Holidays are loaded with entertaining festivals and fun celebrations with friends and family… drinking, eating, dressing for the occasion, decorating, games, and many more fun activities! Holidays can also be an incredibly wasteful time due to the gathering of people and the expectations of entertainment and party preparation. Waste at gatherings (even small ones), can be caused by an over preparation of food, the purchase of single-use water bottles, using drink containers like red solo cups, and cheap plastic decorations sure to hit the nearest trash bin post celebration.

There are many alternatives to make holidays more sustainable and low waste that also happen to be less expensive as well. The biggest holiday DON’T for anyone seeking low waste ways to celebrate an occasion, are all the knick-knacks and cheap celebratory items found in seasonal isles at dollar stores. Not only are these items wasteful, but they are not made of quality materials, they break easily, and they are a pain to store for a once a year festivity. If you’re looking to make your holiday celebration less wasteful, ignore these items such as noise makers, plastic hats and glasses, little bobble-y flags, and foil banners. Even though they might look fun while you’re browsing the isles, all of it is single use and needs to go!  

To make your holiday just as fun, and not to mention maybe giving it more of a thoughtful appearance, I’m going to share some ideas on how you can celebrate Canada Day and other holidays without the unnecessary waste. 


Decorating is of course what makes your space and yourself themed to the holiday you are celebrating. You can get as creative as you like, and can easily get the kids involved too. A great way to decorate your space is by painting your windows with water-based washable paint. Afterwards, this decoration can be easily uninstalled by cleaning the window. Strips of coloured fabric can also turn into many avenues of decoration, braided and turned into hair pieces, bracelets, cup identifying ties, or even homemade garlands. This time of year, fabric stores typically carry themed fabrics such as Canadian flag printed cotton. Old t-shirts also work great and do not fray!

Tin can wind sock example and tutorial. Make it more low waste by using fabric or old t-shirts instead of ribbon. Theme the colours to whatever you are celebrating!

Reusing and upcycling materials gives homemade creations and decorations so much potential, as well as making projects less expensive and helping to lighten the load on recycling facilities. Canada-themed crafts can also help decorate and set the tone of a backyard. Consider upcycling tin cans, bottles, or toilet paper rolls and making chime-like flags (also known as wind socks) that can be used year after year (the cans more so than the other two materials). Paint the cans with red & white, maple leaves, or collage magazines, and hang strips of fabric from the open end. They can then be hung outdoors to blow in the wind. Streamer wands are also fun for kids and can be created by painting a stick and attaching strings or strips of fabric from old t-shirts to one end. 


Hold a picnic in your yard for you, your family, and/or close friends you trust to have been physical distancing properly. An at home picnic successfully eliminates single use plates, cups, and cutlery, and makes it easy to use regular kitchen dishes. Food can also be prepared at home, avoiding take out waste. A picnic can easily be transformed into a portable sundae bar, with red and white toppings too. 

My favourite zero waste snack option is popcorn, a great choice for a yard picnic. Get creative with popcorn toppings, including melted chocolate or a savoury herb spice mix. 


Why not turn your picnic into a pancake breakfast to celebrate that Canadian spirit! Community pancake breakfasts are something I remember doing every Canada Day as a kid, and they can be just as memorable in your own yard with your own dishes and pancake mix! This is my absolute favourite pancake recipe by Cookie and Kate. This recipe is moist, delicious, and also happens to be vegan. 

At future holiday celebrations where physical and social distancing are not in effect, make sure you bring along a reusable plate and cutlery set with you to a pancake breakfast event to avoid the waste!


Hanging out and enjoying a few beverages during a holiday might be part of your celebratory routine. Backyard drinks can also be enjoyed low waste by sourcing your drink choices locally, supporting local breweries for example. Buying local means less travelling for the products, emitting less carbon emissions. It also means smaller batches, local ingredients, and supporting your local economy!

Local companies also often have other sustainable opportunities available, such as refill systems or container drop offs. The Cold Garden Brewing Company in Calgary is an example of a company selling beer in take-away growers with home delivery and on-site bottle sanitation for growler refills. Village Brewery in another Calgarian company using more sustainable packaging methods. Their beverages are packed in recyclable boxes or available in 4-packs held together with black caps instead of drink rings, made from 100% post-consumer waste plastic. They use this method of packing as an alternative to plastic can rings which are non-recyclable and incredibly detrimental to wildlife. These black caps are both recyclable and reusable if returned to them. 


Another great way to spend a holiday is by getting away from your day-to-day space and seeking out a new trail, lake, or nature area. Exploring is one of the best ways to be low waste, as long as we are considerate of the natural space and wildlife inhabitants, keeping to the path, storing food and garbage safely with us, and packing out what we pack in. 

Another way to celebrate a holiday is by sourcing native plants or seedlings and planting them in a natural space in your local community, perhaps an area in need of rehabilitation. Always make sure the plants or trees chosen are native to the area you are planting.  


Virtual experiences are especially prevalent this year, but they also embrace zero waste and can be enjoyed from anywhere. Why not host a virtual wine & board game or trivia event for a few friends, using online game platforms or using a board game in front of one player, controlling cards etc. This works extremely well especially if multiple players own the board game itself. Try this with some Canadian trivia, Settler’s of Catan, Scattergories, the Pandemic series, Cranium, and online versions of Cards against Humanity.

For Canada Day, there are also many virtual concerts and activities being put on by organizations all across the nation. Here are a few highlights to note that are available wherever you are, allowing you to tune in to other parts of the country. Just keep in mind the local time zone.

Small Stage is a non-profit, charitable dance production + creation company based in Vancouver, performing at very small and unconventional venues.  Their On Robson project is putting on a virtual show between 8am-12pm for Canada Day, supporting dance and music artists representing a variety of diverse cultures.

Across the country through Canada Heritage, specific cities are holding virtual events, and you can find the one you want to watch at this government link. Niagara Falls has a virtual concert planned and even has prize draws you can enter by participating on social media. Victoria BC also has a diverse musical line up featuring Canadian artists, performing at 7pm PST. And in Calgary, the music starts at 5pm and Paul Brandt will even hit the stage.

This year, getting creative with the ways we celebrate is something we’ll have to get used to. Being mindful of the waste we create is a good way to start, especially because it can be done more easily from your home, and with physical distancing, at home celebrations will be all the rage! Create less waste and enjoy the day just as much by upcycling, supporting local, and enjoying homemade food.

Happy Canada Day!

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