Every season is beautiful. Let’s celebrate them in a way that keeps them beautiful.
Embracing sustainable practices throughout the year is one of the best ways you can personally work towards protecting our planet, but it can be difficult to break old habits, especially when you don’t understand the alternatives.
Whether you’re trying to practice responsible disposal during spring cleaning, sustainable holiday gift-giving, or mindful event planning, each season presents unique challenges and opportunities for sustainable living. We’ve assembled some of our best tips, tricks, and reminders for staying green all year round.
Spring isn’t all Easter eggs and baby animals. The infamous spring cleaning is a time for casting out broken, unused, and unwanted items from all over your home.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We’re all for reducing clutter, but when you’ve rolled up your sleeves, just be sure you’re reaching for recycling bins and donation boxes as often as those garbage bags. Cloth, paper, metal, and some plastics can all be recycled. Books, toys, clothing, appliances, kitchen items, and furniture can be donated or sold to thrift shops and secondhand stores. Take a look at our recycling guide to learn what you can recycle.
Try to find biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaners. Rags are a great way to reuse old clothing and towels that can’t be donated and spare the environment the paper towel you might otherwise use to clean up.
Paper Easter egg boxes, egg cartons, and boxboard boxes (with the plastic window removed) can all go in your paper recycling. Plastic trays and packaging can be placed in your container recycling.
If you’re setting up Easter egg hunts this spring, be sure to map out where you’re placing your eggs, so you can retrieve any leftovers later and not leave them to be litter or picked up by animals. Or consider replacing them with a litter-less option like painted rocks which can be exchanged for candy or prizes.
Try to purchase paper instead of plastic if you’re using fake grass to decorate and consider packing it away to be reused rather than recycling it every year. If you’re looking for a more organic decoration option, fresh cut flowers or even potted flowers are excellent choices for indoor decorations.
Mom absolutely deserves a gift on Mother’s Day. But instead of reaching for those cellophane wrapped bouquets, buy a potted plant that can be placed in the garden later or kept indoors. It’ll last a lot longer and it’s a more sustainable choice.
Summer is the season of backyard BBQs, pool parties, beaches, and camping trips. If you’re planning summer parties, we recommend looking at our list of considerations for environmentally friendly party planning. Otherwise, here are some summer-specific tips for keeping things green.
Fires release a lot of toxins into the air, but they’re also a lot of fun. If you’re trying to do it as safely and responsibly as possible, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Use locally sourced woods. It minimizes the risk of introducing invasive species to a new environment.
- Avoid burning materials with colored ink, paint, or plastic.
- Don’t burn wood if it’s been pressure treated, is wet, rotten, or moldy.
- If you’re going to use a manufactured log, make sure it’s 100% compressed sawdust.
- If you’re buying firewood, buy sustainably sourced firewood. You can ask your supplier where the wood comes from.
- Don’t remove branches or twigs from trees. Natural deadwood is your best choice.
- Use kindling and a match to start the fire. If you must use an accelerant, only use lighter fluid.
We love a little patriotic spirit, just make sure you’re celebrating our country in a way that keeps the natural beauty it’s so famous for pristine. Clean up after any celebrations in public spaces and avoid one-use and non-recyclable decorations like balloons.
Skip the backyard fireworks display if you can. They release greenhouse gases as well as toxins and carcinogens into the water, air, and soil that are terrible for human and animal health. Even sparklers aren’t good for the planet, and they can’t be recycled. We recommend attending a public display if you need to get your firework fix in.
Thanksgiving and Halloween the crowning jewels of fall and a favourite for decorations- just be sure you’re buying as sustainably as possible.
Everyone loves autumnal décor for Thanksgiving. Fortunately, fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year and comes with lots of natural resources for decorating. Consider pine cones, dried leaves, and lots of gourds. Cook the gourds routinely and cycle in new ones or be sure to compost them appropriately.
Halloween costumes get boring if you’re wearing the same one year after year, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy new ones either. Take a look at second-hand stores for costume pieces, make your own costumes from recyclable materials, or swap costumes with a friend. The same goes for your Halloween decorations. Buy ones that will last year over year and use them again and again. If you get bored of the same ones, consider swapping them with someone else for a while or pay a visit to a second-hand store.
Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Hannukah, and many others… winter is a season for gift giving, celebration, and in some cases, heavy consumerism. There’s a responsible way to approach the season. If you’re planning holiday parties for friends and family or larger events, such as for your company and coworkers, we recommend reading our tips for sustainable party planning.
The holiday season is notorious for excessive use of lights. To cut down on energy costs and consumption, go for LED lights which use 75% less energy than incandescent ones. If you get a lot of sunlight, you can consider solar lights. Consider putting timers on your lights so they automatically turn on for only a few hours in the evening then turn off. You can also consider decorations like reindeer statues or ornaments that don’t use lights. When they stop working strings of lights can be recycled at depots that accept lightbulbs and fixtures.
If you’re putting up a Christmas tree, consider getting a potted one that you can plant later. Real (cut) trees can be disposed of at these locations:
- Foothills Boulevard Regional Landfill
- Quinn Street Regional Recycling Depot
- Vanway Regional Recycling Depot and Transfer Station
- Shelley Transfer Station
- Cummings Road Transfer Station
- Mackenzie Regional Transfer Station
- Valemount Regional Transfer Station
There’s a lot of gift-giving in the holiday season. Choose gifts that have staying power. Too many get sent to the landfill shortly after gifting. Purchase experiences like concert tickets or gift cards for restaurant. If you’re buying physical gifts, aim for usability and the quality necessary to last for years. Support local artisans when possible.
What you put your presents in is just as important as what they are for the planet. Consider recyclable or reusable gift wrapping. That means 100% paper and no foil, cellophane, or glitter. If you’re able to keep the wrapping afterwards (such as for gifts given to people in your own household), you can use gift bags and reusable gift boxes. This cuts down on gift wrapping costs and waste year over year. Try to avoid excessive use of tape. Avoid it altogether if possible.
Once you have received the gifts, make sure you deal with any packaging in an appropriate manner. Cards and envelopes can be recycled and so can toy boxes with any plastic windows removed.
Avoiding Food Waste
A lot of avoiding food waste at home comes down to practicing sustainable eating, but the basics are, try to buy low packaging, local ingredients where possible, compost and recycle when you can, and if you don’t plan to or can’t eat all of the food you make, make plans for it to be eaten later whether that means making space in your freezer or sending care packages home with your guests.
Just like on Canada Day, we love a fireworks show on New Year’s Eve as much as anyone else, but they release a lot of greenhouse gases and toxins. We recommend skipping the backyard fireworks display and attending a public show or watching them on TV if it’s too cold or snowy outside.
It’s not the biggest winter holiday, but it’s worth remembering that candy boxes, metal tins, greeting cards, and foil wrap from chocolate bars are all recyclable, and plastic net bags and candy wrappers can be taken to depots that recycle flexible plastics. Just try to avoid buying gifts in fabric boxes or wrapping presents in foil gift wrap because those cannot be recycled.
Use the recycling search feature to help find drop-off locations and recycling options for over 70 materials or products. Visit our Recycling page.