it consists of gift-wrapping paper, wrapping supplies, shopping bags and product packaging.

A great way to streamline holiday waste is to use recycled gift-wrap or reusable alternatives as it reduces the amount of virgin paper being consumed. When opening presents, be sure to collect all reusable ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, gift boxes and bags and remember to recycle the excess wrapping paper in the correct recycling bin (check your municipal recycling calendar).

Though traditional cards are a nice way to spread holiday cheer, you can reduce paper waste by sending cards electronically. E-cards are a cost effective, creative and an environmentally friendly solution.

Tip: If purchasing a traditional card, find one made of recycled content.

2)      Buy Rechargeable Batteries and Recycle Old Electronics

Many people will give or receive electronic gifts over the holiday season and about 40% of all battery sales occur at this time of year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Make way for new electronics by properly disposing of old ones. Both batteries and electronic devices contain toxic chemicals like mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel that contaminate landfills. When they end up in a landfill, these chemicals eventually seep into the ground and in our water supply. Thus, properly disposing of old batteries and electronics are paramount and can be dropped off at Call2Recycle, Ontario Electronic Stewardship, Recycle My Cell, Staples, Dell and Future Shop.

Tip: Accompany battery-operated gifts with rechargeable batteries!

3)      Live Christmas Trees

Live trees are compostable and biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes. Check your municipal waste calendar for tree collection dates, seasonal drop-off locations and mulching programs. Trees are chipped, shredded and used as mulch. Residents can use the mulch for gardening; and some municipalities use mulch as an effective sand and soil erosion barrier for lake and river shoreline stabilization and creating a natural path and hiking trail.

Did you know? Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year!

4)      Holiday LED Lights

Holiday lights are a festive way to decorate any household. Light-Emitting Diodes (LED) is preferred over incandescent bulbs because it uses 80% less energy, last seven times longer and it is much more cost-effective. Many LED light bulbs last up to 50,000 hours which is approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent, 20-25 times longer than halogen, and 8-10 times longer than compact florescent lights.

Some retailers such as Lowes facilitate an in-store recycling program for Christmas lights and Home Depot hosts a holiday light exchange program providing incentives to exchange your old lights for new ones at a reduced price.

Tip: Use a timer, as it helps reduce your energy consumption by 30-50%.

5)      Food Waste

When planning your big holiday feast, it is helpful to have your guests RSVP so you can efficiently cater for the number of friends and family attending your dinner.

The majority of waste comes from disposable plates, cups, cutlery and napkins. Be sure to use reusable plates, cutlery and cups to reduce unnecessary waste. If using disposable plates and drinking glasses, use plastic numbered 1, 2, 4, or 5 as they are accepted by most curbside recycling programs.

Support your local farmers by purchasing fresh home grown foods and reduce your environmental footprint at the same time.  According to getlocalbc.com, the average North American meal travels 2,400 km to get from field to plate.  Shipping food and beverage products thousands of miles burns excessive fossil fuels, emitting more carbon emissions into the air.

Tip:  You can also minimize food waste by inviting your guests to bring their reusable containers if they feel like taking home leftovers or you can donate leftovers to local soup kitchens and food banks.