Celebrating the Holidays in the Spirit of Laudato Si’

As we enter this holy time of preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ, we undoubtedly get caught up in the nuances of the holiday season. From decorating our homes to finding the perfect gift for loved ones, the Christmas season is often associated with excess and overindulgence, making it difficult to follow the Laudato Si’ commitment to live sustainably.

To help make the most wonderful time of year more environmentally friendly, SSND Shalom has gathered a list of ways to enjoy the Christmas season while minimizing our impact on the planet.

Gift giving

The desire to shower loved ones with gifts often instigates the purchase of unnecessary items. Plus, producing and shipping all these gifts has a big environmental impact. Fortunately, there are several eco-friendly choices when it comes to gift giving.

  • Gift an experience
  • Buy second-hand or gently used items
  • Draw names instead of buying gifts for everyone
  • Choose battery-free gifts
  • Commit to buying just one gift for each person on your list
  • Break the gift-giving mold and treat quality time with loved ones as the ultimate gift instead

More resources from the SSND Shalom newsletter: When considering a purchase, it is helpful to reflect upon such questions as: are the rights of workers upheld concerning fair wages, safe working conditions, the right to organize, etc.? Does the product or its manufacture adversely affect the environment? Consider purchasing from companies (like SERRV and Ten Thousand Villages) that certify their products as fair trade or are transparent about their supply chain (where and how products are produced). Further your reflection on this topic by reading this article on Fast Fashion.

Holiday meals

When it comes to holiday waste, unfortunately large meals contribute to the surplus. Here are some tips to make your Christmas meals healthier for our planet.

  • Make vegetables and side dishes the star of the show. Meat production has a large carbon footprint.
  • Plan ahead and think realistically in terms of how much food you really need in order to reduce leftovers and food waste
  • Put leftovers in reusable plastic or glass containers instead of covering with plastic wrap
  • Use real plates and silverware instead of disposable products
  • Purchase local food and produce when possible

More resources from the SSND Shalom newsletter: Reducing greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere is key to reducing the impact of climate change. Did you know that reducing the amount of meat that you consume in your diet is one of the most effective ways to contribute to the reduction of heat trapping greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere? Watch this video to learn moreConsider these options to limit food waste and minimize food loss.

Wrapping paper

Did you know not all wrapping paper can be recycled? While there are eco-friendly options out there, why not reduce packaging waste with some of these alternatives:

  • Repurpose paper grocery bags (bonus: bust out the markers or paint to personalize and decorate your package)
  • Turn a towel or scarf into a beautiful covering that doubles as a gift
  • Clean an empty glass jar and add a tie of twine and evergreen branch to house smaller gifts
  • Break from tradition and don’t wrap your gifts! Simply add a small gift tag.
  • Turn last year’s holiday cards into decorations for this year’s packages by cutting out holiday greetings and phrases from old cards and attaching them to gifts (either as a gift tag or for decorating your paper grocery bags)

This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it encourages others to make eco-friendly choices this holiday season. Even small changes add up in a big way!

Here are some examples of how School Sisters of Notre Dame are enjoying an environmentally-friendly Christmas season:

Sister Celeste in
Waterdown, Ontario

At our house, we are keeping it simple. The hardest part is the outdoor lights as all homes are so well lit up, but the lights are not necessarily climate change friendly. We will use plants to decorate indoors. Homemade baking for the few who will receive gifts. All this leaves more time for comfortable evenings.

Sister Barbara in
Francis, Wisconsin

I make homemade gifts and collect old tree lights and extension cords from family, friends and neighbors for recycling through my church.

Sister Frances in
Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria

We make efforts to use natural items for wreaths and other decorations for Advent and Christmas. We also reuse a lot, especially with tissue paper and old wrapping sheets.

Theresa House community celebrates Christmas

The Theresa House community in Sunyani, Ghana, in hopeful waiting for Christ’s coming, prepare spiritually and physically to receive Christ. Sisters and colleagues have organized a clean-up exercise in and around the community to keep the environment clean and to facilitate proper growth for plants. This has become the community's annual preparation and love for themselves and their environment.

Sisters Emelia Ayambire (second from left) and Helen Galadima (far right) perform yardwork alongside colleagues Patricia and Erskine at the Theresa House in Sunyani, Ghana.