Packages, Boxes and Bags

The holidays are notoriously wasteful – maybe the Grinch was onto something when he stole Christmas 

Valeria Velazquez, Contributor 

When we think about the holidays, we immediately fantasize about the mountains of delicious food, the time we’ll spend with our families and friends and the gifts we’ll receive (and give, of course). The gifts…oh…the gifts. Talk about a rush of endorphins. Not knowing what they’ll be (sometimes we do know, but pretend not to), or wondering if we’ll get any this year can bring a kind of excitement that we really can’t explain, even if we pretend we don’t care. Will it be the sweater we’ve had our eye on for two months wrapped in shiny paper? Will it be a plane ticket to the place we’ve always wanted to go concealed in a big colourful box that compensates for the size? Will it be a new phone to replace the one we got just last year? Or will we get a boring pair of socks in a boring plastic bag? We don’t know, and yet, we still expect at least for one to come our way. However, do we know about the environmental or social impacts these so-called gifts have? A “gift” for us might not really be a gift for someone else…or something else (yes, I’m talking about Earth here). Remember, one person’s trash isn’t always another’s treasure. 

The truth is, our gift-giving practices are getting out of hand. Consumerism is exponentially increasing. It should come as no surprise that the holiday season produces tons and tons of waste. The products we buy come with egregious layers of packaging that we end up covering with yet another layer to make it a “nice-looking surprise.” Even if we decide to go for  an eco-friendly or sustainable option, it might not be as ethical as we think. If the product comes from a large company, there will most certainly be some aspects of it that won’t be as good for the environment as we imagine. The Zero Waste Canada Environmental group estimates that during the holidays, Canadians generate about 25 percent more waste than the rest of the year. Waste that often ends up in Asia—more specifically Malaysia and the Philippines, according to CTV News. 

We should start looking for alternatives to our packaging and gift exchange practices to help us reduce waste. There are several options for the goodies that we give away that can aid us in reducing our waste during the holidays. Thrift shops and DIY tutorials online teach us how to make gifts with materials we already have. We can even exchange things we already own and that way everything gets reused and nothing is thrown away. Winter markets are held nearly every other day around the city. There is even a winter market held at CapU with options for actually useful and meaningful gifts. And remember, not every gift has to be physical. Sometimes a hug, or simply your own presence can be the perfect gift. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? 

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