A conversation about gifts

Most of us get the warm fuzzies by showing our love and affection for our near and dear ones with the giving of gifts.

However, the shopping craze that has become synonymous with Christmas, not to mention the rest of the over consumption that often times spins around the holidays, leaves many of us exhausted and downright tapped out.

It also often leaves us knee deep in a pile of waste — physically and financially.

Perhaps it’s time for something simpler, less consumer driven, more intentional, so that we truly do bring joy to those we love and appreciate, including ourselves.

Consider this.

Before you buy a bunch of stuff this year for those cherished loved ones, ask them first if they even want a whole bunch of stuff this season. Or, perhaps pitch the idea of a family plan to only buy gifts for the kids or the gift of an experience.

Why not limit gift giving to something more manageable by drawing names, instead of gifts for everyone, or choose to volunteer with family and friends instead, in support of a cherished cause.

If any of the above resonates with you, start the conversation. Often that’s the hardest part —approaching your family with a new idea. If not now, perhaps in time for next years’ holiday swirl.

Quite likely someone in your circle will appreciate it. And, to get things rolling, you could always ask for a change to what you  receive, perhaps no gifts at all, or a donation to a charity in your name instead.

The possibilities are endless.

While you are searching for alternate gifting ideas, why not check out the ample lists of experiences over stuff to treat your loved ones.

You can find all kinds of fun ideas at www.regionaldistrict.com/makememories.

Here are just a few to get you started.

  • Organize a family skate
  • Re gift a favourite novel or board game
  • Treat someone you love to a live performance, sporting event, theatre tickets, a trip to the  spa
  • Offer your dog walking or cat sitting services
  • Sign someone up for a cooking class, or art class
  • Teach them to tango, line dance, samba
  • Host an amazing dinner for all your friends

Thoughtful gift giving can dramatically reduce the amount of packaging and wrapping that accumulates and can encourage opportunities for us to create new holiday traditions for years to come.

Recycle your textiles

Here’s one to ponder the next time to you feel like adding a little something new to your wardrobe to spiff things up. Canadians on average buy 70 new items of clothing a year.

And textiles are one of the fastest growing waste streams, thanks to rapidly changing fashion trends and lower than ever prices.  In fact, some stats tout that 12 million tons a year of textile waste is dumped into North American landfills. Yikes, right?

Gone are the days that clothing is something we wear to cover up and keep us warm when it’s cool, and cool when it’s hot. We seem caught up in this constant thirst for new, novelty, on trend, which can sometimes translate into unnecessary, over the top, and disposable.

We can all find ways individually to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Here are some tips to ensure you and your family are not part of that growing textile waste trend. Old clothing and textiles are most definitely re-usable, doing so simply involves a few extra steps to make it so.

Don’t throw them in your curbside recycling cart, they are not considered part of the Recycle BC program. If you throw them in there, they end up contaminating the acceptable recyclables that are being collected, will be deemed garbage (and likely sullied with other stuff by then) and sent off to the landfill.

That’s sad, when there are so many other valuable avenues in the community that can make good use of them.

So what can you do with your old clothing and household wares to make sure they find a new life and are reused appropriately?  It’s really quite easy to get them into the second-hand market.

Consider these options.

  • Sell them online, and make some cash in the process.
  • Donate them to friends or family.
  • Donate them to thrift stores.
  • Send those that are still current to second hand consignment shops, there are many thriving ones in our area to choose from.
  • Hold a clothing swap party.
  • Contact your local animal shelter to see what they may need for pet bedding and cleanup.
  • Sometimes theatre groups or drama clubs are in need, depending on what you’ve got to donate.
  • Check out the stores policies where you buy your stuff, some retailers have launched sustainability campaigns and set up in store bins for recycling old items.

The possibilities are endless.

You’ve likely also seen the clothing donation bins all over town that support charities in our communities. A lot of the thrift stores will even come to your door and pick the donations up.

For example with the red mailbox style community boxes supplied by the Canadian Diabetes Clothesline, whatever you put in, those charities sell that material to the for profits like Value Village, they’re paid per pound, no matter what is in the bin-nice fundraiser for the charities.

They say they want “useable” textiles (not your old rags), and not just clothing-cushions, belts, shoes, sheets, blankets, bedspreads. It all has a new purpose, somewhere along the chain of reuse and repurposing.

As you are cleaning out your closets and doing your sort, keep in mind, donations don’t have to be in 100 per cent perfect condition.

Let the professionals, the textile recyclers and thrift stores make that decision, to sell them, or sell them to second end markets. Just don’t throw them in the garbage.

Be Mother Nature's deputy

We’ve all seen it or heard about it: bags of garbage tossed in a ditch, a couch left on the side of the road, litter on a sidewalk, yard waste tipped over an embankment, an old car or camper abandoned in the bush.

That is illegal dumping, disposing of something where it does not belong.

You’re not alone if you disgusted by those recent images shared through social media and news coverage of some of these more severe illegal dump sites that sully our great outdoors.

What are these people thinking, or something less polite possibly crosses your mind.

The dump site discovered on the Peachland/West Kelowna border is likely the most notorious of late — literally hundreds of tires, construction debris, household garbage and more — all scattered in a wide swath of once untouched beauty.

But sadly, there are many other messes left behind in the bush and beyond. And when hikers, horseback riders, outdoor enthusiasts of any stripe stumble upon them, it’s always disheartening. Equally as bad, these messes are often dangerous, and costly to clean up.

When someone carelessly or deliberately dumps in the bush, instead of following the proper and often easy and low cost means of placing their belongings curbside, at a recycling depot, or simply taking it to a registered transfer station or landfill, the fallout is huge.

We’re talking about things like environmental damage, contaminated drinking water, harm to wildlife, escalated risk of fire, increased costs to taxpayers for cleanup efforts, and often even more dumping, as unfortunately garbage begets more garbage.

The argument that if landfills were free this would not happen, if the hours of such and such a facility were better, or more convenient, illegal dumping would not exist is, frankly, hogwash. 

The costs to do the right thing are often much lower than the tank of gas it takes to drive out to the bush and dump. And, it’s a slim slice of the population still searching for their moral compass that are behaving this way, but ohhhh the damage a select few can do in a few moments of bad decision. 

That’s the down side.

The up side?  

There are a great many people who do care, who are willing to roll up their sleeves, put in the elbow grease and help make a difference.

Perhaps you are one of them.  

Stopping illegal dumping is and always has been a community effort as we all work together to keep our recreational surroundings the way nature intended, clean, safe, beautiful.

Thanks to more recently formed volunteer outdoor enthusiast groups such as the Okanagan Forestry Task Force, and countless other volunteer and service groups as well as nature-loving individuals in our community, over the last few decades they have assisted with thousands of personal volunteer hours to help with some of the larger scale cleanups.

The more manageable ones are tackled by contractors and Conservation Officers working under extremely lean budgets.

Here’s what’s changing.

The perpetrators need to know that more and more eyes are on them than ever before, and the tolerance level for this kind of bad behaviour is lower than ever.

With the touch of finger, images are posted and shared on social media, making that single act of destruction oh so very public.

So there’s that to keep in mind: if you are being bad in the bush, eventually, someone will see, and likely publicly out you.

And here’s what to do if you do happen to spot illegal dumping of any form.

Report all incidents with as much detail as possible, licence plate if applicable, GPS coordinates, nature of dump site, type of material and photographs are great.

Do the reporting anonymously if you need to, but let someone know, that’s the only way to get the mess moved.

We make it easy for you to use our online reporting form.  Or call Regional Waste Reduction office at 250-469-6250 anytime, or email [email protected]

We’d like to thank all the amazing volunteers that give of their time to do clean ups and keep our forests clean and safe for all. You are Heroes.

Here’s to not needing so many Heroes in years to come. l hope one day people will just learn to do the right thing.



Ditch single-use everything

I hope single use isn't on your shopping radar.

Take a short stroll down the aisles of your favourite grocery store and it becomes pretty obvious just how reliant we’ve become on ready-made, single-use and over-packaged items.

  • Pre-cut fruits and veggies
  • Snack packs in mini plastic pouches
  • Bottled water,
  • Single-use coffee pods

The list goes on and on.

And unless you cook from scratch only and are in the no-packaged-food-allowed camp (I want to meet you!), you’ve likely popped your fair share of these goodies into your shopping buggy.

We all lead busy lives, looking for shortcuts when it comes to food prep and getting meal to table, day in day out.

So, what’s the big deal with single-use and over-packaged items, you ask?  

While the packaging and delivery of some of those items we are buying can be recycled, lots can’t. And that means these items are filling up landfills and littering our environment.

Let’s look at some of the common culprits that we can’t recycle.

Cling wrap for instance, around just about anything packaged these days – Garbage, not for the recycling cart.

The same goes for single-use plastic cutlery, napkins, paper towels, plastic straws- — also all not recyclable —straight garbage.

Those single-use coffee pods (don’t get me started) are recyclable if you take the time to properly take them apart, compost the coffee grounds, recycle the mini-plastic cup, and throw out the tiny foil lid.

(The single-use coffee pods that have been trashed in landfills could wrap around the planet 10 times.)

Why should we care?

Shouldn’t producers and manufacturers make packaging that is more recyclable or not-over-packaging products in the first place?

In a perfect world, producers should be responsible, and we’re moving in the right direction with the onset of various stewardship programs in British Columbia that has put the onus for dealing with waste directly on the shoulders of producers and manufacturers.  

But so far, not all items or types of material are covered by these programs. So, we, as Joe shoppers, still have our part to do.

You’ve likely seen those disturbing videos showing all that plastic floating in our oceans, impacting and killing wildlife. 

We’ve all become well aware of the repercussions of ill-managed plastic and waste in general. The whole issue of plastic pollution arises from our disposable culture and excessive consumerism.

Generally, as a society we’re too disconnected from our waste and what happens to it when we are finished with it. And we’ve become dependent on all those single-use items so easily and cheaply available.

In a perfect world all single use would be eliminated, and our behaviour would be focused on reuse only.

But we’re not there yet. While there are often better options than plastic and single use, let’s focus on where we can make choices and make a difference.  

We have a role to play. By the choices we make, day in day out, with our shopping dollar. After all, it’s all the small choices that each of us has control over, each and every day, that leads to widespread long term change.

One person. One act. One small step at a time.

Tips for reducing single-use Items:

  • Carry a reusable travel mug. Asking for your take-out coffee in a reusable mug can make a big difference. (In Metro Vancouver for example, 2.6 million disposable cups are thrown away each week. Things aren’t that different in most larger cities with lots of coffee shops and take-out food joints.)
  • Rethink bottled water. Carry a refillable.
  • Buy fresh unpackaged produce using a reusable mesh produce bag.
  • Keep reusable bags or baskets or fold down boxes with you always, so they’re handy each time you shop. There are also lots of the teensy fold down variety that fit in a pocket or purse these days, for each time you shop.
  • Check out the bulk shops. All types are springing up regularly, and many allow you to bring your own containers to fill.
  • Use cloths instead of paper towels. Old cloths or towels make for great rags.
  • Re think your take out. Fast food equals a ton of waste. Some restaurants may accept your reusable containers. Ask!
  • Coffee pods, ditch them or buy a refillable filter for your pod-type coffee maker.

Got more ideas, share them with your friends and family. That’s also a great way to recycle.

More How's Your Waste Line? articles

About the Author

Rae Stewart is a waste reduction facilitator with the Central Okanagan Regional District and passionate about sharing information on all things related to waste-less living.

Contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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