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We understand everybody celebrates the holidays in different ways, but here are some ideas and tips we’ve used to tread lighter on the Earth with holiday traditions!

Shop Local

Part of our mission at The Jar is to support local makers, artists, farmers, etc. and we always encourage people to shop local – when it comes to the holidays this is a great way to support your local makers, support your local economy, reduce packaging when it comes to shipping, and reduce your carbon footprint…AND it’s such a great way to find one-of-a-kind incredible gifts that you’ll be so excited to give!

Choosing a Christmas Tree

We know it feels wrong to cut down a living tree when we’re facing a climate crisis, but if you choose to have a Christmas tree this holiday season, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, a living tree is much more earth friendly than an artificial/plastic one.

At The Jar, we opted to cut our own tree from the Hydro line, since Hydro has to keep that area clear in order to do work/protect power lines, and the trees typically end up getting cut down anyway.

At home, we chose a potted tree that we will keep in the garage for the winter then plant in the ground come spring!

These are both options that have low environmental impact, and we LOVE the smell and feel of a live tree for the holidays. Here are a few other earth friendly alternatives:

  • DIY Upcycled Tree (great for apartments or smaller spaces) using:
    • Wood scraps (lots of lumber yards have leftover ‘slats’ that are used in between piles of lumber that they’ll happily give away for free)
    • Small branches that have gotten knocked off trees in the wind (check out the picture below of the tree like this we made years ago – you can even see the upcycled ornaments we made with newspaper clippings)
    • Old newspaper for a crafty looking tree
  • Metal/wire trees

Gift Wrapping

You don’t have to be a grinch in order to cut down on waste when it comes to beautifully wrapped gifts! Here are some suggestions on earth friendly gift wrapping options:

  • Recycled paper:
    • Paper grocery bags (like the ones you get at The Island Jar!)
    • Newspaper
    • Old maps
    • Save the wrapping paper from gifts you receive (it’s pretty easy to reuse paper from large gifts, or you can make a patchwork of wrapping paper from smaller gifts)
  • Kraft paper – this is unbleached and biodegradable, and easy to decorate in beautiful ways (you can paint, draw or write on the packages rather than using tags)
  • Fabric – you can include a vintage tea towel or table cloth as part of the gift and wrap it in that, or wrap in any other used fabric that has a nice pattern. Check out ideas for Furoshiki online – this is a Japanese method of wrapping gifts, food, or other goods in fabric.

When it comes to decorating gifts:

  • Avoid bows, ribbons or tags that have plastic in them
  • Try decorating with natural materials like pieces of greenery (trimmings from your live tree or cedar sprigs), jute (100% bio-degradable & recyclable), raffia, pinecones that have fallen off trees, etc.
  • Reuse bows, ribbons or tags from gifts you have received
Paper gift wrap, cedar sprig & raffia for decoration,
names stamped on to avoid use of gift tags

Food Waste/Leftovers

Although the food is probably our favourite part of the holidays, it can also be really hard to manage food waste when you’re cooking for large groups of people, or going to family gatherings & parties. If you’re like us, you will do anything not to see food thrown away, so here are some helpful tips to navigate the holidays and reduce food waste.

Wide mouth mason jars are a great way to store leftovers

If you’re hosting the meal:

  • Clear out your freezer before the holidays
    • In the weeks leading up to the holidays, try to use up those frozen soups, open bags of frozen veggies, etc. for a quick weekday meal. This will make room for the holidays so you can freeze leftovers easily.
  • Leading up to the meal, try to keep empty containers (e.g. yogurt tubs, tupperware you’re happy to part with, jars, etc.) that you can fill with leftovers to send home with your guests
  • Cook meals that work well as leftovers, or can be repurposed into other recipes (we’ll do another blog post closer to the holidays with recipe ideas for leftovers)
  • Keep veggie peels/scraps and make a veggie stock out of them, or store them in the freezer to make stock later on
  • Don’t cook an excessive amount of food
    • If you aren’t sure about quantities, try a website like The Guestimator to help you figure out how much food to serve (it even factors in how many leftover meals you want)
  • Make sure you check with your guests beforehand about any food allergies/sensitivities they might have, to make sure they can actually eat the food when they get there!

If You’re Attending a Gathering

This one’s a bit trickier – if you’re attending a gathering/party instead of hosting, a lot of the decisions are beyond your control when it comes to food waste and avoiding single use dishes.

We try to always have our own reusable water bottle/drinking jar, metal straw and cutlery set (wheat straw sets available in-store at The Island Jar) on hand (in a vehicle or in a bag) in case there aren’t any options for reusable dishes. If you forget yours or don’t feel comfortable using your own in a specific setting, you can always opt for the better options (e.g. paper cups instead of plastic, not taking a straw, eating finger foods to avoid using plastic utensils, leaving the lid off a disposable coffee cup) whenever possible.

If there are no other options and you use plastic dishes, try to come up with a way to keep track of it (e.g. write your name on it, keep it aside from other dishes) and reuse the same cup/plate/cutlery all night, then recycle it when you’re done with it.

Leftovers

When storing leftovers, you can also reduce waste in the kitchen by using things like beeswax food wraps instead of saran wrap, empty jars (keep your empty glass jars), glass tupperware, etc.

Avoiding Single Use Dishes

Use reusable napkins instead of paper ones, and reusable dishes instead of single use plates, cutlery, cups, etc. If you don’t have enough dishes for the number of guests you’re having, try borrowing some from a friend or family member who’s coming over.

Decorations

For most holidays, many decorations are made from plastic as they’re durable and cheap – this has a significant impact on the planet, especially since most of those decorations are only used for one day, one week, or at most one month of the year.

There are tons of ways you can decorate using natural materials and upcycled items! Here are a few ideas:

  • We use tree trimmings or evergreen boughs as centrepieces, hanging in windows, wreaths, etc.
  • Use food that’s starting to go bad as decor
    • OK we realize this sounds strange, but hear us out! This year we made a new decoration for the front window of The Island Jar using two oranges that were starting to go bad, pinecones we collected from our yard, sprigs trimmed off the Christmas tree we cut for the store, and extra metal stars that our family had used for tree decorations. We dehydrated the orange slices and tied everything up using jute (100% biodegradable and recyclable). You could also use dehydrated apple slices or old cinnamon sticks for a decoration like this or the old classics like cranberries or popcorn to tie on to your tree!
  • As kids, we always used to make pomander balls with clementines and cloves – they look fun and smell SO great!
  • We also make cinnamon heart ornaments out of cinnamon, apple sauce and glue – again, they smell so great when you hang them on the tree!

Candles

On those long, cold & dark winter nights we love having candles burning to cozy up our home – we always burn locally sourced beeswax candles (hand-dripped pillar candles available in-store, made by Maiden Manitoulin) or beeswax tealights in holders.

Hand-dripped beeswax candles made by Maiden Manitoulin, with beeswax from her own bees

When choosing a candle, we try to find a beeswax or soy candle with a cotton wick, and avoid anything with artificial fragrances or colours (unless it’s scented with 100% pure essential oils).

Lights

The David Suzuki Foundation has some good recommendations for how to be earth friendly with your choice of lights:

  • Choose LED lights. They have a longer life span and use less energy, only about four watts per strand. Regular lights use about 34 watts per strand.
  • Properly recycle old incandescent lights.
  • Use a timer so your lights are only on when needed. Turn them off whenever possible!