Regardless of what, or if, you decide to celebrate at this time of year, it’s hard to stay in budget and keep the holiday season sustainable.
A group of UBC Okanagan experts has some tips on how to keep the green in your pocket while ensuring it’s a green holiday for the planet.
Bryn Crawford, Research Engineer, Program Manager, PacifiCan-MMRI Accelerating Circular Economy
It’s all about the packaging. Think about how something is packaged before you buy it. Is the packaging recyclable or reusable? Also, when it comes to wrapping, keeping and re-using gift-wrapping paper is a great way to reduce waste. Look for gifts that don’t use materials that would persist in landfill or would divert waste from landfill.
“I suggest people look for gifts that are composed of natural, untreated materials such as wood, paper, cotton, or highly recyclable materials such as aluminum or steel. Also look for items made from upcycled waste, try to shop at stores that allow you to bring in a bottle or container to refill, or look for merchants that sell items in bottles or packages that are made from 100 per cent recycled plastics.”
Nathan Pelletier, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science/Faculty of Management
Every Christmas there is inevitably a debate regarding the sustainability of real versus artificial trees.
So, which is better? Unfortunately, Dr. Pelletier says there is no simple answer.
Relative impacts and benefits will be influenced by production practices and location, transportation distances—including your own. Spending half a day searching for a tree in a pickup truck will definitely weight the outcome. And use behaviours should also be considered. An artificial tree used for 15 years will have a fraction of the impact of one that is only used for five years.
Also important to keep in mind are the specific aspects of sustainability that we consider, and how we prioritize among them. For example, carbon footprints versus biodiversity impacts, or jobs versus landscape aesthetic value.
“Comparisons are always complicated and perhaps distract from simple, powerful strategies like giving the gift of time to those we love and focusing on quality over quantity.”
Eric Li, Faculty of Management
Be present and give fewer presents. Use your time generously and think about volunteering at a local organization or providing your time to do something with someone, even if it’s a neighbour or acquaintance.
“We all live in a busy world, so perhaps the gift of your time is something another person might really appreciate. A key component of the season is about being with family and friends, so make a point of doing that.”
By all means, give gifts, but think about the material products. What’s really necessary. Maybe buy less this year. And try to buy local. Also think of where the packaging this gift is coming from and where it might end up.
Ross Hickey, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Donations to registered Canadian charities are on sale this year, as always. Giving to charities on behalf of others can help people give a gift that lets the recipient know how much the giver truly knows the recipient. Also, giving to registered religious organizations and advocacy groups can help others in a variety of ways. You’re giving a gift twice, to the charity and also to the recipient.
A fan of the 1905 classic tale the Gift of Magi, Dr. Hickey says shoppers should keep that story in mind while shopping.
“The story is about a young couple who each sell their most prized possessions to buy a gift for each other,” explains Dr. Hickey. “While they both ended up with gifts they couldn’t use, the theory is a gift that comes from self-sacrifice and love is what really matters. When it comes to overspending, I think that story says it all.”