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Greening the Haul-idays


Greening the Haul-idays

Give a gift to the environment </P> Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or the African heritage festival Kwanza, traditions no doubt dictate the food you eat, the decorations you display a.

Greening the Haul-idaysGive a gift to the environment

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or the African heritage festival Kwanza, traditions no doubt dictate the food you eat, the decorations you display and the gifts you give. But most of our traditions share a common unintentional downside. They promote a holiday that is less than environmentally friendly--far less.

Brightly shining holiday lights contribute to the growing quantities of greenhouse gases that we send into the atmosphere. The gifts that we give--those purchases that make this the biggest retail sales period of the year--contribute to a culture of consumerism that pushes the world toward environmental destruction.

Is there some way we can enjoy this festive season without causing ecological damage?

"Christmas is a good time to make a difference in consumer habits," says Cristina Ruiu, a project engineer with Environment Canada. "Use this opportunity to buy products you believe in."

Eco-Friendly Shopping

Look for Environment Canada's Eco-logo on more than 1,400 products that promote energy efficiency, recycling or the reduction of hazardous wastes. Eco-friendly gifts include composting kits, water-saving shower heads, energy-efficient light fixtures, timers for lights and heaters, canvas shopping bags, reusable lunch kits and, of course, anything solar-powered.

Buy gifts that are durable, especially for children. Things that break easily will just end up in the bin, and cannot be reused by anybody. Where possible, avoid buying--or requesting--presents that rely on disposable parts, including batteries. Always look for alternatives such as a coffee maker with a washable filter rather than throwaway paper ones, or solar-powered rechargeable batteries.

Buying recycled goods is just as important as actually recycling. Seek unusual gifts made from recycled materials, such as glass tableware or photo frames. Complete the loop by locating recycled goods wherever possible; the future of recycling ultimately depends upon there being a market for recycled materials.

Visit organic markets and fill gift baskets with delicacies that everyone can feel good about. For example, organic soaps containing plant and essential oils are thoughtful gifts for both the recipient and the environment. And cut down on what you buy by giving loved ones a hand made certificate redeemable for a favour, a dinner or an outing.

A donation to a relative's favourite charity or a year's membership in an environmental group are great gifts. You can buy a piece of rainforest, grassland or wetland, or adopt a humpback or beluga whale.

Do you really need that store's shopping bag? If not, refuse to accept it. Always bring along a reusable shopping bag. Better yet, use one made of
organic cotton.

Wrapping Waste

To wrap gifts, use string, ribbon or scraps of wool, not sticky tape. The string can then be reused--and it saves the paper from tearing so you can reuse it, too.

When wrapping gifts, think creative reuse. Try newspaper, leftover wallpaper stock, store bags or magazine pages. Keep used wrapping paper for reuse next year. Better still, create the wrapping out of part of the gift. For example, wrap mom's blouse in a matching scarf and tie it with a hair ribbon. Wrap a book in a nice bathrobe, using the belt as a ribbon.

Reuse Christmas card envelopes, and keep your favourite cards for making next year's gift tags.
Trashing Trees

Which is better for the environment--a real tree or an artificial one? Controversy surrounds this issue, but if you're going to buy a quality synthetic tree that will serve you for years to come, then artificial may be the wiser choice. If you periodically discard artificial trees--which are not biodegradable--opt for a real tree, locally farmed. But do you really need a tree?

As an alternative, make a tree from branches or decorate a tree in your yard. Reconsider the necessity of a tree as the centrepiece for gifts. For example, the Portuguese often leave shoes by the fireplace, to be filled with gifts on Christmas morning.

If you use a real tree, call your local recycling service for instructions regarding tree disposal. Most Canadian cities offer chipping services that turn trees into mulch. Never burn trees. You can also buy a live, potted tree. After Christmas, plant it in your yard.

When brightening up a tree or your home, choose reusable decorations instead of flimsy ones that will be used and discarded. Have fun making decorations from scrap or even edible materials--great for keeping children occupied.

Resolve now to employ the three Rs--reduce, reuse and recycle--as much as you can. And when it comes to the seasonal increases in eating, spending, wrapping and wasting at Christmas, how about adding a fourth R? Let's rethink these holiday traditions.

Taming the Ghost of Christmas Waste

  • As a result of our wasteful lifestyles, the average household in Canada throws away roughly one tonne of waste every year. In addition, it is estimated that for every tonne of waste produced in our homes, five tonnes of waste have already been produced in manufacturing--and 10 tonnes at the point where the raw material was extracted.

  • We all create more waste over the holidays-through eating, drinking or giving presents. Main sources of additional waste are packaging, bottles, drink cans and Christmas trees. About 20 to 30 per cent more glass and cans are collected over the holiday season.

  • What can you do with the waste you do create? Store recyclables until you can take them to a recycling point. Sort and store any reusable items you can pass on. Collect and recycle clothes, cardboard, cards and foil, as well as the usual bottles, cans and paper. Check up on local recycling facilities today.

  • Plan journeys to recycling facilities around essential trips such as shopping. This helps minimize environmental impact of driving your car and saves you time.

  • Avoid goods with unnecessary packaging or complicated mixed-material packaging, which can make recycling impossible.

  • Make the most of leftover food from Christmas meals and parties. Turn mashed potatoes into a pie crust or topping, stuff leftovers into pitas or burritos or stirfry yesterday's vegetables.

  • Remember the acronym "SNUB" and "Say No to Unwanted Bags."

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