Give to the Planet this Christmas

Ecology Park manager offers tips for reducing waste this holiday season

Those dreaming of a white Christmas can make it green as well.

The holiday season, with all it generates, is an ideal time of year to discuss and consider ways of reducing waste and keeping the planet top-of-mind, says a local environmentalist.

“A lot of it involves thinking smart so you’re not buying extra food and extra gifts that end up going to waste,” says GreenUP’s Vern Bastable, manager of the Ecology Park in Peterborough.

Vern speaks with Electric City Magazine about the opportunities to give eco-friendly gifts and wrap presents in recyclable or reusable packaging.

“A lot of people are tired of giving each other things that they don’t really want. You can maybe put the money toward a charity or give the gift of an experience instead versus an item that they may not use.

The worst offenders for the environment are the bobbles, ribbons, glitter and metallic papers. Avoid anything coated in plastic if using traditional wrapping paper.

“Having that conversation is a good idea.”

Even if the purchasing has already occurred, the holiday get-togethers present a good opportunity to notice the garbage and discuss it so next year can be different.

For those who haven’t finished their shopping, Vern recommends considering the environmental impact of the items being purchased. Buy items that are encased in less packaging.

And, there’s something else. “One idea that’s kind of frowned upon but is actually a good idea is re-gifting.”

There’s nothing wrong with giving the present to someone who would appreciate it more, he says. The person gifting the item saves money and prevents the present from winding up in a landfill.

When purchasing gifts that appear to have recyclable components, Vern suggests checking with the recipient to see if that’s the case in his or her community. Various locations have different rules about what can be recycled.

When it comes to packaging the items, “there are obvious things like using recycled materials for wrapping paper,” Vern says. Newspapers and magazines will do the trick.

“Old magazines can make interesting wrapping paper and I’ve even used old maps, which look kind of neat.”

The worst offenders for the environment are the bobbles, ribbons, glitter and metallic papers. Avoid anything coated in plastic if using traditional wrapping paper. “If you are going to wrap, use as basic of a paper as you can,” Vern says.

Standard wrapping paper without metallics or glitter can be recycled. He still advises checking ahead of time to see if it can be recycled in the recipient’s community.

For more details about what can be recycled, check out this resource from the City of Peterborough.

Members of a Facebook group called Plastic-Free Peterborough also shared some ideas for wrapping gifts in non-traditional and more eco-friendly packaging. Check out the group here.

Plastic recycling is often deported from Canada and is often dumped, burned or buried. Further, all plastic is eventually destined for the landfill, because it degrades during the process of recycling and is then made into non-recyclable products.


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