By Brianna van de Wijngaard —

Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society

We say this every year, but when you return from a busy summer, frolicking at the beach, avoiding work, and barbequing the 20 pounds of zucchini squash that your garden manages to dump on you every week, it’s amazing how quickly the Christmas holidays can creep up on us. Especially when you’re writing about them in September.

And, depending on how we typically spend the holidays, this can be exciting or kind of terrifying; despite encouragement in recent years to scale down the St. Nick festivities, our shopping habits have changed only slightly around this time of year.

On average, we spend the most money during the holidays on presents and travel: The Globe and Mail reports that we will spend around $816 on travel and $520 in gifts in BC, with a remaining $147 going to miscellaneous items, such as decorations. While increased spending on gifts has slowed in recent years, travel costs during the holidays have not, and were projected to increase by 22%. One reason could be that interest in purchasing high-cost gifts, or gifts for a lot of people, is waning, while the value of time with loved ones is still perceived a worthy expense. And also, travel in Canada is not cheap. Whatever the reasons, we need to be careful with our spending habits this time of year, because, according to a TD Canada Trust survey, “nearly one in four will end up financing [holiday] purchases on credit cards.”

Adopting a simplified holiday season is encouraged more every year, even if we don’t all necessarily heed that advice. This is because it does not have to mean foregoing what we love most about it: good food, time with those we love, and giving people awesome presents. The main differences between the two are time, planning, and creativity. Leaving yourself enough time to plan, develop a holiday budget, and get creative around gift alternatives is important; a lot of unplanned spending can come from last-minute purchases. It is good to draw up a list of who you want to buy for, what you want to do, how much you can afford to spend, and allocate from there. If you do this early enough, you can get great deals on gifts and travel, or put the time into creating some of your own.

While this may not be the primary motive behind the Earth Friendly Holiday Event, it’s certainly one of many great reasons to join us on Friday, November 28 (6–9 p.m.) and Saturday, November 29 (11 a.m.–2 p.m.) Not only can you save a little extra cash on holiday decorations (did we mention it’s FREE?!), it is an amazing way to spend time with family, friends, and volunteers. Every year the Conservation Society and Scout Island have co-hosted the Earth Friendly Holiday Event, it has become only more popular. Last year, we moved the event to the Cariboo Arts & Culture Centre (CCACS) to accommodate more attendees, and, in partnership with the Community Arts Council of Williams Lake and CCACS, you can find us there again this year, along with all our amazing partners and supporters, such as the Cariboo Potters, Spinners, Weavers & Fibre artists, Cariboo Arts Society, First Nations groups, Scout Island Nature Centre, Potato House, Quilters, and more, as well as the many CCCS volunteers that make it happen. We will be crafting up bird houses, popcorn garlands, holiday gift cards, and the popular bike wheel wreaths, with snacks and music in between. All supplies (except for the snacks) are recycled or recovered. There will also be an arts and crafts shop again this year, where you can purchase locally made gifts for friends and family, at great prices (cash or cheque only). If you have been to an Earth Friendly Holiday Event in the past, you also know it can get very busy, especially on the first night (Friday). If you would like more quiet time at the event, remember there are crafts on the lower level of the building that tend to be quieter. The second day of the event, (Saturday) also tends to be less busy.

Lastly, we have added one more special feature to the event this year. There will be a membership and donation table set up where you can either purchase a membership or donate in the name of a loved one. Simply provide a recipient name and address, and we will send their new membership card or donation certificate before the holidays. The funds will go to the organization of your choice that has helped make this event possible. This is yet another great gift idea for all you savvy eco-shoppers. If you cannot make the event, but would still like to donate in someone’s name, please feel free to contact the Conservation Society directly at or (250) 398-7929.

So join us for some low-impact, frugal holiday fun this year, and have a blast with your family and friends at the same time. No credit card required! We hope to see you there.


Before Brianna moved to the Cariboo in March, 2013, she lived on and off Vancouver Island for 20 years. She attended Vancouver Island University, where she graduated with a BA in global Studies and geography, and now works as the Community Liaison for the Cariboo-Chilcotin Conservation Society as well as operates Puddle Produce Urban Farms in Williams Lake.


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