You may be wondering whether online shopping is the best way to keep CO2 emissions low. (AP Photo – file)

Going Green: A low emissions Christmas

‘Create memories, not garbage’

Each year, the bells start jingling a little earlier than the year before.

Thanksgiving’s turkey hasn’t hit our tummies before we’re urged to decorate for Xmas and – perhaps more importantly from the retailers’ perspective – get a move-on buying the many love-tokens we’re expected to cough up during the Season of Giving. Or, should I say, the Season of Buying.

In defence of pre-season prep, though, the year my son was born, I had my Christmas tasks tied up in a bow (as it were) well before his late November arrival, knowing how little time I’d have once he was on the scene.

That Christmas turned out to be the most relaxing in history – my history, that is. I vowed I’d make it a tradition so I could spend December frolicking with friends and family rather than dragging through the stores with similarly desperate seasonal zombies searching for inspiration and the perfect gift.

READ ALSO: Valuing our natural assets.

Have I ever achieved this goal? Ha, ha – no. Not until this year.

In late October, I returned from Vancouver’s Zero Waste conference agog with the possibilities of a new circular economy that generates less trash. Could I ‘do’ Christmas in a way that shows I care both for my friends and family, and the climate?

So, resolve freshly reinforced by this new perspective, I started the annual Christmas build-up at the beginning of November.

My first stop was Metro Vancouver’s Christmas website, titled “Create memories, not garbage.” Here I found a super-nifty interactive app that lists experiences and things for every budget. The site also offers tips for low-waste wrap and decorations, ideas for gifts to make, and links to a wide range of stores with green shopping choices.

You may be wondering whether online shopping is the best way to keep CO2 emissions low. The answer is: it depends.

In a study done by MIT comparing online to in-store shopping (where the purchaser drives to the store), the clear winner was online shopping with regular delivery.

Rush delivery – not so much (once again, planning pays off).

But if you throw active transportation into the mix – if you walk, bike or take a bus or train to buy your baubles – then in-store purchases hammer the heck out of online for low-emissions shopping. Easier said than done out here in the burbs, of course, but our day is coming soon with the RapidBus starting up in the New Year… a belated Christmas present for us all.

Here’s a wild card to consider: would you imagine that educating girls in developing countries is an effective strategy for fighting climate change?

In fact, it’s ranked sixth out of the 100 most viable global climate solutions by Project Drawdown, a well-respected research organization (with a book and website well worth checking out).

So when Plan International’s catalogue of unique holiday gifts arrived at my house, offering some great ways to support girls around the globe (and here in Canada too), I glommed right on to it. Mind you, anything in that catalogue would make a world of difference.

Decorating for the holidays can mean putting up one artificial doodad after another. I turned to the trusty Green Drinks gang for inspiration and they did not disappoint. From rented living trees – that get returned and planted after gracing your home – to a slew of local craft fairs, the shared ideas and goodies were plentiful.

It reminded me that when my daughter was little, I used to decorate our tree with gingerbread men and popcorn-and-cranberry garlands (later donated to the birds). That all ended when we got a dog.

But I think I’m on to a secret source of fresh holly for the season.

Then there’s food. Traditional holiday fare features high on the list of seasonal must-haves. But one-fifth of global emissions are caused by raising and transporting the food we eat – largely meat, especially the type with hooves. Or as Project Drawdown puts it, if cattle were their own nation, they’d be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

With that startling fact in mind (and a firm focus on my greedy little meat-guzzling taste buds), I started searching for festive plant-based dishes. My online hunt revealed a ton of salads (I already know how to make a fine salad, thank you very much), but little else.

Finally, I tested a squash and pistachio roast from Jamie Oliver’s website. It’s substantial, complex and delicious.

So there it is. I’m now ready to cruise blissfully through the season right on schedule, low emissions accomplished.

Kirk Grayson is a digital strategy

consultant, communications chair for the Maple Ridge environmental advisory

committee and convenor of

Maple Meadows Green Drinks.

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