Ringing in 2018 a little lighter: How reducing my impact kept me in the black

Festive lights (Photo by Jonathan McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons)

Festive lights (Photo by Jonathan McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons)

January 5, 2018 | by Raechel Bonomo

The holidays have come and gone, but there’s one thing that tends to stick around with the glitter: debt.

In the past, I would rack up my credit card bill, year after year, causing a mini heart attack each time I looked at my bank account. But this year was different.

Each November, I sit down to make a list of ideal gifts to give my friends and loved ones. In order to keep my wallet in check, I designate a monetary limit to each gift. This limit always turned out to be flexible, since I would often exceed it to purchase the “perfect” gift for that special someone on my list.

It wasn’t until I decided to reduce my ecological footprint this past holiday that I was able to stay in the black, while doing nature a favour.

The holidays are not only an expensive time of year, they’re riddled with consumerism and excess, including food, paper and other material waste. While I’m all for holiday feasts and gift-giving with family and friends, I couldn’t help but think about what was being thrown away, or what presents were left in the boxes or with tags still attached, months after they were opened.

Mushroom Wellington is a great alterative for both vegans and meat-lovers. (Photo by NCC)

Mushroom Wellington is a great alterative for both vegans and meat-lovers. (Photo by NCC)

This holiday season, instead of writing out a list of gifts, I wrote a list of ways that I could be less wasteful. This included simple steps such as coordinating food at holiday potlucks to make sure there was a sufficient amount without overcompensating. Any leftovers were saved, instead of being thrown out, and each guest left with a small container of food to take home.

Anything I made for festivities was mostly created with locally sourced ingredients and prepared using a minimal amount of waste. For example, I made mushroom Wellington (great for vegans and meat lovers alike), and instead of throwing away the leftover pastry, I used it to make mini apple turnovers for dessert. Reducing your impact requires a bit of creativity and effort, but it’s well worth it in the end.

As for presents, I skipped the mall and opted for online trading and selling sites to acquire brand-new gifts. The amount of brand-new, in-the-box or with-tags-on items available through sites such as Bunz and Varagesale is incredible.

The majority of my presents were from Bunz, a community-based trading site that involves members trading goods or services for another. In many cases, I was trading items I no longer wanted or needed for new, giftable items. Since there’s an abundance of great items available for trading, I didn’t have to compromise on the quality of the gift. Instead, I was finding things I would have purchased for someone in store, and acquired them at a fraction of the cost. Not only did this reduce my impact by recycling materials, as opposed to buying new from the store, but there’s no additional cost to me (other than the initial purchase price of the traded item). I was finally able to stick to a budget while reducing my impact.

Tree decorated with garland and ornaments made from recycled paper (Photo by NCC)

Tree decorated with garland and ornaments made from recycled paper (Photo by NCC)

Gift wrapping and cards were made from recycled paper ― a tradition I held onto from past Christmases. Keeping the recycling theme going, I decorated my office cubicle with handmade decorations from recycled file folders and paper, both of which couldn’t be used for their intended purposes anymore. It was fun making paper snowflake ornaments and paper chain garland for my department’s tree, and I even got a coworker involved by asking him to create the star, also made from recycled material.

Being mindful of my impact, both environmentally and economically, helped foster a healthy holiday filled with great experiences with friends and family. It's now a tradition I plan to stick with.

Raechel Bonomo (Photo by Chase Wastesicoot)

About the Author

Raechel Bonomo Raechel s’est jointe à l’équipe de Conservation de la nature Canada en juillet 2015.

Read more about Raechel Bonomo.

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