‘Tis the season (almost) to start gift giving, but that doesn’t mean you have to be wasteful. You can spoil your friends and family without spoiling the environment. Each Canadian throws out around 50 kilograms of garbage over the holidays, according to Vancouver-based nonprofit group Zero Waste Canada. Overall, gift bags and wrapping paper make up 540,000 tonnes that end up in the landfill each year.
If your goal is to reduce waste over the holidays this year (or better yet, try for a zero-waste holiday!) here are some tips and tricks.
Swap stuff you already have
Re-gifting can be a great way to avoid throwing out items you don’t need. Host your friends and family with this plan in mind. Tell everyone to bring an unopened gift they’ve received, and then swap for one that you want. Any extra or unwanted gifts can be donated. It’s also a great way to get involved with local charities. Take the time to look up ones in your neighbourhood who are in need of specific items over the holidays.
Avoid the shiny stuff and rewrap, reuse, recycle!
Although shiny, sparkly wrapping paper stands out, it’s usually not recyclable. As a rule of thumb, any wrapping paper that’s plastic, laminated, has glitter or is paper-based but has a metallic looking coating/sheen to it, should be avoided. When looking for what wrapping paper to use, neutral colours without any shine to the coating are preferred since most paper-based wrapping papers with shiny coats and/or metallic details often don’t contain enough paper fibers to be useful in paper mills (and can even contaminate other recyclable material!).
There is also something pleasing and minimalist about neutral colours. The best part is, if you use brown paper or newspaper, it can be recycled after the gift is unwrapped. If you want to stick to your regular wrapping paper, you can reuse it again instead of throwing it out, if it’s not torn up after the gift is opened. (You can gently remind others to unwrap their gifts carefully if possible!)
If you’re looking to go one step further, reusable wrapping cloths and gift bags are a great way to avoid wrapping paper altogether.
Homemade from the heart
Rather than stocking up on stocking-fillers, try baking a homemade gift. Cookies (think gingerbread or soft molasses cookies) can be the perfect way to celebrate the holidays. Even better, you can put together a cookie decorating kit, and include sprinkles and icing. You can also make single-serve hot chocolate by measuring out the ingredients into mason jars, complete with marshmallows and cinnamon. (Pair it with some bourbon for an adult twist.)
Homemade cards and poems are another great way to show someone you care. Feeling extra generous? Think of a cause or an organization that the person you’re gifting to really cares about and consider making a donation in their name.
Whether this is your first attempt at a waste-free holiday, or you’re a pro at keeping it eco-friendly, these tips and tricks may seem small, but they make a big difference. Household waste can increase over 25% around the holidays, so reducing what you throw into the garbage has an impact.