While the holiday season is a good time for making memories, it’s also a time when a lot of waste is created.
According to national non-profit organization Zero Waste Canada, 545,000 tonnes of waste is produced by Canadians each year from gift wrapping and shopping bags alone.
In Lethbridge, landfill waste increases by about 10 per cent after the holiday season between December and January.
Raquel Burston, outreach assistant with Waste and Recycling Services, says there are specific increases in cardboard, paper, bubble wrap and other plastic film that comes along with shipped packages.
“Some of the others things we see is wrapping paper, which unfortunatelyis a mixed material — there’s a lot of things that go into it,” Burston explained.
“It might just seem like paper, but it’s not… [it] can’t be recycled at all.”
Burston reminds residents to not overfill their black or blue carts and suggests using the city’s Waste Wizard tool as an option when you’re unsure of where to put your household material.
“Especially around this time of year — because you get a lot of those trickier items that you’re just not quite sure — it’s always better to check and try and find out, rather than just putting it in and that causing a lot of problems down the line.”
While the actual act of opening gifts is still a month away, shopping is in full swing for many. With this, environmental experts suggest being conscious about the impact of transportation when buying items online, and considering giving experiences such as ski passes, rather than material items.
Environment Lethbridge is planning to provide a gift-giving guide at the beginning of December, which will be available on its website.
“We also encourage people to buy gifts that are going to last,” said Executive Director Kathleen Sheppard.
“Steer clear of the disposable gag gift-type things that are just going to go in the garbage.”
When it comes time to wrap, considering options other than typical wrapping paper can help reduce overall waste.
The Sill and Soil, a local garden centre, is partnering with Environment Lethbridge to host a virtual gift-wrapping session on Dec. 3, showing participants a Japanese wrapping technique called furoshiki.
“You just wrap your gifts very aesthetically pleasing in different materials and burlap,” she said. “That’s what our workshop will be, but there’s so many other options as well. You can use recycled newspaper and recycled craft paper.”
For those who enjoy brightening up their homes with Christmas lights, modern options are quite environmentally-friendly. Sheppard says while it’s important to be conscious about how long the products are consuming energy, most options being sold today are LED, which provide an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent lights.
“If you’re buying new things, do double-check that they’re LED,” she said. “Think about using a timer for your lights, maybe don’t leave them on all night.”