The holidays are a wonderful time of year. We get to spend time with friends and family, eat wonderful food, and give gifts to our loved ones. Unfortunately, the actions that tend to make Christmas wonderful also result in a lot of garbage and plastic waste. It is not just about the huge bag of discarded wrapping paper at the end of Christmas morning (that is most likely not recyclable) but also the food and product packaging. Canada’s garbage increases 25% over the holiday period. Specifically, it equals to 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper, 3,000 tonnes of foil, 6 million rolls of scotch tape, and 2.6 billion cards. Almost all of these waste products contain plastics which means they will stick around for thousands of years.
Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce the amount of waste. Here are a few tips:
Instead of buying physical gifts consider giving services, experiences, home made gifts, or donations to charities. If you are looking for a theme for a group gift exchange, donations to various charities are an excellent idea. Pick a charity that you feel your recipient will appreciate. Experiences such as theatre or sports event tickets are a bit more personal than other gifts. Another eco-friendly gift idea is gift certificates for various services such as restaurants, massages, activities, movies, etc. Homemade gifts especially baked goods (in a reusable container) are a welcome gift. Who does not love food!
If you are looking for a physical gift, consider an eco-friendly option. Do some research to find the right product with the least amount of plastic. Consider not just the gift but the packaging as well. Used bookstores and second hand shops are wonderful places to look for unique and personal gifts. Look for gifts made from natural material such as wood, or products made from recycled material. Check out these eco-friendly companies: https://www.patagonia.ca/product/womens-honeycomb-knit-beanie/28996.html?dwvar_28995_color=DLMB&cgid=collections-recycled-wool#tile-3=&start=1&sz=24; https://www.4ocean.com; https://yoursole.com/ca/shop/mens/footwear
Most gift wrap is not recyclable due to the inks, waxes, and plastic laminates that are used to make it very Christmassy. The same is true for the ribbon, bows, cards, and tape. Alternatively, you can use plain paper and ask your children or grandchildren to decorate it. Use fabric instead of ribbon and tape to tie up the gift. You may also consider using a gift bag. Gift bags are not recyclable, but can be reused. If you would like some recyclable wrapping paper check out https://wrappily.com
Cutting back on waste from food starts in the grocery store. Consider bringing reusable shopping bags, buy in bulk using refillable containers (https://thelocalfill.com) and choose products with less packaging (a head of lettuce instead of a plastic container of salad greens). When serving food, use reusable plates, cutlery, and glasses instead of paper or plastic. If you do not have enough ask your guests to bring their own or borrow some from a friend.
How about reusing the decorations from past years. If you need to buy some new ones look for non-plastic materials. Avoid the plastic trees and wreaths, and instead by natural ones. Advent calendars are full of plastics so why not make your own. If you do not have time this year, consider it for next year.