Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2018 (759 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The holiday season has always been rife with contradictions. It’s a time to revel in excess — the gifts, the food, the merriment — but it’s also a time when we’re urged to be more mindful of those who have less, to give charitably.
While we’re taking time for mindfulness and giving, we might do well to spare a moment’s thought for the environmental havoc we wreak during the holidays and think of ways in which we can give a little bit less… to the landfill.
Of course, Canada’s addiction to landfills is not a December-specific malady. As of 2014 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), Canadians were each generating about 700 kilograms of garbage annually, meaning about 25 million tonnes of waste was going to the dump.
Last year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued an environmental report card that chastised Canada for its low rates of recycling and composting; we do considerably worse than other OECD countries, such as Japan and Sweden.
Along with much of the western world, those numbers only get worse over Christmas.
A 2017 post-yuletide poll in the United Kingdom found that seven in 10 Brits admitted to buying far more food than they need over the holidays, with two-thirds saying some ends up in the garbage. Rather than recycling where possible, many throw paper, boxes, packaging and old Christmas cards out with the trash.
More problematically, eight in 10 admit they don’t even try to justify the huge amount of waste they produce, with six in 10 saying they don’t feel at all guilty about what they throw away over the festive period.
This sense of entitlement — the idea that a party mood gives us carte blanche to shrug off social obligation and environmental awareness — is particularly bad at a time when we tend to produce exponentially more waste.
According to advocacy group Zero Waste Canada, over the holiday period, we send about 50 kg of waste per person to the dump, an increase of 25 per cent over the rest of the year. Canadians buy 2.6 billion Christmas cards each year, and will go through six million rolls of tape. And that’s not to mention all the leftover food we don’t bother to pack up, and the presents, many of which will also end up in the garbage before the year is out.
Lots of eco-conscious, minimalist families are opting for more experiential gifts, but anyone who was ever a child craving a Cabbage Patch Kid or Hot Wheels knows curtailing our appetite for stuff isn’t going to happen overnight; no little kid’s eyes ever lit up over a coupon for free hugs.
Even if you can’t bring yourself to cut back on plastic toys or Christmas cards, you can easily reduce the amount of wrapping paper, tape, gift bags, ribbons and bows, and tissue paper — all not accepted by the City of Winnipeg recycling program — that ends up in the garbage on Boxing Day.
Using brown paper or newspaper to wrap gifts is a simple, recyclable option; consider cutting down waste even further by saving gift bags and tissue for reuse, or investing in cloth gift bags that will last a lifetime.
Take a mindful moment to think about what you’re throwing out and where it will end up. Consider it a gift to the planet.