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Christmas, waste, and saving the environment

Zero Waste Sooke offers tips on ways to have a garbage-less Christmas

Jo Phillips | Contributed

Likely most of us have had a sense of despair after Christmas is over about the waste that was produced.

Whether we are thinking dollars, time or actual garbage, the Christmas season seems to be the winner generating waste in our homes.

December household waste increases by more than 25 per cent.

Here are some thoughts from Zero Waste Sooke on ways to have a garbage-less Christmas:

• If you are buying a gift for someone, make sure it is something that a person needs, wants, will wear, or use. Ask. Many of us have more stuff than we can keep track of and also have pretty darned exact ideas of what we want, it’s easy to duplicate or pick the wrong style, size or item. This then sits in a drawer or basement until it is thrown away.

• For folks who don’t want or need anything, gift something that can be used up, such as homemade jam or cookies, a basket of food or hand-made or locally made personal care products, a meaningful photograph in a nice frame (new or used) or books (new or used). Gift certificates for services (babysitting, lawn mowing, dinner-making) or to a local store or eatery or tickets to a play or concert or classes to learn new skills are a great way of keeping it in the community and also relevant (and leaving no garbage). Barring all those ideas, give something made from natural materials by a local or fairly paid Third World artisan.

Speaking of income, if you are going out into the big box store fray to buy a gift, it is easy to get caught up in advertising promises. One way to calculate if something is truly worth buying is to ask yourself if the gadget or toy you are pondering purchasing will be used or played with for less hours than you will have to work to pay for it. If so, reconsider.

Of course, ideally, when we shop we are not seduced by brands and advertising claims, which are usually designed to target kids. It is up to adults to stand strong and remind the younger generation that today’s “must-haves” are often tomorrow’s trash.

• Think about swapping plastic trees, wreaths and lawn ornaments for something more biodegradable, such as a real tree, a large houseplant decorated with the usual baubles or look online for clever DIY trees, wreaths and lawn ornaments created from natural and scrap materials that you can have fun making with kids.

• Waste-free ways of wrapping gifts can also be a fun kid activity. Try: newspaper – use pages from a Christmas ad with Santas or candy canes on them; old posters; used packing paper – ironed and decorated with paints or crayons; cloth gift bags – homemade and upcycled; jars, tins, boxes, baskets, gift bags and cloth ribbon from the thrift store; a used scarf, shawl or other cloth. For a lovely way to use these, check out Zero Waste Sooke’s furoshiki (Japanese fabric gift wrapping) demonstration in the Sooke Library on Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. If you can tie a knot, you can do furoshiki.

•••

Jo Phillips writes for Zero Waste Sooke.

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