Many Canadians are instituting new Christmas traditions that have less environmental impact, according to a Waste Management survey conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Waste Management commissioned the survey to learn about Canadians’ holiday habits and encourage actions that will make the season greener. “Canadians typically produce, on average, 25% more trash in the month of December than in any other month,” says Wes Muir, Director of Corporate Communications, Waste Management. What’s more, all the garbage produced on Christmas day can actually interfere with the festivities, as one quarter of Canadians will spend at least an hour on Christmas day packing up trash.

The survey results reveal that many wasteful holiday traditions are not as essential to seasonal fun as might be expected. Instead, Canadians are finding new ways to cut down on waste while enjoying seasonal celebrations. The new set of seasonal standards seem to be: Re-Gift, Re-Design, Re-Wrap and Re-Plant.


Re-gifting may not be as taboo as once thought. One in ten (12%) adult Canadians say that they typically re-gift at least one of the gifts they receive at Christmas. In fact, one half (48%) of Canadians have re-gifted presents. All these re-gifters could be doing the environment a favour. “Finding another use for presents you don’t need is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Muir. “Re-gifting could prevent more items from ending up in a landfill.” The key to a successful re-gifting strategy is to remove any old tags or wrapping, add personal touches where possible, and most importantly, ensure the gift goes to someone who will enjoy it.


One in ten Canadians toss their Christmas cards ‘almost immediately’ after receiving them. Christmas letters are even less popular: one in five thinks the traditional family Christmas letter is ‘cheesy, annoying’ and they ‘wish people would stop sending them’. “Before you send out stacks of paper cards and letters, think about where they’ll end up,” cautions Muir. Computer software and online programs can make it easy to re-design favourite holiday greetings and images that can be sent electronically in lieu of paper cards. It seems many Canadians have already taken the hint, with 23% choosing to minimize their environmental impact by sending digital Christmas cards instead of paper cards or letters this year.


The image of pristine, ornately wrapped gifts piled high under the tree may be on its way out. “Wrapping paper can generate a large amount of waste very quickly,” warns Muir. Fortunately, many Canadians are taking a greener approach by re-using wrapping paper (14%), choosing re-useable bags (24%), giving gifts that don’t require wrapping (6%), or using another wrapping method (5%). While the majority (57%) of Canadians still wrap their Christmas gifts with traditional wrapping paper, 57% of those who use wrapping paper plan on recycling it. Muir advises, “If you are using traditional gift wrap, look for kinds made from recycled paper, re-use it as much as possible, and recycle it when it can no longer be used.”


75% of Canadians will have a tree this holiday. Among those who will have a real tree, 75% will recycle it through a local Christmas tree recycling program. Notes Muir, “Once recycled, trees can be turned into garden mulch, into erosion barriers along the beach, or used to create feeding grounds for lake fish. Even better is to buy a potted tree that can be re-planted in the spring, which will provide benefits to the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air.” To find more information on a local Christmas tree recycling program, contact your local municipal waste management or public works office.