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Are you dreaming of a green Christmas?

Geste - Noël écolo coloré

Is Christmas a holiday that you celebrate, but with a feeling of deep reservation, even guilt, at the consumer excess and waste?

Don't feel bad. 

There's hope.

You can give the season new meaning by choosing new traditions that reflect your true values.

Here are some ideas to get you started. Share them with your friends and family. Who knows, you may even spark a social movement.

Christmas lights 

  • Use a timer (so that your lights don't burn all night long when no one is awake to appreciate their beauty).
  • Your old string of lights doesn't work anymore? Buy LED lights as a replacement. They are more energy efficient. And some are even solar powered.

Real tree versus plastic?

The answer?

It depends.

According to a recent study by Montreal sustainable development firm Ellipsos, a plastic Christmas tree may be a greener choice if:

  • you plan on reusing it for at least 20 years
  • you would have to travel far by car to buy a natural tree

Otherwise, a natural Christmas tree is thought to be better for the environment.

"Small pleasures" advent calendar

You've seen them in the supermarket.

Perhaps your children have pressured you to buy them.

Over-packaged advent calendars with non-fair trade chocolate inside.

Is there a way to save this tradition from commercialism?


Make a super easy reusable advent calendar

Fill it with small surprises:

  • a poem
  • a love letter, "I love you because..."
  • the promise of an activity, "Today, after dinner, you and Mommy will bake cookies."
  • decorations to add to the tree

Christmas cards

  • Look for locally made cards
  • Buy from a social enterprise (a business that sells a product or service but with the goal of promoting a social or cultural value)
  • Choose cards that are printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper
  • Choose cards that benefit a social cause

Choose your presents carefully

Ask yourself these questions before each and every purchase:

  • Is this present useful?
  • Is it made in Quebec? In Canada?
  • Is it made by an independent craftsperson? 
  • Could you have made it yourself?
  • Does it encourage the social economy, i.e., an economy based on values?
  • Is it heavily packaged?
  • Could you find it second-hand?
  • Does it encourage a healthy lifestyle?
  • Is it organic or fair trade certified?
  • Is it lasting?

Quebecers reportedly spent $2.15 billion on Christmas in 2009. That's a lot of money. Imagine the positive effect if we poured that amount into the local economy, investing in

  • A donation to Equiterre in the name of a loved one who shares your concern for the environment
  • Tickets to a concert, play or museum
  • Outdoor activities: skiing, skating, a gift certificate for one of Quebec's 23 provincial parks
  • Cookbooks with recipes for local food (especially welcome by anyone who receives a weekly basket of fresh fruit and vegetables from our family farmer program!)
  • Guides to the bike paths in your city or region
  • Books on Quebec wildlife
  • Bus tickets, train tickets, Cool Taxi coupons (valid across Quebec*) – the gift of sustainable transportation!
  • Ethical clothing made with organic or fair trade fabrics by a local designer. (e.g., our brand new Equiterre t-shirts)
  • Gift baskets of fair trade products from your neighbourhood grocery store: tea, coffee, spices...

But what about the kids? Surely they need big shiny new toys

  • Can you give new life to a used toy?
  • Do your research. Look for toys that get good reviews from consumer rights groups. Montreal's Option consommateurs produces a yearly toy guide that rates toys for such qualities as durability, solidity and values.
  • When in doubt, opt for the classics: construction paper, a subscription to a magazine, a bag of marbles, sports gear, etc.

Gift exchanges that will keep you out of the malls

Propose a special kind of gift exchange to your loved ones. This will help you avoid last-minute store runs, long lines at the cash register, plunging bank balances...

  • Something You Love exchange: Everyone brings a possession that they are willing to part with, e.g., a favourite book
  • Musical Discoveries exchange: Everyone brings a CD of their favourite music (Bought and paid for by legal channels, of course!)
  • I Don't Know Why I Have This, But... exchange: Everyone brings something they own, but don't use.
  • Shared Memories exchange: Everyone contributes to a communal winter activity such as renting a cottage for a weekend
  • Great Favour exchange: Everyone arrives with a homemade coupon for a service they'd like to offer as a present, e.g., babysitting, one snowstorm's worth of shovelling

Rethink the way you wrap

  • Stock up on reusable cloth gift bags: some of the ones you give away may eventually find their way back to you
  • Use the comics section of the newspaper to wrap presents
  • If you love the shiny look of traditional wrapping paper, buy one roll and use it to decorate cardboard boxes that can be used again and again
  • Give two gifts in one: use a pretty wooden or metal box to hold your gifts

Entertaining? Plan your menu with care.

Treat your guests to local delicacies:

  • beer from your favourite microbrewery
  • ice wine 
  • a local cheese plate
  • winter vegetable soup
  • Family farmer Debbie's cipâte pie recipe
  • maple-infused desserts
  • ...

N.B. Is meat on your menu? Place your orders for organic, local meat now to make sure that you have what you need by the holidays. A real gift to your guests, and a boost to a local farmer during the winter season.

Help your guests arrange transportation. Give them directions for public transit. Encourage them to share a taxi or to carpool. 

Think community

The best way to imbue the holidays with meaning? Find a way to give to the community at large:

  • invite a new Quebecer to join you
  • volunteer as a family or group of friends
  • volunteer to help at your child's school
  • choose a cause to support as a group with your friends and family

Wishing you peace of mind this holiday!

* French only