The December holidays have become an iconic time for many cultures, as well as religious and spiritual groups, where we attempt to be our most generous. For many of us, this has come to mean buying as much as we can afford (and too often, more than we can afford), and giving material items to the people we care about. Overwhelmingly, the trend is accumulating more for less; looking to cheaper products so that we can purchase a higher quantity. This issue with this is that inexpensive holiday gifts are often wrapped in plastic, imported from overseas, and manufactured under circumstances that most of us wouldn’t morally agree with. On the surface, we work to appease the holiday norms, but what we don’t see is the adverse effects of the products we buy on earth and our fellow humanity.

Surfrider Pacific Rim works to protect the ocean, beaches and waves of the central west coast of Vancouver Island, and a lot of our efforts focus on working with youth, businesses and the public to Rise Above Plastics and adopt more ocean friendly behaviours. The holidays are an excellent time for everyone to practice environmental protection, ironically, it is this time that we often fail to do so. According to the Recycling Council of B.C., British Columbians can produce up to three times as much landfill material during Christmas as they would in a normal week. Each one of us can change this outrageous statistic, and challenge the reality of the holidays being “wasteful” through our actions and consumer behaviours.

So, what does Surfrider suggest for an environmentally responsible holiday? What creates the deepest impact on us is not the material items that we collect, but the adventures that take us on a journey, which have the potential to transform our perspectives and way of being. So, give a gift that is experiential, take a visiting or resident family member/friend on a west coast expedition! This could be a guided tour, hike and picnic along with of the many incredible pathways, SUPing at sunset, or attending a foodie event at one of our local restaurants. When we explore the details of our surroundings, we feel more connected to them, they become part of our identity here on earth – and this naturally provokes us to care about these places, and want to protect them.

Another fun alternative is a karmic gift, which you can do by signing someone up to an organization or cause, or donating on their behalf. For instance, buying a tree in someone’s name for an organization like One Tree Planted. Increasing forest cover works to mitigate climate change and protect the ocean from warming and acidification! You can also give a donation or purchase a membership to any of the amazing nonprofits operating in the Pacific Rim in your pal’s name.

If you’re out of options, or you notice your sneaky friend who means well but buys coffee in to go mugs, uses plastic straws, and/or takeaway containers – you can give the gift of reusable ware! You can purchase a non-synthetic reusable bag, ceramic mugs, stainless steel water bottle, as well as bamboo or organic cotton clothing which do not release microfibres when washed. We suggest these items which are ethically made and can be bought in town: Swell Water Bottles from Green Soul and Epic Pharmacy, Native Origins for coffee mugs from Jamie’s Whaling Station, local and Canadian made artisanal gifts from Merge, glass straws from Ocean Village, and bamboo clothing from Habit. The holidays are a great opportunity to support your local economy, from food for gatherings to meaningful gifts. This strengthens our community, and lowers our plastic and carbon footprints!

What about all of the extras that we buy during the holidays? A mischievous material is gift wrap – a lot of it can’t be recycled and is often used once then disposed of. A fun community solution to this is Surfrider’s Stitch N Beach meet up, where the organizer Kelby Holmes is going to be teaching people how to do Japanese cloth wrapping out of scrap fabric, called furoshiki! At Stitch N Beach we will also be making aprons, bags, stockings, decorations and alternatives to plastic products! This gathering will be happening in Ucluelet at Zoe’s Bakery and Cafe from 5:30PM – 8:30PM, yummy snacks will be provided! The Tofino event will be held at Darwin’s Cafe from 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM, the winter lights will be up and the mulled wine will ready for you to sip back while you craft!

Our environment takes care of us 24/7, and it’s our responsibility to reciprocate this – not disregard it during times of the year that carry the intention to be good willed. Challenge yourself and your loved ones to have an ocean friendly holiday by following the suggestions above, and coming up with your own unique ideas that can become beloved traditions for years to come!