A wreath I made in 2019 out of yarn, tree trimmings and dried citrus. (Corey Bullock file)

A wreath I made in 2019 out of yarn, tree trimmings and dried citrus. (Corey Bullock file)

Farm life: A sustainable holiday season

Ways I am trying to reduce waste throughout the holidays

The farm is looking very wet and drab these days. There is no snow to be found and the ground has yet to freeze. It has been gloomy outside and we’ve had far more rain than snow.

I’m sure the animals are fine with it. But I have to admit that things are feeling very “bah humbug” for us humans lately. The lack of snow, the fact that we won’t be seeing anyone over the holidays and the fact that the sun only shines while I am at work, is quite melancholy. Usually we would head to Kimberley and pop in to say hello to several different families. We would spend time ice fishing and skating with friends. We’d have a big dinner on the farm with family. We would watch holiday movies and admire the atmosphere at Fort Steele Heritage Town. Many traditions are not possible right now, making it a challenging end to a challenging year.

Luckily, we can still get outside. We can still go skating and ice fishing. We can still take the dogs for nice long walks. We can still bake cookies and delicious meals. We can still enjoy Christmas! Plus, there is snow and sunshine in the forecast.

Another thing that is giving me life is knowing that I am making but the smallest difference when it comes to the amount of waste I am creating over the holidays. I love gift giving and knowing that I have put thought and effort into each gift that I give.

Did you know that Canadians generate 545,000 tonnes of waste through gift wrapping and shopping bags every year? Household waste also increases by more than 25 per cent over the holiday season.

This year I really tried to put an effort towards the sustainability of my gift giving and decorating. I wanted to share some of those ideas with you, and a few others that I plan on trying in the years to come.

1. Use recyclable or alternative wrapping

I wrapped many of my gifts in newspaper or brown craft paper this year. For years my family has used brown craft paper and it’s quite darling. When I was a child, all of my the gifts from my Nana and Poppa came wrapped in this kind of paper.

Another idea is to use Furoshiki, a Japanese style of gift wrapping that uses traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. You can use any fabric for this technique – it doesn’t necessarily have to be Japanese wrapping cloth. For example, let’s say you bought your brother a t-shirt and book. Wrap the book in the t-shirt using this technique. A quick google search will show you how to do it.

2. Keep the bags, tissue paper and other items that you receive and re-use them next year

Over the years I have saved so many boxes that I get from others, such as boxes for clothing, mugs or jewelry. They get stored away in a bin in our shed. I also save gift bags to re-use, and I even go as far as saving tissue paper (thanks to my fellow Virgo aunt for this trick). I make sure that I fold the tissue paper up neatly so it can be used for birthday or Christmas presents down the road.

The only thing I purchased this year was the craft paper, which is recyclable, and tape. Everything else I had saved from previous years.

3. Make your decorations and use elements from nature

Every year I make my own dried citrus to use for holiday cocktails and decorations. I also keep some from previous years, like the garland I made that hangs in my kitchen window. Dried citrus is super easy and they are a lovely addition to your tree, to your wreathes or to your windows.

I also use trimmings from the Christmas tree and other foliage from trees on the farm to make my own decorations, like garland and wreathes.

Another easy, eco-friendly decoration is pine cones. They are all over the farm. You can most definitely find them while going for a hike or a walk around town. I collected a whole bag full and put them in the sink with water and vinegar (to ensure there were no bugs or mould). I then let them dry for a few days before using them as decorations in the tree and as a centrepiece.

I also plan on making some stockings for my dogs (yes, crazy Dog lady) out of old flannel shirts during my time off.

Last but not least, and I’ve said this before, shop local. Now, more than ever, our local shops need our support.

I know that these efforts are small, but if we all adopt a few of these techniques as traditions, we can make a difference over time. Right now we are being asked to work together to battle this pandemic, so why not work together to try and make the world a little greener over the holidays, too.