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How to live more sustainably this holiday season

From DIY gifts to supporting local breweries, here are 20 sustainable holiday ideas
December 12, 2017
By Andy Murdoch and CUCCR

Inside the Concordia University Centre of Creative Reuse (CUCCR). Inside the Concordia University Centre of Creative Reuse (CUCCR).

In the midst of the holiday season – aka the most wasteful time of the year – it’s not unusual to feel some stress over how much we’re all collectively consuming.

But how do we get out from under the festive mountain of tinsel and plastic baubles?

Well, first you have to think differently about these materials we waste, says Pamela Tudge, an INDI PhD student who specializes in critical food studies and design.

"I am interested in the agency of the materials we waste, how they act in the world, and the different ways we can work with them to prevent waste in the long-term," she explains.

Specifically, Tudge studies food waste through the lens of critical design, a process that often employs speculative design proposals to challenge assumptions about the roles of unsustainable materials we use or wasteful practices we perform everyday.

Waste increases dramatically over the holidays

"Christmas is a time that we see waste increase in Canada dramatically, however by redesigning the way we do things, we can prevent this. The holidays can becomes an opportunity to practice everyday habits differently that can carry out for the whole new year ahead," she says.  

To help you cut down on holiday overconsumption, the Concordia University Centre of Creative Reuse (CUCCR), founded by fine arts faculty and students, has assembled two helpful lists.  

"What I like about these lists is that they cover a wide range of everyday activities at this time of year that are accessible in cost and time. These are easy ideas to incorporate into our lives now."

"Making gifts or even rethinking a holiday dinner are my particular favorites, as they encourage getting to know materials again – whether that is creatively using leftovers or making toys from scraps of fabric," says Tudge.

Have a great holiday and think of these lists as a starting point for great ideas to redesign the holiday season for less waste!

10 ways to stay sustainable

Looking for second hand gifts or reusing materials for gifts are sustainable ways to celebrate Looking for second hand gifts or reusing materials for gifts are fun and sustainable ways to celebrate

Here are ten things you can do these holidays to save money, be more creative, have more fun and stay sustainable!

  1. Make DIY gifts
  2. Wrap gifts with recycled or reusable materials like cloth, newspaper, scrap paper, packing paper, or calendar paper!
  3. Use dishes and silverware at parties instead of disposable cutlery and plates
  4. Support local breweries by getting your beer in a reusable growler
  5. Make your own cards out of reused materials
  6. Be conscious of your food waste, take smaller portions and creatively use all parts of your turkeys and roasts. Enjoy those leftovers!
  7. Avoid single use decorations or purchase compostable ornaments
  8. Gift experiences instead of objects
  9. Opt out of candies and chocolates with plastic wrapping by making your own sweets
  10. Put second first! When shopping, go to second-hand stores first before buying a brand-new gift

10 DIY Gift Ideas

Scrap fabric can be used to make great toys for kids Scrap fabric can be used to make great toys for kids

CUCCR recently hosted a holiday crafting session at The Hive Café. If you couldn’t make it to that skills-sharing workshop, they've offered ten hand-made gift ideas you can try on your own:

  1. Make hanging plant baskets from old t-shirts
  2. Use scrap wood to carve boardgames or Jenga pieces
  3. Sew plushie toys made from scrap fabrics
  4. Knit or crochet scarves out of t-shirt yarn
  5. Use scrap paper to make a one-sided journal
  6. Take an old binder and create a photo album
  7. Paint a picture on reused canvas
  8. Invent a jewellery or earring stand from reused materials
  9. Craft beanbag chairs using reused plastic bags
  10. Make a Do it your-shelf – a small Shelf made from recycled wood

Visit the the Concordia University Centre of Creative Reuse (CUCCR) for more information on sustainable living.  

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