By Erin Olefeldt:
The Holiday Season is drawing near and while this is an exciting, warm, family-filled time of the year, it’s also when we send the most waste to the landfill. Albertans generate more garbage per capita than anywhere else in Canada at 1,034 kg per person per year with the national average coming in at 710 kg per person per year. After Christmas, the Edmonton Waste Management Centre receives twice the amount of garbage as it does in other months.
Christmas Trees – Live trees are the more sustainable choice. Although a fake tree should technically last year after year, research shows that they are discarded as they become less attractive after repeated use, often ending up in the landfill. Artificial trees use up resources during manufacture and transport and are made from the petroleum product, PVC. If you have an artificial tree, taking good care of it is the key. Storing it carefully after each Christmas will allow you to get many years of use.
Live trees are generally locally grown and sold, contribute to air quality while they’re growing, and are recycled into mulch after the holiday season. Edmonton will pick up live trees for recycling starting on January 10, 2022 until January 24, 2022. It’s really important to make sure all decorations and garland are removed before placing your unbagged tree next to your regular garbage for pick up. Also note that large trees should be cut into 2 m lengths.
Decorations – Choose quality decorations that will be able to be used year after year. Strings of lights and other electronic items should be brought to your local eco station to be discarded.
Gifts – This is an area I really struggle with when trying to create a more sustainable Christmas. When I was little, Christmas was so special. While I absolutely loved spending time with family and the warm feelings that came along with this beautiful season, the presents were really important to me too! I have family members and friends in the neighbourhood who would be more qualified to write this section that do things like giving experience-based gifts, talking to kids from a young age about the lack of importance of material items, and the impact of new things on the environment. I try to reduce the number of gifts I buy my kids and will look for gently used items before buying new. In our family we also go through our toys in November, and send the ones that are still in good shape to the Salvation Army and other charities.
Gift Wrap – 540,000 tonnes of gift wrap, gift bags and tape are discarded in Canada each year after Christmas. Foil wrap, tape and ribbon are not recyclable, so try to use non-foil paper and minimal amounts of tape and ribbon. This will make the paper easy to reuse or recycle. Better yet, use fabric bags, a scarf, or some other creative way to wrap your gifts this year. You can even get a roll of brown postal packaging paper and some holiday rubber stamps and let your kids make gift wrap as a fun activity.
For more information on reducing waste this holiday season, visit:
Wishing you all the very best of the holiday season and a sustainable new year!