Reining in consumerism and reusing last year's wrapping paper doesn't make you a grinch.
About 90% of plastic waste is not recycled in Canada. Household waste volumes double in the week after Christmas in Canada 1 - and we already produce way too much to begin with!
To try and tackle the #ProblemWithPlastics while keeping the season warm and bright, here are some tips to reduce plastic waste during the holidays:
1) Buy less, give more. This time of year we're tempted to overspend on gifts, many of which are are made of or wrapped in plastic that will end up in landfills. Before you pull out the plastic to pay for even more plastic, pause. Take a moment to consider your loved ones and what they really care about. Is this a gift that will bring them joy, or is it simply a placeholder? Consider alternatives, like the gift of spending time together, re-gifting, or homemade gifts. Make a list before you shop, and check it twice - before you hit the shops.
2) Go real. If a tree is part of your festivities, look into getting a real one rather than artificial. While plastic trees seem more ecologically friendly, they often end up in landfills. Real trees can be used in municipal compost systems or even in your own garden as mulch or ground-cover.
3) Keep it sorted. Prepare your sorting bins ahead of time to maximize the amount you're able to recycle after unwrapping gifts.
4) Buy to minimize. When you do make purchases, look for items with less packaging, and check to see if that packaging is recyclable. Make sure to tell the retailer why you chose that item. Buying second-hand items is another way to reduce and reuse. Why not help someone go plastic-free in 2019 by getting them items like reusable utensil packs, reusable containers or even consumables like package-free soaps, shampoo and toiletries.
5) Feast with care. Bring your own bags when you shop for holiday meals, and look for items with minimal, recyclable packaging. If you can shop at a local market, where food often has minimal packaging. Be mindful of food waste – plan for realistic servings, including smaller servings for little ones. This will reduce food waste at the end of the day and the packaging it comes in.
6) Thats a wrap for plastic. Use recycled paper or paper from last year (the record in Gretchen’s family is ten years for one sheet of wrapping paper!) before buying new. If you are buying new paper, make sure it is glitter-free and non-metallic - these are non-recyclable and end up in landfills or the environment. Ditto for plastic ribbons and bows. There are natural touches you can find, such as branches and berries, that will spruce up a package just as nicely!
7) Pack a Cheer Kit. 'Tis the season for holiday parties, drop-ins, and teas. Keep a reusable mug and cutlery with you. Not only will you reduce waste that ends up in the bins after the party, you'll also cut down your host's post-party workload. If you are hosting, try to reduce or eliminate the plastic cutlery, cups, and plates.
8) Leave no trace. For many, the holiday season is a time for travel, perhaps even to locations that have little to no waste management - the lack of which are the major sources of plastic pollution in our oceans. Before you book: ask how your hotel is reducing plastic waste and making sure it does not end up in rivers and oceans. If you are traveling to an area providing no options to manage the waste you create, consider a donation to a local group helping tackle the plastic problem, and make sure you are helping out by using less single-use plastic and packing your own reusable bags, coffee mug and utensils.
9) Send a letter. After mailing your wishlist to the North Pole, write a letter to your elected official telling them you want 2019 to be the year we sincerely address plastic pollution. So far, the response from provincial and federal leaders has been lacklustre at best, with aspirational goals and no concrete steps to eliminate needless plastic waste across the board. It's time for Canada to take action – decades of voluntary measures have shown, all the individual waste reduction tips in the world are just not enough without policies to back them up.
The Grinch may be the only green character in How the Grinch Stole Christmas - but the lesson of the story is, of course, that the spirit of the holidays “means a little bit more” than the shiny baubles. Christmas comes to the Whos of Whoville, regardless of “their presents, their ribbons, their wrappings, [t]heir snoof and their fuzzles, their tringlers and trappings!”
Hope your holiday can “mean a little bit more”, too, this year - with a little less plastic.
Happy Holidays from the Plastics Steering Committee,
Becky, Lino, and Gretchen
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Make your gift green this year. Honour someone special and help protect our fragile planet.
You donate, and we'll look after the rest.
1. Environment: Waste production must peak this century. Nature.