We toss 540K tonnes of wrapping paper after the holidays — Here’s how to give without the garbage

Click to play video: 'How to have a zero-waste holiday season'
How to have a zero-waste holiday season
WATCH: Environmentalist Julia Grieve shows us ways to enjoy a sustainable, zero-waste holiday gift-giving season – Nov 22, 2019

From gift wrap to packaging and temporary décor, there’s a lot of unnecessary waste that gets thrown out during the holiday season.

But it is possible to give gifts that are waste-free, environmentalist Julia Grieve said on Global’s The Morning Show.

“It’s easier than you think… you slowly do little steps and you’d be surprised how easy it is to do,” she told hosts Carolyn MacKenzie and Jeff McArthur.

Picture this: 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper — the equivalent of the weight of 100,000 elephants or 4.5 CN Towers — ends up in landfills following the holidays, according to a 2017 study by environmental group Zero Waste Canada.

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Changing small aspects of gift-giving can make a huge difference, said Grieve, the founder of Preloved, a retailer that repurposes vintage clothing.

How to wrap sustainable gifts without the waste

Shiny wrapping paper or anything that contains foil or glitter is meant for the garbage as opposed to the recycling bin, said Jessica Correa, founder of advocacy group Random Acts of Green, in a previous Global News report.

But even when wrapping paper is recycling-friendly, it’s not always treated this way.  

“Think about all the houses that are opening gifts on Christmas morning, all of the people giving gifts, and think about all that waste,” she said. “Even the things that are recyclable are often packed up with the garbage.”

Always think about more sustainable ways to wrap your gifts, she said. It will make the cleanup easier, too.

Grieve recommends using gift baskets that are a gift in itself, as they can be reused after the holidays.

She says you can find the baskets at thrift stores and then put sustainable gifts in them for easy transport.

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One gift idea is to use a mason jar and fill it with treats or coffee, she said. The jar can be used again and makes for a nice presentation.

Click to play video: 'Wasteless Holidays: Recycling after Christmas'
Wasteless Holidays: Recycling after Christmas

Wrapping a gift in a holiday-themed dish towel or grocery bag that is another present in itself will also reduce waste, said Grieve.

“See if you can use a piece of clothing to wrap your gift or use something you already have,” Correa told Global News. “Newspaper is also a great alternative.”

Avoiding single-use wrapping paper is the key to becoming waste-conscious during the holiday season, the City of Toronto said in a statement in November 2018.

Many people try to recycle items that actually can’t be recycled, contaminating the recycling stream, Vince Sferrazza, director of policy and planning for the City of Toronto, told Global News last year.

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“We’re asking residents to be aware of how much waste they produce over the holidays and to practice the three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle),” he said.

Buying sustainable gifts

There are also ways to buy gifts that don’t produce any waste, Grieve said.

For the beauty and wellness lover, purchasing presents like shampoo bars that don’t use plastic packaging will make a difference, as will recycled clothing. You could also look for reusable makeup wipes and other eco-friendly products.

“Put a little effort in and find some great ideas,” said Grieve, encouraging people to think “outside the box.”

For more tips on sustainable gift ideas, watch Julia Grieve in the video above. 

With files from Global News’ Caley Bedore and Arti Patel

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