Bringing the intangible into a sustainable Christmas

In my culture, I celebrate Christmas. As an adult, Christmas is more about family, friends, and community. However, over the decades Christmas has become associated with high consumerism: buying tangible gifts. According to Wikipedia, “Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.” This unsustainable model is one that we have the ability to control and change. 

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, household waste increases by 25 per cent. In the US, that amounts to an extra 100 million tons of trash making its way to landfills each week! Canadian consumer patterns aren’t that different; it’s an absolutely shocking amount of waste. This waste affects our environment, our health, and our world’s future.  

Instead of buying a physical gift, you can gift someone with shoveling snow for a month. | Pixabay

A great related article this month in RCP by Sarah Dotimas is about being a conscious consumer. Dotimas provides some great suggestions for this practice. In one of her examples, she talks about alternatives to using plastic straws. If a transition to glass or metal straws is of interest to you, one local option is to look up Edmonton’s Diana Glassworks on Etsy: In addition, Ten Thousand Villages not only provides the opportunity to buy ethically-sourced beautiful gifts, but also developed an A-Z list of ideas for a more sustainable Christmas ( that incorporates numerous intangible ideas. It is a great read.

I choose an intangible and sustainable approach to the holiday season. Sometimes giving an experience means more than giving a tangible gift. You can be creative, with the gift being a potluck, shoveling someone’s walk for a month, a concert, babysitting children, and so on. In chatting with locals this past month, one innovative gift idea is to recommend (free) or purchase a sustainability app from Google Play or the app store of your choice. There are numerous apps on reducing food waste, recycling, and other topics to live more sustainably. Many are free and those for purchase are usually less than $5. Nice!

Consider gifting an experience, like going to a concert. | Pixabay

A few years ago, a friend leaving Alberta gifted us a large nativity scene that we set up on 95A Street between 112 and 113 Avenues. Since then, we have made it a bit of a neighbourhood event to put them up together. This year, we are hosting a potluck and nativity set-up party in late November. It is a way to enjoy the outdoors, celebrate with neighbours, and chat about what is going on in Norwood. Instead of gifts, we bring food and catch up with one another, sharing and laughing. Making this an annual event builds community and contributes to waste-free celebrations. 

I want to take a minute to thank the two people who sent suggestions for articles and wish you all a festive December.

Featured Image: For the past few years, Norwood residents gather together to put up a large nativity scene, and, as a result, spend time with one another. | Supplied