By: Grace Rajballie | November 27, 2019
There is no denying that Western culture has blurred the true meaning of Christmas, focusing instead on the gift-giving portion of the holidays. Every year, we find ourselves participating in at least one or all of the following—candy cane grams, secret Santa gift exchanges, Christmas stockings, and presents under the tree. As students, I’m certain we have all felt the financial impact of this, but have we ever stopped and realized the environmental implications?
A 2017 article from Global News states, “Canadians will send 100, 000 elephants worth of wrapping paper to the dump this year and Christmas presents are a big culprit. It is estimated that each Canadian tosses about 110 lbs of garbage over the holidays, 25% more than the rest of the year” (Levitz, 2017). We’re all guilty of it, rushing downstairs on Christmas morning, admiring the beautifully wrapped presents for just a few moments before furiously tearing away the wrapping paper and throwing it into the garbage later. It’s just paper so we can easily recycle it … right …? Some cities like Winnipeg refuse to accept gift wrap in their recycling bins because the dye in the paper is too intense, deeming it inefficient and costly to take out. In Toronto, only plain gift wrap is recyclable and anything with glitter or felt on it must be tossed. Dr. Edward Berkelaar, professor of Chemistry and Environmental studies at Redeemer University has done away with gift wrap, “In our family we often wrap presents in newspaper flyers”. Dr. Berkelaar is not alone in this. Many individuals have opted to wrap their presents with reused paper and many have even posted DIY wrapping paper posts on Facebook and Pinterest.
What we wrap our presents in is only half of the problem, but how about the actual gifts? When purchasing gifts for our loved ones, it’s important that we are environmentally aware and employ the three “Rs”- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce: rather than buying a tangible gift and running the risk of gifting someone something they don’t want or need, why not give your time and share an experience? Buy tickets to a musical, go skiing, treat someone to dinner at their favourite restaurant, etc. Dr. Berkelaar suggests, “a gift of time, a visit over a coffee, or a donation in whoever’s name to charity”.
Reuse & Recycle: gifting a second-hand item may seem tacky or cheap, but there are tasteful ways of doing this. Plants are a great gift and very trendy right now. Consider buying a plant and heading over to your local value village to find a cute pot or vase. If you have some time on your hands, you can spend an afternoon in a used book store, searching for copies of your favourite books to gift to your close friends and family. Thrifting for clothes is a little bit harder but ultimately rewarding when you find the perfect item for a loved one.
As we head into the season of gift-giving, let’s not forget the greatest gift of all—the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour!