Photo: Five tips for a happy, healthy and green holiday season

Give the gift of something homemade, like this granola in a reusable jar with a homemade paper gift tag!

Every holiday season I receive a sack full of requests from Canadians on how to celebrate a more environmentally friendly Christmas. Here are this year's tips on how to stay green, long after the snow flies. (Of course last year's tips still stand.)

Tip 1: Skip the mall madness.

Choose a gift-giving theme for family and friends that steers clear of the holiday madness of malls and get out into your community. Homemade, locally made, or fair trade gifts can provide more personality under your Christmas tree. Or better yet, give something without any wrapping at all, with gifts of special experiences or support for a favorite charity.

The David Suzuki Foundation's on-line catalogue has something for even the pickiest eco-warrior. From e-cards that support conservation campaigns to eco-friendly products, like a pair of organic cotton hankies.


Tip 2: Leave tiny footprints in the snow...

Reduce your gift-giving footprint by using less wrapping, boxes and packaging. Most of us have reusable containers and bags already lying around the house. For things that cannot be easily recycled, check with retailers, manufacturers or your local recycling agency about take back programs for packaging (like the London Drugs Green Deal program to collect and recycle non-blue bin friendly Styrofoam), e-waste, or batteries from kids' toys.

Tip 3: Give natural beauty.

The ladies in the house can usually count on receiving some bath and body products over the holiday season. Make sure your gifts are free of toxic chemicals by downloading our Sustainable Shopper's Guide of potentially harmful Dirty Dozen ingredients. If 12 are too many to remember, a good start is to avoid fragrance or parfum. (That was the most commonly occurring chemical ingredient in our recent survey.)

Tip 4: Take a pass on ye ol' shrimp ring!

Cross that hosting standby, the shrimp ring appetizer, off your holiday menu and replace it with tasty, sustainable crab cakes instead. Unfortunately, farmed shrimp has a large environmental impact. Choose more sustainable options with the help of Canada's Seafood Guide.

Tip 5: Feast on fresh or frozen.

Enjoy a holiday feast that's free of BPA - that pesky hormone disrupting chemical — by making your own cranberry sauce from fresh or frozen berries. BPA (Bisphenol A) is used in the epoxy resin of canned goods; it becomes hazardous to our health because it migrates out of tin cans and into our food.

What new traditions have you embraced to green up the holiday season?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

November 23, 2010

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Dec 16, 2010
7:50 PM

A Postscript: one son wants a food scale for Christmas (for food, yes, but also for weighing bio-char soil mixes.) New ones are all digital, top out at 5 pounds. But in the consignment store …vintage, mechanical, tops out at 24 pounds, 1/3 the price of new one. No carbon footprint whatsoever. Score!!!!!

Dec 01, 2010
5:38 PM

I usually try to bake my own Christmas cookies, gingerbread cookies and other miscellaneous baking. It’s easier to slip in some organic or locally-grown ingredients, and the warmth from the oven helps to heat the house.

D’habitude, j’essaie de faire mes propres biscuits de Noël, bonhommes d’épices, etc. Comme cà, c’est plus facile à y incorporer des ingrédients organiques ou des produits de près de chez nous, et la chaleur du four contribue à réchauffer la maison.

Dec 01, 2010
12:52 PM

I try to recycle as much as I can, I turn potato chip bags etc. inside out, wash them, then you have a shiney bag to put a present into, tie it with a string or one of those elastic bands they put on celery. Merry Green Christmas everyone.

Dec 01, 2010
11:27 AM

We are big on “green” at Christmas for family/friends its always an exchange of a gift basket. I taught myself to knit and make homemade soap in the last few years specifically for Christmas. This year our children are getting too old (according to them NOT me) for the whole “Santa scene” so I decided we were going to build them each a loft bed with desk and bookshelf as their big gift. They are really excited for it!!

Dec 01, 2010
10:44 AM

We are having a Vintage christmas this year, everything is used or is from nature. Also I use a trick my grandmother used to use and that’s using last years Christmas cards as gift tags for this year, some cards make several tags.

Dec 01, 2010
10:03 AM

A few years ago my wife created cards that are meant to be reused each Christmas, passing them back and forth, year after year, adding a new message on the inside of the card or not…

This year I’d like nothing for Xmas! Try explaining that to people, that nothing is something! Plus so many people feel so obligated/pressured to get something. It’s tough to get them out of that mindset even if asked to get nothing for someone.

Nov 24, 2010
3:15 PM

Hi Rose,

Unfortunately, Linsday’s Queen of Green blog is only available in English because she’s not bilingual, and we don’t have anyone on staff available to translate all of the content we produce (there’s a lot that we can’t offer in French yet, unfortunately — we’re working on it!).

You can, however, sign up for the French newsletter, Défi nature, at or join the Fondation David Suzuki Facebook fan page at for updates in French.

Hope that helps!

~Jenny @ DSF~

Nov 24, 2010
9:06 AM

I receive presently ” Queen of Green” in english, could i receive it in french; more easy for me and i could pass it to my french friends

Thank you, Rose

Nov 23, 2010
8:21 PM

25 years ago I made a variety of fabric gift bags. We still use them. Newsprint roll-ends, butcher wrap and kraft paper fill in the gaps.

Decorate from the garden: rose hips, evergreen boughs, pine cones, red-twig dogwood. Plant dusty miller, lamb’s ears. Plant Rosa Glauca for it’s glorious December hips. Plant deeply-scented roses, and dry the petals in June. Open in December—summer in a jar!

Use real, fabric ribbon for gifts. Tell recipients to return to you or “pay it forward”. Real ribbon can be washed, ironed and re-used for years.

Shop vintage first: quality is much better, at a superb price. Silver, china, glass ware, Christmas ornaments, collectibles, specialty baking sheets, fine linens, furniture. A good consignment/charity shop is a gold mine! Last year, I found 8 pure linen dinner napkins that were flawless, for $50. They were monogrammed with an “A”. The initial of my great-grandmother’s maiden name. Excellent—an heirloom! My husband found STERLING silver candlesticks for me at cheapy “plate” prices! Call it ‘antique’, and hold your head up high!

Really listen and give only what your loved ones really need or want. This is not about you!

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! This is a feast!

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