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How a low-waste Christmas could reinvigorate your holiday spirit and ease stress

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A Christmas without presents is a difficult thing for many of us to wrap our heads around.

That’s why an Edmonton group is asking you to instead be a bit more conscious of waste this holiday season.

Melissa Gorrie, co-founder of Waste Free Edmonton, explained the group is challenging people to rethink their relationship with the holiday season.

READ MORE: No-gift Christmas: How families are cutting costs and making environmentally friendly choices

“We’re getting people to think about showing love and affection other than buying stuff,” she said.

“There’s a lot of pressure over the holiday season to buy more, do more [and to] be bigger and better. It stresses people out.”

The group created a booklet with examples of how to keep the festivities jolly while being mindful of holiday purchasing and disposal.

A page from Waste Free Edmonton's holiday booklet
A page from Waste Free Edmonton’s holiday booklet Waste Free Edmonton

“Think about all the gifts you’ve gotten over the years and you don’t even remember what you’ve got — plus, all of that wrapping that just gets thrown out after opening gifts,” Gorrie said. “There’s a lot of messaging out there that if you love somebody, you’d better buy something for them. Even in your workplace, you feel that pressure. You don’t know them that well or you don’t know what they want.

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“It’s a bit of a retraining. I’ve had to do that to myself over the years.”

The booklet addresses holiday waste from shopping online to buying in-store and the realities of non-recyclable holiday waste like gift wrap.

“We don’t need everybody doing low-waste perfectly,” Gorries said. “We need everybody doing their best.”

Gorrie said if you are looking for a place to start, replacing gifts with experiences or making donations in a person’s name are great options.

“I did a pottery class with my mom [as a gift],” she said. “[You could give] photography lessons for a loved one [or] donations to the Edmonton Humane Society for people who love animals. People really appreciate these thoughtful gifts.”

Gorrie admits it’s a difficult balancing act when much of the joy stemming from the holiday season revolves around the beautiful touches it brings to our lives.

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“I love the sparkles, the bows, the lights,” she said. “But, I’m really trying to enjoy what I have. There’s a lot of options for secondhand [gifts].

“I love decorating, so, a compromise was a secondhand Christmas tree.”

A page from Waste Free Edmonton's holiday booklet
A page from Waste Free Edmonton’s holiday booklet Waste Free Edmonton

Reusing Christmas bags or wrapping paper is also an easy switch to a greener Christmas, especially if you have kids at home and don’t want to skip the big present reveal on Christmas morning.

“It’s a hard line to tow [to be low waste at Christmas with kids],” Gorries said. “You want to make the kids conscious but you don’t want to bum them out about the holiday.
“The joy of unwrapping something is an important part [of Christmas]. There’s also a lot of places in the city you can get wrapping paper like the Reuse Centre.”

Listen below: Ryan Jespersen chats with Waste Free Edmonton’s Melissa Gorrie about holiday waste

During a busy time of the year, Gorrie believes most people would welcome a bit less pressure around Christmas.

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“People get burned out during the holiday season,” she said. “They think they have to do it all. But it’s not about buying more stuff.

“It’s about slowing down, enjoying the season, enjoying loved ones and people I care about. That’s what it really needs to be about.”

For Gorrie, the lesson in all of this stems from a timeless Christmas classic: How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

“The Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before,” Gorrie said. “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

“I think people are yearning for a redefinition of Christmas. When you’re a kid, it’s easy to connect the idea of Santa and presents, but when you get older, it feels a bit empty. You need to think about how you can redefine that for yourself and make it something more meaningful.”