The holidays are a time of abundance.
From items to food, clothing, decorations, wrapping paper, greeting cards and all of the unpredictable things in between, it’s a time when money sense and environmental awareness are lost.
Last year, Global News reported that 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper ended up in Canadian landfills — the equivalence of 100,000 elephants.
One local business is hoping to reduce that waste by sharing tips on how to be greener this holiday season.
Earth Lover Co. is part of the movement to tackle one-use products and offers alternatives to disposable products.
“People use the holidays as an excuse to go over the top. They do things they normally wouldn’t do and make purchases that they wouldn’t otherwise,” said Andra Nikolaev, owner of Earth Lover Co.
The social obligation of the holidays pushes people to buy things that may go unused.
“For people like teachers, distant relatives and coworkers… we feel the obligation to buy something,” Nikolaev explained.
“It’s not necessarily something thoughtful or something they need. You’re just going to go to the mall and spend money to buy anything for that person.”
“If they have no use for it, it could end up in the garbage within a couple of months,” she added.
“It’s a mass consumption of goods.”
To avoid the waste of money, resources, time and energy, she says going the minimalist route is effective.
“Make a list, plan out everything you need to buy. You don’t need to go over that; anything over that is going to end up in the garbage,” she said.
“It’s no secret that there is a pressure around this time of year, Nikolaev says, “especially for kids.”
“If we are always indulging those pressures and giving in to that, we are going to drive ourselves deeper and deeper into debt,” she said.
“The pressure of purchasing gifts and participating in holiday parties, it’s fun, but you have to ask yourself: what can I afford?”
And when it comes to what is actually bought — and the footprint it leaves behind — that concerns Nikolaev.
“If you really think about how much wrapping paper and products we use, it’s basically something that hides what’s inside, you tear it off the moment it’s given to you and you throw it away instantly,” she said.
“It’s literally the most wasteful part of a gift.”
WATCH: (Dec. 22, 2017) How to deal with extra waste produced during the holiday season
Here are some useful tips for minimizing your waste this holiday season.
Switch to non-paper and non-plastic wrapping paper.
This could be things like cloth, metal tins, cloth bags, recyclable brown paper and gift bags you can take back home with you.
“I actually bought some Christmas-style pillow-cases from the dollar store and they have zippers,” said Nikolaev. “I’m going to use them for years to come for gift wrapping.”
More experiences, fewer gifts.
“Concentrating on spending time with family and friends instead of hunting down gifts for everyone is much more productive than spending hours and hours in the mall,” said Nikolaev.
“Most towns and cities have so many winter festivals, events, markets, shows and activities, and some are even free and low-cost.”
WATCH: (Dec. 18, 2017) How to create ‘wasteless’ Christmas gifts with these City of Edmonton tips
Shop at your local shops, markets and events.
“You’ll find unique things you can’t find anywhere else and you’ll feel good about supporting a local business in your community,” Nikolaev said.
Reuse what you have year after year.
“From decorations, holiday lights or home décor, buy it one time. I have some decorations from the dollar store that I’ve had for almost 10 years, and they still look great,” said Nikolaev.
For children, implement the four-gift rule.
“It’s one gift they need, one gift they want, one they can wear — so clothing — and a book to read,” explained Nikolaev.
“With kids, it’s often very easy to get extravagant with gifts, and that might not be very good for the future because every year you’re trying to top it.”
One extra tip Nikolaev has for everyone during this time is to “be mindful.”
“Think about what you’re buying,” Nikolaev said. “Where did it come from? Who made this? What is the true cost of producing this thing that I am going to give someone or bring into my home? What is the environmental cost of this purchase?”
“Sometimes, the best gifts I’ve ever received or given did not have a high monetary value,” she recalled.
“It was something I knew that this person needed or would really appreciate because it was a thoughtful gift.”
You can find more tips at Earth Lover Co.’s Facebook page, where the company is sharing 12 tips on how to be less wasteful this holiday season.
LISTEN: Global News’ full interview with Andra Nikolaev, owner of Earth Lover Co.