written by Monica Elena
‘Tis the season for countless holiday events. From corporate office parties with holiday-themed appetizers to festive holiday brunches with your friends to day-long family feasts with endless amounts of presents. We’re all either attending a holiday party or hosting one. Unfortunately, these holiday festivities can come with a lot of wasteful practices and can amount to a lot of unnecessary waste. So, how can we add little elements of sustainability and holistic practices that will wow your friends and family, all the while saving you a pretty penny in the long run? Don’t worry, I gotchu!
Shop local —The cycle starts with the shopping list. Before you fully commit to a holiday party menu, do a little research to see what’s currently in season in your area. If you live in B.C, Canada you can use this link to support your research. After you’ve established what you can buy locally and what you can’t, visit your local grocery store and don’t be afraid to ask the staff to help you out. Better yet, if you have a winter farmers’ market, grab a tote and purchase directly from the farmers! Make an experience out of it; meet the farmers, touch the produce, hear their stories, and ask how to prepare an item. Some of my best dishes have been inspired by the farmers themselves — as they’re knowledgeable and highly passionate about the fruits of their labour.
Cook with intention and mindfulness — This is a big topic I teach my clients in relation to cooking. Too often, we’re anxiously following recipes step by step and trying to perfect them, and this can lead to anxiousness and a disconnection in the kitchen and to your food. Use recipes as loose guidelines and instead engage in your innate senses and intuition. This will add another layer of mindfulness to the meals you prepare. Secondly, keep a large bowl beside you when cooking for larger parties. You can use these veggie scraps for your next batch of stock or broth.
Sip sustainably —What’s a party without festive drinks? This is your opportunity to support local breweries (kombucha included!), wineries, and distilleries. And if alcohol isn’t your thing, opt for mocktails using local ingredients. I was recently testing out mocktail recipes and I discovered such a simple and delicious one using Canadian Pine Pollen wild-harvested spruce tips and tonic water. The wonderful thing is that this cocktail-style beverage has zero need for alcohol, specifially gin, because the botanicals and light citrus flavours really pull through from the spruce tips, adding the right amount of zing! And as an added bonus, you can rest assured that you’re supporting a local business that’s committed to high-grade sustainable practices. Canadian Pine Pollen ensures minimal impact on the land and local ecosystem all the while operating a profit sharing structure which creates jobs in remote communities. In my opinion, more companies should be this dedicated to creating beautiful products all the while actively instilling eco-friendly practices and ensuring community engagement.
***Spruce and Tonic mocktail recipe below.***
Finding your holiday outfit —So you’ve prepared your entire party menu and now it’s time to get dressed before guests arrive. Your closet is full of clothing and yet you still have “no clothes”. We’ve all been there! Don’t fret, adding fun accessories that you likely have right in your closet for that “special occasion” can bring your outfit to life! Think sparkles and sequins and pops of red and maroon. For those still yearning for a new holiday outfit, opt for getting pieces from your local thrift store rather than a fast fashion company or online. And if thrifting isn’t your thing and you’re more into curated pre-loved pieces, try buying from local companies that specialize in vintage pre-loved items.
Skip the conventional Christmas tree —The great Christmas tree debate. Are “live” Christmas trees really that much better for the environment than artificial trees. How much energy is consumed in the growth period and the transport? Are pesticides and herbicides used going into our ecosystem? What becomes of the tree after the holidays are over? Long answer short, in my opinion “live” Christmas trees are far better than artificial ones — but these trees are alive at all. They’re grown specifically for one season use, and then they’re tossed into machines that make them into wood chips and mulch. Can we do better? Probably! Trying visiting your local nursery and picking out a mini potted fir/pine/spruce tree that has a root. You can decorate it for years to come and then eventually plant in your backyard so that it grows full size. It’s the little things.
Forage for decorations —Holiday decorations are so fun and a great way to bring the family together for some good old quality time. But most of the conventional decorations are surely not eco-friendly, so I like to opt for living plants and greens from the local flower shop and even my backyard. Grab a poinsettia from your local nursery. Wander the woods and scavenge your backyard for fallen branches, leaves, and pinecones that can be used on the fireplace mantle or as a centrepiece for your table setting. Use branches, holly, and Christmas berries to make natural wreaths. Just make sure that you’re conscious about not breaking living branches and taking too much because you don’t want to disrupt the ecosystem.
Gift-giving practices — There is such a thrill in giving gifts to people you love. Seeing their faces light up and their eyes sparkle gives me goosebumps, and I look forward to it every year. But this doesn’t mean gifts always have to be tangible. In the last 5+ years, I’ve primarily switched over to giving experiences rather than material gifts and it’s been a game changer! Try giving that special someone a voucher for one-on-one quality time with you — you can take them on a little adventure in your city, a massage by yours truly, or even an at-home cinema experience with homemade popcorn and all. Or you can give your special someone a gift certificate for something they’re passionate about and haven’t gotten around to enrolling in: a pottery course, a yoga membership, a spot in a local basketball league to name a few ideas.
Mindful leftover practices —Having an abundance of food is a luxury and a gift, so we should be mindful of food waste. Send guests home with leftovers and pack up the rest in containers and/or beeswax food storage wrap instead of conventional plastic wrap. You can bring leftovers to life by turning them into soups and stews and sandwiches for lunches.
Ok, enough talking. Let’s get to the good stuff: the Spruce and Tonic Mocktail recipe!
Spruce and Tonic Mocktail
Makes 2 servings
Ingredients for spruce syrup:
2 cups water
1/2 lemon sliced into thin rings, peel and pith on
3/4 cup sucanat sugar
In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Add spruce tips and lemon to water and let sit for 30 minutes to infuse the flavours.
Strain the infused water into a measuring cup and return to the saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Let cool completely before using.
***Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Ingredients for mocktail:
2 oz spruce syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
2 oz high quality tonic
Combine the juniper syrup and lemon juice in the cocktail glass of your choice filled with ice.
Top with the tonic water and stir to combine.
Garnish with a large ice cube and serve.
Enjoy unresponsively! ;)
This content is intended to promote general health and wellbeing; it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or concern. Check out my one-on-one services for more customized health options.
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