Eco-friendly ideas for holidays from health unit

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While many people dream of a ‘white’ Christmas, painting the holidays a shade or two of green isn’t a bad colour scheme to add to the mix.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is promoting eco-friendly ideas to add to the holiday festivities this year. “Going green this holiday season is a great gift because we all benefit from a healthier planet,” said Sue Shikaze, a health promoter with the HKPR District Health Unit. “The reality is that climate change and pollution can – and are already starting to – affect human health.”

As examples, Shikaze points to climate change impacts like extreme heat, severe storms, flooding, wildfires, and the spread of new diseases like Lyme which are affecting local communities. “No one is immune to these problems, so taking action to reduce the effects of climate change is in our interests,” she noted. “Many people taking small eco-friendly actions together can make a world of difference.”

To add green to your holiday plans, the Health Unit provides these eco-friendly ideas:

  • Deck the halls differently. Avoid plastic decorations, and try making your own wreath, centrepiece and ornaments out of pine cones, gourds, or plants. Make it a family activity and cut out snowflakes from scrap paper to decorate your walls. If you’re not crafty, use eco-friendly items made from paper, wood, glass and recycled fabrics. Garlands made of popcorn, cinnamon sticks, fabric bows, gingerbread pieces, seasonal berries and fruit/vegetables can also be beautiful and fragrant. Even better, they can be composted after the holidays or put outside for birds to enjoy.
  • Light up the holidays by making a switch. If you haven’t done so, LED lights can be a great choice. While upfront costs are a bit higher, LED lights use less energy, last longer and will reduce your electricity bill over the long run.
  • Put a different wrap on things. Wrapping presents in traditional wrapping paper and foil wraps isn’t always ideal, especially if the paper/wrap cannot be recycled and will just end up in the trash. Instead, opt for colourful cloth or fabric bags – or even a tote – to wrap your presents. You can even be creative by wrapping with newspaper, comics, or posters that are recyclable. Personalize a present even more by wrapping it with scrap paper on which your kids have drawn or written on holiday pictures, themes or wishes.
  • Give the gift of green. Less can be more when it comes to presents. Take a pass on buying things that won’t last or will quickly be forgotten. Consider the social and environmental impact of a gift before you buy it. Shop locally, and whenever possible, avoid items that are plastic, disposable or poorly made. Instead, try making your own gifts or give an ‘experience’ rather than an item. A gym membership, theatre tickets, or night out to dinner and the movies are all things that create memories and won’t end up in the landfill. You can also buy into green by giving a smart thermostat as a gift – a device to regulate/monitor a home’s interior temperature with the goal of saving money and energy.
  • Serve up green with holiday meals. Avoid plastic plates and cutlery if hosting friends or family for a holiday meal. You’ll save valuable landfill space by using real dishes rather than the disposable kind.

Local residents can also resolve to be more eco-friendly into the New Year. “We all need to start thinking about ways we can better support a healthy planet in 2019 and beyond,” Shikaze added. “After all, what impacts the environment impacts us.”

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