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Don't make the holidays your season of waste

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Blaine Kyllo
For bchydro.com


Paper and packaging, ribbons and bows;
Bright coloured lights that are hanging in rows;
Singing and laughing and eating like kings;
These are a few of my favourite things.

I love the holiday season, and have fond and vivid memories from years gone by: Snuggling up by the fireplace and watching The Sound of Music with my family; playing road hockey in the crisp winter air with neighbourhood friends.

But some things I recall make me cringe a bit: Sitting on the floor surrounded not by gifts, but by wrapping paper; plugging in the outdoor lights that decorated our house at dusk and turning them off the next morning before going to school.

It's easy to get distracted by all the activity during the holidays, and forget to keep tabs on our sustainability behaviour. But that's the perfect time to make some positive changes, and have a big impact on the environment, and even your monthly bills.

Follow these links for suggestions on how you can reduce your holiday waste.

Keeping warm

With a home full of warm bodies, you'll be able to turn down the thermostat a notch or two. That's always good advice, but in the winter, when there is greater demand for heating energy, it's even more important to resist the urge to turn on the heat.

If you're chilly, wear slippers and sweaters to take the edge off. Using an efficient fireplace is also a good way to warm up the area you're in without needing to heat the entire house.

Of course, if you're going to be away from the house, on an adventure in winter wonderland, for example, make sure to turn the thermostat down and the lights off. And stay warm out there.

Let it glow, let it glow, let it glow

One of the nicest traditions of the holidays is the arrival of bright and lively decorations. A little green consideration here can go a long way.

If you haven't already, switch out your holiday lights with strings of LED bulbs. They will last longer, they use considerable less electricity, and they don't heat up, so won't pose a potential fire hazard.

LED lights are also perfect for use decorating the inside of your home, too. And there are now a greater variety and options of colours and configurations than ever before.

Make sure that you're turning off those lights before you go to bed, though. The skunks and racoons who are roaming the neighbourhood at night won't appreciate them anyway.

Tall trees

Trees are a familiar and traditional component of the holiday season. Deciding whether to opt for real or artificial can be tricky, especially when considering the materials that go into making the artificial trees.

But there are other options. Carbonsync and Evergrow are two companies in the Lower Mainland that rent living evergreens that are in pots. They'll deliver your tree to your home, and will pick it up in the new year. The companies take care of the trees during the off-season, and plant them when they grow too big for the pots.

Those of you who are into DIY projects could consider constructing your own recycled Christmas tree. The one shown here was found in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal, and was created out of used plastic bottles. Other trees have been made from recycled paper, aluminium cans, beer bottles and even used circuit boards from old computers.

For the feast

One of the best ways for families to spend time together is in the kitchen, preparing the food that can later be enjoyed together.

We have a number of tips on cooking a holiday feast and recipes.

It's possible, by using pressure cookers and microwaves when it make sense to do so, to cook efficiently.

Make sure you're only running the dishwasher when it is fully loaded, too. If you're short a couple of desert forks, you're better off handwashing them.

The spirit of giving

We all love to give during the holiday season, but rather than cocooning those gifts in reams of wrapping paper, try using newspaper – the comic pages are always a good idea – or reusable bags.

It's also a good idea to choose presents that are free from, or use minimal, packaging whenever possible.

Of course, any paper and plastic that you collect should be recycled.

You can also endeavour to select green gifts. Bicycles, certificates for services and charitable donations are great alternatives to consider.

If you're considering technology and gadgets for this year's wish lists, we'll soon post online our annual gift suggestions that may suit you and yours, from home entertainment to home office, from power management to mobile gadgetry.

Back in my time, toys for children were almost always made of plastic; they are still polluting the landfill. That's no longer the case. A number of companies produce excellent wooden toys. Melissa & Doug, and Plan Toys are only two options.

If your family is getting a big ticket electronic item this holiday season, like a new television, be sure to get an model that has been rated as Energy Star. And be sure to properly dispose of your old screen.

Why not a winter getaway?

When the temperature outside has dropped below zero, it's nice to consider spending some time on a tropical beach. But rather than hopping on a flight, why not consider a getaway closer to home? It'll save you money, travel time and reduces your impact on the environment.

Besides, as Canadians, we know how to have fun in the snow. And a ski or spa holiday close to home is a perfect way to recharge.

Be Power Smart

Whatever the season may have in store for you and your family, be Power Smart. We hope you have a safe, happy and fulfilling holiday.

Blaine Kyllo is a North Vancouver-based freelance writer and regular contributor to bchydro.com.