Most of us no longer find any contradiction in hoping that snow will begin to fall — gently but steadily — on Christmas Eve, while simultaneously wishing with all our might for a “green” Christmas. That’s because while we love the holiday, we’re conscious that it can too easily engender over-consumption. Here are a few ways to keep the season fun, festive, and sustainable.
Recycled décor. Jim Connelly’s holiday décor looks high-end. But as master of disguise (Jim is co-owner, along with Peter de Sousa of Masterpieces Studio www.masterpiecesstudio.com, which offers custom painting and art, as well as bespoke furniture ) his fancy-pants pieces frequently start with bits and bobs he picks up at Goodwill or Value Village. Take, for example, his holiday table décor, made from old teacups and saucers spray-painted in seasonal colours and filled with greenery, ribbons and accents. If you’re feeling really generous (after all, they cost about $10 each to make) offer them us as party favours when your guests depart.
Scale back on holiday activities away from home. Instead of making your way in the car to an over-crowded, over-heated theatre, plan a long walk on a local trail before heading home for a family movie night. HMV www.hmv.ca has great options, including the 50th anniversary edition of West Side Story, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows collectible box and the complete collection of Home Alone. BTW, they also have a variety of tech toys that kids and grown-ups will love, such as a small but mighty iHome speaker — for just $20 — that connects to an iPhone, iPad or MP3 players and lets the user take music wherever — from the family room to the backyard to the cottage dock. For those times when you don’t want to hear your kid’s music, there are noise-cancelling headphones. Toxix headphones have extra-large speaker drivers, deliver smooth, undistorted highs, clear vocals and are comfy and compact. And at about $25, they’re very affordable. If you’ve got a Star Wars fan in the house, pick up a string of Yoda and R2D2 holiday lights ($20) or a Star Wars USB key ($20) just for fun.
It’s always nice to do holiday baking and cooking, but it’s just not everything you serve has to be made-from-scratch. So shop ahead and stock the freezer with good-quality prepared foods. Try M& M Meat Shops, www.mmmeatshops.com , where you’ll find everything from hors d’ouvres and dips to choice cuts of meat and fish to delish desserts. You can also buy fully prepared meals, including pot roast in gravy (perfect for the slow cooker) and a full Atlantic cod, topped with shredded potato, cheddar cheese and chives. To make things even easier, you can order online and pick up at your nearest store.
This time of year is about loving and giving. So remember that despite the hectic pace, the stress — and even the squabbles — you’re blessed with family and friends and a warm, safe place to live. In lots of places though, that’s just not the case. So think about sharing your good fortune by making a donation to your favourite charity. One that touches my heart is World Vision www.worldvision.ca/gifts, which partners with local communities in developing countries to improve lives. Make a donation of $30 and a family receives five fruit trees, enough to start on the road to self-sufficiency. Fifty dollars buys two hens and a rooster to help a family hatch a business.
Vicky Sanderson writes Hot Home Products, a widely-read weekly column on home improvement, décor and housewares that appears every Saturday in the Toronto Star. She also keeps readers up to date on new products through her blog, On the House, which can be found onwww.yourhome.ca. Having tried and tested just about every new home product, décor item and countertop appliance to hit the market in the last 10 years, Vicky is an expert on all things home-related. She frequently shares tips, tricks and trends on such media outlets as Canada AM, Breakfast Television, CHCH Morning Live, and CBC Radio. Follow her on Twitter @vickysanderson