Positive Impact Holidays: Simple Acts for a More Sustainable Season
The topic of sustainability – that is, minimizing the negative impacts and maximizing the positives of our actions on both people and planet – is as important during our tours as it is back home. If you’re like us, there are little ways you’re improving your footprint in your daily life, whether it be recycling and composting, biking to work, or bigger projects like retrofits for your home. But we all know that the holidays get busy and choosing sustainable options get put on the backburner. We’re here to help!
In this blog we explore sustainable practices during the festive season. Discover how to infuse your holiday experiences with eco-friendly choices, from mindful travel tips to ethical gift-giving ideas, ensuring your celebrations leave a positive footprint on the planet. Join us on a journey towards responsible and meaningful holiday adventures that make a difference in both your life and the world we share.
1 | Seek out locally-made goods
‘Shop local’ has become a popular trend in the past few years, and we are certainly onboard. Whether you’re seeking classic gifts, culinary goods, or experiences, sourcing local will help support small businesses while also reducing your footprint by avoiding long-haul shipping.
Check out the holiday craft & farmer’s markets in your area for one-of-a-kind gifts, decorations and toys, and clothing. Some of these vendors may stock their creations in local shops, or have online ordering and local pick-up. Visit your nearby bakery or butcher shop, or sign up for a CSA delivery (Community Supported Agriculture) to get the freshest treats for your holiday party. When locally-produced isn’t an option, look at ways to buy your favourite brands from a locally-owned shop, or try to order as many gifts together in one shipment to minimize the emissions from transportation.
Looking for something truly unique and ‘West-Coast’ inspired for your loved ones? Our favourite go-to is Indigenous arts and crafts, including hand-made jewelry, carvings and paintings, beauty products, kids books, and more. They are typically made with local materials, and using methods passed down through generations. These gifts tell a story and are a great way to share a bit of Western Canada with your family and friends.
Be sure to do your research and find a reputable shop, like the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, the U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, and the I-Hos Gallery in Courtenay (offers shipping).
Check out Destination Indigenous for similar gift ideas.
2 | Introduce more reusables
From gift wrap to party napkins, there are many ways you can make sustainable choices to reduce your waste this holiday season. To start, check that your wrapping paper and gift bags are made from recyclable paper, and avoid foil and glitter gift wrap which can’t be recycled. Other creative options include wrapping gifts in fabric like scarves, packaging in jars or boxes, or reusing wrapping and tissue paper from last year. Just because it’s sustainable doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty!
For ease at holiday parties, we too often turn to disposable napkins, plates and cutlery; but think of the amount of waste if ALL the households in your community were doing the same thing. Try to use cloth napkins and reusable tableware whenever possible. Buy wet-erase markers for guests to label their glasses, instead of using those pesky red cups. Where disposables are unavoidable, make sure the materials are 100% recyclable or compostable in your household bins. Check out Recycle BC’s Holiday Recycling Guide for some useful tips.
And finally – don’t forget that reusable mug when you head to the coffee shop for your candy cane hot chocolate. Taking these small steps can make a huge impact, while adding only a few minutes to your day.
3 | Donate to your local charity
Supporting causes that matter to you can take many forms – whether it be donations of gifts, food, or clothing to the local Food Bank or shelter, volunteering at a shoreline cleanup or community support program, or monetary donations. Every little bit helps, and it’s up to you to decide how and how much, and which causes align most with your values.
A great place to start is the Community Foundations of Canada, the national leadership organization for over 100 local community foundations across Canada. These Foundations focus on improving community wellbeing through long-term endowment funds and regular granting. Support is focused on the most pressing issues in the community – from health and social development to youth engagement, gender and equality, and environmental conservation. Many Foundations directly align with the Sustainable Development Goals, and provide opportunity to direct your donation to a specific cause or organization.
Looking to donate to environmental research and conservation? Check out Raincoast Conservation, and the Marine Education and Research Society on Vancouver Island (they also have an online shop with great whale-related gifts, and free shipping in Canada!).
4 | Give the gift of experience
There is only one type of gift that is guaranteed not to collect dust or end up in the trash, and that is the gift of experience! Quality time, especially when experiencing something new and unique together, can foster deeper connections with our loved ones that will last well beyond the holiday season.
All it takes is a little creativity. Think about an activity that might be fun and challenging to try together, like sea kayaking or horseback riding. Maybe an experience where you can learn about a different culture or learn a new skill, like an Indigenous-led cedar weaving workshop or dance performance. Prefer something more relaxing? Consider a gift card to a local restaurant, or a night at a unique local hotel.
For those seeking a multi-day trip with family or friends, we combine these great activities into immersive tours on North Vancouver Island, the Cariboo Chilcotin, Sunshine Coast, and the Yukon Territory. We can create a private, custom tour tailored to your unique interests and budget. Memories to last a lifetime – guaranteed!
Have more ideas on how to be sustainable over the holidays? Let us know, we’d love to share.
This blog was originally published in December 2021 and has been updated with new content.
Photo #1 credit: Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre/Blake Jorgensen