The holiday season is a time to spend with family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when there’s a lot more waste making its way to landfills. The holidays are filled with wrapping, packaging and cards, unwanted gadgets, broken items and old products, gatherings with excess food and drink, paper plates and napkins, shopping trips and travel. It quickly adds up, in fact, it’s estimated that Canadians generate about 25% more waste in the month of December. That’s equivalent to approximately 50 kilograms per person. Fortunately, there are some simple things that can be done to help reduce our environmental impacts while still enjoying the season.
Use recyclable wrapping paper.
Wrapping comes in a variety of styles, however, only certain types are recyclable. Foil, glittery or glossy papers that have been laminated can’t be recycled. Try to choose paper that isn’t laminated and is made using recycled material or try brown kraft paper. Don’t forget to remove the tape from the wrapping paper you use so that it can be easily recycled.
You can also reuse gift bags several times. Tie a tag to the handle so it can be removed afterwards. Fold the bag on the crease lines and stack them together in a convenient location. A nice bonus is you always have a bag on hand for that unexpected gift.
There are also many alternatives to wrapping paper, for example using scrap fabric, tea towels or burlap. Try using a reusable cloth bag which can be used time and time again. Fabric ribbons are great alternatives to plastic ones and can also be saved and reused. Try using string for a rustic touch.
Recycle your cards.
Cards are beautiful ways to share well-wishes with your loved ones but are often not recyclable due to the use of foils and glitter. A simple way to keep them recyclable is to tear off the areas that are decorated with unrecyclable material so you can recycle the rest. These sections can be turned into decorations or tags for gifts. There are also many different online e-cards—which are particularly handy for those who do things last minute.
Instead of throwing things away, consider how you might turn them into something different. A jar can make a rustic candleholder. Old cards can be turned into sentimental garlands. Old magazines or newspapers make unique wrapping. Personalized ornaments can be created from any number of things. An old chair can be repainted. Many communities have reuse centres where you can find materials of all types. Handmade gifts can be very thoughtful and there are many different websites that can help you be creative.
You can also try shopping for vintage or second-hand gifts. There are many stores throughout Alberta dedicated to vintage, second-hand, thrift or consignment finds, as well as online marketplaces. You can find unique items that fit that hard-to-get person, or the perfect décor piece, with just a little bit of effort.
Edible gifts make thoughtful gifts.
How many times have you been uncertain of what someone would like as a gift, and panic buying after finding no inspiration? Often this results in wasted money and unwanted gifts. Homemade cakes, pies, tarts, and other confections can be relatively easy to make and can make very thoughtful gifts. Maybe you have a couple of recipes that are always popular, try whipping them up and then printing off the recipe as a gift!
Or put together a food-related theme basket. Think about what that person likes and then put them together in a reusable container or basket. Be creative! Some themes might include coffee, wine or beer, a movie/entertainment night, or a romantic night in.
There are many local businesses that make or sell locally-created products. This helps to reduce packaging and the carbon footprint while helping to support local businesses.
Avoid products with lots of packaging.
It’s not always possible, but when you can, choose products that don’t have unnecessary packaging. Make sure you separate out the recyclable material so that everything doesn’t end up in the landfill. There are also many companies that are starting to use refillable bottles and containers for lotions and cleaning products, so check them out.
The latest isn’t always the greatest.
Electronics are always popular and often easy gifts to give, but before you buy that new gadget, think about how necessary it is. Does it serve a purpose or is it just a novelty? Does the person already have something similar? If so, how old is the tech, and does it need to be replaced? Can that existing tech be upgraded, reducing the cost and waste?
And remember, if the old electronics are no longer serving a purpose, they can be recycled. You can drop off your old electronics in many locations throughout Alberta. Use our Depot Finder to find one close to you.
Give the gift of your time.
Instead of buying a gift for a friend, decide that you will donate your time together. There are many charitable organizations throughout the province that could use your support over the holidays, so spread some holiday cheer by helping those in need. It can become a holiday tradition that you share. If you are running short on time, you could also donate to a charity in someone’s name. Check your local charities to find out how to volunteer.
Give the gift of an experience.
This year, try giving an experience rather than material things. Maybe it’s learning a new skill or something they have always wanted to try. A relaxing night out for new parents. Or just allowing that person to keep doing what they love. A memory lasts a lifetime! Here are some ideas:
· Concert tickets
· Sporting event tickets
· Movie passes
· Theatre or symphony tickets
· Golf passes
· Restaurant gift card
· Manicure/pedicure gift card
· Painting or drawing
· Home brewing or winemaking
· Physical trainer
· Theme Park
· National park pass
· House cleaning or organization
· Car wash
· Yard work or snow clearing
· Home maintenance
Being prepared in advance helps to reduce panic buying and unnecessary packaging. Make lists to reduce impulse buys and bring a reusable bag with you to cut down on paper and plastic. And watch those long cashier lines that wrap through shelves of items, they are filled with impulse buys that you probably don’t need!
Don’t forget to plan your meals in advance as well! Decide on what you are serving and then make a list of food you need to buy and only buy the ingredients that you need. Try looking for items online before you go to the grocery store and don’t shop for groceries on an empty stomach—you will buy more!
Recycle the empties.
The holidays often come with celebrations that involve beverages of all types, so make sure that you collect the empties and take them to your local bottle depot for recycling. It keeps the items out of the landfill and puts some cash back in your pocket! You can also donate your empty beverage containers to local charities and organizations.
Reduce your clutter and breathe a little better.
As the temperatures drop, we typically spend more time indoors, so get rid of the unnecessary toxins in your home. Let’s face it, we all have old paint that’s sitting around for that project we will never get to or various cleaners under the sink that have long outlived their usefulness. These items can be brought into collection sites to be recycled or safely disposed of. Click here to learn more about recycling Paint and Containers or Household Hazardous Waste.
Many people travel by car to see friends and family over the holidays so make sure you are doing it safely and reduce your impact on the environment.
Check your tires for wear and make sure that they are inflated to the right pressure, this will give you better mileage. If you do a lot of winter driving or are travelling long distances, consider switching to winter tires if you want to get extra traction and improved stopping distances.
When was the last time you had maintenance done on your vehicle? Is it time for an oil change? How are your fluid levels? We have all experienced the extremes of weather in Alberta, so make sure your vehicle is ready for travel so that you and your loved ones can get there safely. Also, a well-maintained vehicle will have fewer emissions and save on gas.
If you are doing any maintenance to your vehicle, remember that your used oil and oil materials (filters and containers) as well as your tires can be recycled. Find a depot near you if you are performing the maintenance yourself.
We hope that some of these simple tips will help you to reduce your waste while still celebrating the season with your loved ones. Happy Holidays from Alberta Recycling Management Authority!
Check with your local municipality for what can be recycled and the best way to do so.