Give a gift to the planet this season and go environmentally-friendly
By Heidi Tattrie Rushton
It’s a familiar scene. The Christmas morning present opening frenzy leaves a room filled with ripped paper, ribbons and tags that now need to go … somewhere. Often, they end up in the garbage or recycling, but can everything be recycled? And are there alternatives that avoid this mess but are just as lovely to see under the tree?
Kate Peplar of the TARE shop, Halifax’s zero-waste store, says there are plenty of eco-conscious options.
“The holidays can be a very wasteful time of year, and there’s often not a lot of thought that goes into what the long-term impact of our actions are,” she says.
Peplar suggests using wrapping alternatives such as glass jars, baskets, tins, newspaper, craft paper or fabric such as reusable bags. She also suggests wrapping one gift in another, such as a scarf or tea towel, using a Japanese method called furoshiki. She says you can hold the paper or fabric together with string, twine or recyclable, plastic-free tape (a water-activated tape similar to what’s used on envelopes).
Britanie LeFait is also familiar with the waste that the holidays can create, especially with children. She’s a Halifax mom of two who has a blog about living an eco-friendly life called Raising Little Sparks.
She says it’s time to change how we think about Christmas morning.
“The sparkly paper and tons of tape and ribbons might look pretty, but it is only there to bring you joy for a few minutes before it’s tossed away,” she says. “Last year was the first year I used recyclable brown paper and twine to wrap the kids’ gifts … Their joy of opening gifts was no different than if I used the most sparkly paper. And a plus was that we saved the brown paper and twine to use for crafts throughout the year.”
LeFait says one area that often produces a lot of waste are stocking stuffers. A few of the ideas she shares on her website include more eco-conscious choices, such as natural crayons made of beeswax, a new water bottle, seed packets, a hand-crank flashlight, passes for their favourite outings and including homemade or bulk treats instead of individually wrapped candies.
Once all is said and done, despite best efforts, it’s likely there will still be gifts wrapped in a range of materials under the tree. It’s important to check local recycling guidelines for the current regulations.
Maggie-Jane Spray, senior communications advisor for the Halifax Regional Municipality, says the HRM also first encourages residents to consider eco-conscious gift-wrapping options; however, some non-reusable items can be recycled, with a bit of preparation and sorting.
“Paper gift wrap and boxboard can be recycled as part of your regular paper recycling,” she says. “Brown craft paper is great and is always acceptable as recyclable. Additionally, 100 per cent of paper gift wrapping is also acceptable for recycling, (however) tape should be removed from all gift wrap and put in the garbage.”
For wrapping materials that are not recyclable, they should be placed in the garbage.
“Any foil wrap, gift bags, bows and ribbons that cannot be reused for next year go in the garbage,” she says. “What becomes non-recyclable is wrapping paper that has metallics, glitter, or foil as part of the design. If it is not 100 per cent paper and has any of these features, it should be placed in a garbage bag for collection.”
Current HRM holiday (and Christmas tree composting instructions) can be found online at www.halifax.ca on the Garbage, recycling and green cart page.