York University researcher suggests 5 ways to make holiday gifting green and guilt-free
Calvin Lakhan suggests eco-friendly ways to give this Christmas
If you love the holidays, you may be rejoicing now that December is finally here — but the environment is not.
The month of Christmas is the most eco-unfriendly time of the year, says recycling expert Calvin Lakhan.
December generates four times more packaging waste that any other month, and — not to be a Scrooge about it all — Lakhan says it’s our attempts to be festive with shiny paper, sparkle, tinsels, ribbons and bows, along with online purchasing, that is to blame.
Lakhan, co-investigator of the Waste Wiki project at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, says 95 per cent of wrapping paper on the market is made with multiple materials, both paper and plastic, that waste facilities can’t properly sort and recycle.
Tape is terrible, too, he says; the glue gunks up waste facility equipment. He recommends removing tape and sticky residue from cardboard boxes before tossing in the recycle bin.
Tinsel and styrofoam packaging or peanuts also create a recycling nightmare and should never be added to recycles, he says.
They are especially troublesome in areas like York Region, where recycle bins don’t have lids and the material is blown around in wind.
Online shopping creates more problems.
“Much of that packaging can’t be recycled,” said Lakhan. “Styrofoam packaging or peanuts are considered a contaminant within the recycling stream and will quickly fall apart and cause a mess.”
Lakhan presents some suggestions for eco-friendly giving, adding that “at the end of the day, if you can’t do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. The important thing is to be more aware and over time, your habits will change.”
1. Trying to figure out if that shiny wrapping paper is coated with plastic? Do a touch test. If it has a smooth satiny finish, it’s likely coated with plastic. Opt instead for paper that feels like newsprint and has a prominent recycling logo on the package.
2. Avoid gift wrap that is foil or metallic or sparkly.
3. Craft paper is the most recyclable material and gives you a chance to decorate it, to personalize and be creative. Pinterest and Etsy are great sources of inspiration.
4. Stick with reusable gift bags and try decorating the boxes that your online gifts are shipped in.
5. Instead of ribbons and bows, use dried flowers, homemade goodies, a sprig of pine or strips of fabric to spruce up a present.