Let's Talk Trash - Reduce Holiday Waste

LTT - December 2022 - Reduce Holiday Waste


    Here come the holidays and with them the environmental impact generated by wasteful consumerism. Zero Waste Canada, a Vancouver based advocacy group, estimates that Canadians produce 25% more garbage over the holidays. This amounts to 50kg per person tossed. It’s estimated that within six months of Christmas, only 1% of everything the average person has bought in still in use. The other 99% has been discarded.    

    These are alarming estimations that one wonder how to do the holiday season better while still honouring the traditions we grew up with and maintaining our social ties through giving and receiving gifts? Here are some ideas to consider:

Gift an experience. Reduce the demand for physical resources at the same time as creating memories. Buy your loved ones tickets to a workshop, the theatre, a concert, a sporting event, or a ski hill. Or, how about an online course, a cooking class, a brewery tour, restaurant reservations, horseback riding, pottery, yoga, dance, or music lessons, an art gallery membership, or a writer’s festival pass? If you don’t want to involve another organization, hand-make a coupon book that includes dinners, movie nights, or lessons in what you do best. You can also give rest to the busy people in your life by gifting your time, like babysitting for a weary parent.

Consider the materials in your gifts. Avoid single use plastics and gag gifts. Instead, buy second hand. Re-gift the things in your house you’ve never used. Seeds, bulbs and houseplants are gifts that keep on giving, as are books. 

If you are buying new, choose things with little to no packaging. A local refill shop (like Shades of Green in Parksville) is a great resource. Shopping locally is generally preferable to buying from less traceable sources online. That said, local doesn’t always mean sustainable. Opt for gifts made from natural materials. Bonus points for materials sourced responsibly and locally.

Avoid using new rolls of wrapping paper to wrap gifts by choosing tea towels, cloth bags, vintage maps, old calendars, mason jars, newspaper, or decorated brown paper bags instead. String or yarn can be used instead of tape. Furoshiki, a traditional Japanese method of wrapping and transporting gifts inside artfully folded cloth, is beautiful, unique and makes for reusable packaging. Plastic ribbons and bows can be replaced with pine cones, sprigs of evergreen or pressed flowers.

Note that shiny, glossy, or laminated gift wraps are made of foil, heavy ink and glitter that aren’t recyclable. 

To bring light to the cold, dark days choose strings of LED’s. They last seven times longer and use 90% less energy than standard incandescent strings. If you have strands of burned out lights they can be recycled through the Product Care Light Recycling Program by dropping them off free at any participating light fixture depot. Details at https://www.productcare.org/about/blog/recycle-christmas-lights-british-... Parksville Bottle and Recycling Depot is our closest one

Cut your food waste. If you host a big dinner, make sure to send your guests home with leftovers if it’s too much for you to eat. Eating local, in season, plant-based foods also reduces planetary costs for growing and transporting. 

Make your own decorations or upcycle old ones. A real tree is more eco friendly than a fake tree which will eventually end up in a landfill. Real trees are completely biodegradable. They can be chipped into mulch, or composted. They smell better, look better and while they are living they are doing the good work trees do by turning CO2 into O2. You can also keep your tree potted and replant it, or decorate a living tree.  Using windfall to decorate for the holidays is also a fun way to get festive.Creating good memories over the holidays doesn’t have to create garbage!

    My wish for all of you is to enjoy the short dark days with good company, enough food and restorative sleeps. May you reconnect with the outside world. Go for walks in the woods. Watch the birds. Read. Dream. It’s what we are meant to do in winter.


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