(This story is presented by Metro Vancouver.)
The festive season comes around every winter and yet, somehow, it always sneaks up on us. It may be the most joyous time of year, but in the pre-holiday haste, it can also be the most stressful—and wasteful. Everything from gift giving to decorating to parties contributes to Christmas’s exuberant excess—and a lot of preventable waste.
But celebrating more sustainably doesn’t mean that the season has to lose its holiday spirit.
Now in its ninth year, Metro Vancouver’s Create Memories, Not Garbage campaign aims to help people consume more thoughtfully over the festive season. Jack Froese, Chair of Metro Vancouver's Zero Waste Committee, recognizes that it can be easy to fall into old and potentially less eco-friendly holiday traditions, but if we all can commit to making just one change this year, we can make a significant difference.
There are lots of handy tips and ideas on the campaign website about how you can reduce your seasonal waste. But perhaps one of the easiest ways of having a positive impact is by reassessing your holiday gift giving and wrapping.
Below is a list of some of the best approaches for ensuring your holiday shopping experience is stress- and waste-free, so that you can focus your efforts on creating memories, not garbage, this year.
This tip is applicable at all times of year, but especially when it comes to the holiday season. By being more mindful about your decision-making while shopping, you can have a more positive impact on the environment. Consider buying locally, so you can also support local commerce.
“This time of year is so pressure-filled, people are so busy, and a lot of people are overwhelmed by Christmas shopping, so they’ll buy what’s convenient without considering the packaging. This convenience can create a lot of preventable waste,” Froese says.
If you need to buy something online, look for retailers that offer more eco-friendly delivery options. Then, make sure any surplus packaging isn’t going in the trash.
Almost all packing material can be repurposed. If you’re looking to recycle however, contact your municipality for further information on which items can be collected curbside and which are accepted at your nearest depot.
Think mindful giving
Most people have likely experienced the joy of giving someone a present that they truly love, but there is further pleasure to be found in giving that is both thoughtful and mindful of the environment.
“Think about the next life of that gift,” Froese says. “Is it something that can be recycled? Is it made to last, repairable, and timeless?”
Don’t add last-minute gifts to the pile of preventable holiday waste by opting for eco-friendly alternatives when you can.
Give yourself to the cause
Holiday jingles may be overplayed but there’s something to be said for the sentiment behind them. In an age where screens are king, giving your time can be truly the greatest gift of all.
Rather than scouring the stores for a present that will likely be forgotten about before the tree comes down, invest your time into gifting experiences instead. Create a certificate that promises your nieces and nephews a day out dedicated to them. Or combat the January blues by treating a loved one to a day at the spa in the New Year.
For those seeking further inspiration, Metro Vancouver’s Merry Memory Maker app has lots of fun ideas. By entering a budget and opting for either experiences or things, savvy shoppers can fire through their gift list in no time.
Don’t wrap up your holiday season with garbage
More gifts mean more packaging disposal, and more things are thrown out to make room for new ones over the holidays. And if these new things are wrapped with single use paper, then that paper, once torn off the present, adds to the holiday waste.
Many would argue that they recycle their paper so they’re not contributing to landfill waste—but it’s not always obvious which wrapping paper is recyclable, so a lot of it still ends up in the landfill. If you can’t tear yourself away from using paper wrapping, then do your best to avoid wrap made of plastic, foil, or with non-paper additives like glitter. Visit recyclebc.caor check with your municipality for more information.
Consider extending the life of any single-use wrapping paper by saving it for the following year and look for wrap made from recycled paper.
Sustainable wrapping materials like newspapers, jars, or old maps make for far more interesting-looking gifts.
Or, better still, why not make the wrapping a part of the gift by presenting it in a reusable shopping bag or a scarf?
The key is to avoid creating unnecessary waste. See the Create Memories, Not Garbage website for more creative ideas.
Embrace new traditions
Most people think about their resolutions in January. Why not get a head start and make this holiday season the first year you commit to putting Mother Nature at the top of your list?
For more information, along with tips and tricks on how you can Create Memories, Not Garbage this festive season, visit the Metro Vancouver website. Be sure to check out the Merry Memory Maker app for low-waste gifting inspiration. And don’t forget to share how you’re celebrating the holidays more sustainably on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #CreateMemoriesNotGarbage.