(This story is presented by Metro Vancouver.)
No one needs a reminder that the holidays are just around the corner. But with everyone so focused on getting everything done ahead of the festive season, it can be easy to forget about making plans for once it’s all over. This is especially true in relation to the excessive post-holiday waste that comes with the season’s shopping, wrapping, eating, and decorating.
Thankfully, there are lots of ideas on Metro Vancouver’s Create Memories, Not Garbage website to help people consume more thoughtfully over the holidays. And even after the festivities are over, there are a number of ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle, so that you minimize your post-holiday waste.
Jack Froese, Chair of Metro Vancouver's Zero Waste Committee Chair hopes that the campaign, now in its ninth year, will encourage residents to make at least one change this Christmas, so that they can create memories, not garbage.
Below is a list of some of the best approaches to ensure your pre- and post-holiday season is joyful, not wasteful.
Package away waste
More shopping means more packaging, which means more trash. But with a little bit of forethought you can still get through your gift list sustainably.
“I think part of the post-season garbage is created by so many people shopping online now,” Froese says. “Ordering your gifts means you’re getting cardboard boxes, foam peanuts, or bubble wrap and people might not realize what they can do with that.”
But the good news is that almost all packing material can be repurposed. Or if you’re looking to recycle, visit recyclebc.ca or contact your municipality for further information about which items can be collected curbside and which are accepted at your nearest depot.
After the Christmas tree has relegated its star as the centerpiece of your décor, don’t throw it in the trash. After you’ve removed all the ornaments, visit mvrecycles.org for recycling locations.
“Your municipality will also talk about tree-chipping events where you can bring in your Christmas tree and for a small donation, then they will cut it up for you,” Froese adds.
But he warns that a real tree with flocking, the artificial snow, on it cannot be composted.
“You might think that you’re being environmentally friendly because you’re getting a real tree, but if you cover it in fake snow then you can’t compost it and it’s garbage,” he says.
If you opt for an artificial tree, try to get one secondhand and store it properly so it can be used year after year. While they can be reused, studies show you would have to use one for 20 years before it’s “greener” than a real tree.
Out with the old and in with the new
It can be tempting to start the New Year with a clear-out since you now have a pile of new items to replace the old ones. But that doesn’t mean you should be adding to your post-holiday waste.
Trashing old electronics can be dangerous for the environment, so think about donating or selling them. There are also depots, where they can be safely recycled.
When it comes to unwanted gifts, consider hosting a swap party. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, after all. If you receive something that you know a friend will love, then re-gift it. Anything else can be donated or sold through online sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
There’s always next year
Remember that Christmas comes around every year, so there are lots of items that can be reused again and again.
Small changes such as limiting your use of single-use wrapping paper by choosing eco-friendly options like newspaper or reusable bags can make a big difference long term. When possible, save any large pieces of wrapping paper for use the following year.
Keep any greeting card you receive for future crafts or use them as gift tags next Christmas. Most paper cards you use can be recycled, but watch out for glitter or plastic adornments, which can’t be added to your paper recycling.
When it comes to decorations, do yourself a favour and take the time to put them away properly. No one wants to open the box come December to find a ball of tangled lights and broken baubles. Make use of some of the surplus packaging you’ve received to protect your decorations. And wrap lights and tinsel around paper towel tubes or bottles so that they don’t get damaged and are easy to unravel next season. You’ll thank yourself later and so will Mother Nature.
New Year, no waste
If you’re hosting a New Year’s eve party, send e-invites instead of paper ones, which is not only more eco-friendly but will also ensure your card doesn’t get lost in the Christmas post.
Avoid the temptation of single-use decorations, dinnerware, and napkins and opt for reusable versions, which can be pulled out at parties for years to come.
Instead of cramming your fridge with Tupperware of full of food that will inevitably end up in the garbage, send your guests home with a plate and avoid the unnecessary trash.
Kick off the New Year as you mean to go on by making it your resolution to make the most of the holiday season—and beyond—without the waste.
For more information, along with low-waste ideas to help you Create Memories, Not Garbage pre- and post-festive season, visit the Metro Vancouver website. Be sure to check out the Merry Memory Maker app for some last-minute, low-waste gifting inspiration. And learn how you can be a more mindful shopper this season in this handy guide. Don’t forget to share how you’re celebrating the holidays more sustainably on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #CreateMemoriesNotGarbage.