How to engage in a sustainable holiday season

January 05, 2022 | RBC Wealth Management


It probably isn’t a surprise that holiday seasonal consumption creates significant waste, resulting in unneeded carbon emissions.

In fact, Americans create 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than they do the rest of the year, and in the United Kingdom, 6 million trees go to waste annually, as many residents dispose of artificial trees instead of reusing them, according to Esquire Magazine.

As an investor interested in making the world more sustainable, there are many ways to individually participate during the holiday season.

Investing options

In recent years, companies are doing a lot to turn the manufacturing process of their products green. This is partly due to public sentiment, global political pressure and investors. Proxy voting is one way investors have increased sustainability at companies, and the holiday shopping season is a second way.

Investors may also want to keep aware of programs like Greenpeace International, which invited clothing manufacturers around the world to join its Detox commitment—designed to eliminate hazardous chemical use in all stages of manufacturing. In November 2019, Greenpeace reported most of 11 priority chemical groups are no longer intentionally used by the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals community, and Greenpeace “paused” the campaign due to this success.

It’s not just the apparel industry. One popular toy maker in the U.S. is spending up to $400 million over a three-year period to reduce the amount of petroleum used in developing and packaging its product.6 Toy companies have reported their customers—children—are asking them to clean up their footprints, resulting in a lot of research for more sustainable product development and packaging.

Actions consumers can take

Keep it real — The oil and transportation investments in developing and selling a fake tree or decorative boughs are more significant than cutting down a small, fast-growing tree and pine branches. Real trees are also biodegradable and tree farms help remove carbon dioxide from the air. If the thought of single use makes you uncomfortable, consider purchasing a potted living tree for eventual planting in your yard.

Shop as you would invest — Certified Benefit Corporations (B-Corps) are verified for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Most are not public companies, so you aren’t able to invest in them, but by shopping through them, your dollars still can make a difference. In addition, pay attention to actions your favorite brand companies are taking to make toys, clothing and other gifts more sustainable. As companies achieve success in moving toward net zero greenhouse gasses produced or zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, consider spending more of your holiday shopping budget with them.

Measure your footprint — RBC is working on an app called Goodside. This app is designed to measure the carbon impacts of a person’s transactions. The idea is, you can identify what your personal carbon footprint is, and take actions to reduce it. Sign up today to get early access to the app.

Investors have many opportunities to support their environmental values all year long. This holiday season, consider the additional ways you can support sustainability in your gift ideas and decoration practices.

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