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Holiday Waste Reduction

GarbageIs it what you really want for Christmas?

"It’s the most wonderful time of the year" the popular Christmas song reminds us. But there’s another side to Christmas and its celebration of life and family. Along with gift giving, kids jingle belling and everyone telling you to be of good cheer, there's something we all get but nobody wants garbage.

Yes, for many of us Christmas has also become the most consumptive and wasteful time of the year. In 2001, Canadians spent more than $16 billion on gifts alone and are expected to exceed that amount this Holiday Season. That works out to $740 per person for gifts and more than $1300 when entertaining and eating is added in.

The impacts of our Christmas and Holiday Season buying and consumption are far reaching. High-tech is the buzzword for hot gifts this Christmas. But much of the packaging from power tools, computers, small wireless electronics and other trendy gadgets will end up in the trash.

When you add in all the marketing materials used to promote gifts and all the materials used to wrap them, an additional 300,000 tonnes of garbage is generated in Canada between mid November and New Year’s Day. Here are some other surprising statistics:

In Canada the annual waste from gift-wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,000 tonnes.

If every family in Canada reduced its weekly waste during the holidays by just one kilogram, 34,000 tonnes of garbage would be eliminated.

If everyone in Canada wrapped just three gifts in reused paper or gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks.

Getting into the Zero Waste holiday spirit doesn’t mean turning into an obsessive recycler or going out of your way to locate special products at environmentally friendly stores. The sum of individual actions such as using cloth instead of paper napkins, refusing to buy over-packaged goods, or limiting what you spend as a family can keep thousands of kilograms of garbage from our landfill.

Being aware of what you buy is the most important thing that you can do to reduce waste and your impact on the planet this holiday season. Recycling is one way to divert the amount of garbage going to our landfill but the real key to making a dent in our holiday waste generation is moving beyond recycling to reuse and reduction. Reducing spending and devoting less time to buying things doesn’t mean losing out on the spirit of Christmas and the Holidays. If anything you will feel better for being able to spend more time with friends and loved ones and knowing you’re helping to protect the Earth.