Make joy, not garbage

Here we are, embarking on one of the most joyous seasons of the year, and yet all too often one of the most wasteful.

Stressful too, with many shoppers overspending and carrying holiday debt into the new year.

If you find you or someone you know is all too easily swept away by the excess of the holiday swirl and you often feel fatigue because of it, the over shopping, over gifting, over consuming, over everything, you may want to consider an alternate way to treat and honour your loved  ones.

It’s not that much of a surprise that come January, we take stock and recognize we may want to make a few changes. We may glance at our credit card balance, or our garbage and recycle carts, and see we’re surrounded by a whole lot more unnecessary stuff.

And the ah ha moment nestles in — something needs to give.

You don’t need to wait until the new year, you can start now with some simple steps to create memories, not garbage. 

It’s all about reasoned choices that resonate with you and your family- ahead of time — so that your December doesn’t make a ruin of your January and beyond.

Think about changing the gift giving expectation. Tell your family and friends you don’t need a gift, you would rather just get together with them, in person.

If asking for no gifts is going to go over like a lead balloon, perhaps ask for something that’s consumable instead of non- consumable. Or an experience instead of material goods.

A fruit basket, a gift certificate to a restaurant, movie passes, a plant or flowers, show tickets — these are all great gifts that don’t overload your home with new and perhaps unwanted stuff.

What about suggesting your loved ones make a donation to a special charity on your behalf? Or you doing that for someone on your list.  

What a feel good knowing the money that could have gone to a new pair of earrings or sweater or socks that you may not need goes to a scholarship that could change a child’s life instead, or that of an animal, or a threatened eco system.

Need some additional help with great alternate gift ideas for that special someone?  

How about:

  • A day at the spa
  • New hobby with a loved one
  • Re-gift a favourite novel or board game
  • Treat someone to a live performance, theatre tickets
  • Offer the gift of your time-dog walking, cat sitting, house cleaning, manicure, or baby sitting services
  • Sign someone up for a cooking class, painting, dance or photography class
  • Host an amazing dinner for all your friends, using locally grown food

Often, some of our best memories of the holidays involve time spent with family and friends. Maybe it was a family skating party, a special sledding adventure, making gingerbread houses or other baking together, an open house or cookie exchange, or making decorations together.

And thoughtful gift giving can really reduce the amount of packaging and wrapping that piles up.

For information on how you can Create Memories, Not Garbage this holiday season, visit creatememoriesnotgarbage.ca, or rdco.com/creatememories.


Don't heave ho haz waste

You likely know you should never put hazardous wastes down the drain or into the garbage.

But you may not realize hazardous waste is a pretty broad term, and covers a lot of material you may have kicking around your home that really should be handled with kid gloves.

Always. No exceptions.

And if you think some of it can perhaps go into your recycling cart, think again.

First, let’s cover off some of the basics of what constitutes haz waste. What we typically think of are the items we have under the sink or out in the garage with the scary symbols: 

  • Corrosive,
  • Toxic
  • Flammable
  • Explosive
  • Poisonous.

Yes, all of those are considered household hazardous waste (HHW).

Some common examples?

  • Cleaners and furniture polishes.
  • Pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Adhesives, caulking, and sealants.
  • Pool and hot tub chemicals.
  • Bug repellent. Insecticides.
  • Paint.
  • Crack filler. 

Did you know a wide array of electronics also fall into the hazardous category too? Such as:

  • Cell phone
  • Laptop
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent light bulbs and tubes
  • Thermostats and smoke detectors. 

What we’re learning from our partners at Recycle BC is that there’s an alarming rise in the number of explosive and hazardous materials B.C. residents are tossing in the residential packaging and paper recycling system.

With that, B.C.’s major recycling collectors and processors have seen an increase in fires in 2019, endangering lives and forcing the temporary closure of facilities.

Why is the risk for fires or explosions so high for collection vehicles and receiving facilities? The vast amounts of paper mixed with machinery, oxygen and the combo of easily flammable material such as mini propane tanks, lithium batteries or pool chemicals, It’s a recipe for trouble. 

In fact, last year in North America, there were 365 fires, 113 injuries, and three deaths reported in sorting and recycling facilities.

Watch out and handle with care these hazardous items. They can cause serious harm to recycling staff and facilities. 

  • Propane canisters
  • Flammable liquids
  • Helium tanks
  • Flares
  • Electronics
  • Batteries for e-cigarettes
  • Cell phones and laptops (lithium-ion batteries)
  • Butane canisters
  • Bear spray
  • Ammunition
  • Lighters and matches
  • Household batteries
  • Paint
  • Needles and Knives

So where should you dispose of these things? 

Again, never in your curbside carts. garbage, recycling or yard waste. Go to rdco.com/hazwaste or check out the Recycle Coach App for convenient depot locations, disposal tips, and hours. 

Keep in mind Kelowna Recycling (Battery Doctors) on Windsor is our year round Household Hazardous Waste Depot.

They take a good deal of household product, but there are some limits to be aware of. 

Now, this one is really important.

Always keep in mind, household hazardous waste needs to be handled very carefully. Our health and environment are at risk.

So are you, your family and your pets. And each of us needs to take responsibility for the products we use, and sometimes don’t use up.

When you’re ready to get rid of some eco nasty you no longer need or want, and are prepping to take it to Kelowna Recycle or another depot, here’s your personal check list.

  • Make sure containers have tightly attached lids to prevent leaks.  
  • Materials in glass jars or containers are not accepted unless they are pesticides in the original glass container. Solidified liquid materials or empty containers are not accepted.
  • Make sure materials are labelled as best as possible so depot staff know what they’re dealing with.
  • Pack your goods in a sturdy box and place upright to prevent spills. No plastic bags! And Line your trunk with cardboard or something protective, just in case!
  • Keep items in the trunk of your car, away from the kid-lets, pets or groceries
  • Containers that are empty and dry, toss those in your regular household garbage. Not your recycling cart.

Do your part to keep your family and our community and workers as safe as possible.

Waste-free lunches

The dust has settled on getting the kids back to school and developing routines.

Maybe now you have just a little extra time to think about sprucing up your game when it comes to packing the family lunches.

Want to cut down on the personal waste you and your family create? Here are some easy tips on creating a waste-free lunch that will help you reduce unnecessary packaging, save you money and overall help preserve our collective natural resources.

That would feel pretty good, right?

And these tips are not just for your kids’ lunches either; they can extend to your work lunches as well.

First, it’s always good to BYO!

That’s Bring Your Own!

And that means when it comes to meal times, eating in our out, to bring your own reusable everything every time.

It’s a pretty simple way to start making a difference, every single day, something you yourself can control.

Tip One, and Tip Two

Think Reusable. And BYO - Bring Your Own.

Things to replace single-use items such as:

  • reusable containers
  • reusable cups
  • reusable utensils
  • cloth napkins.

You name it, once you get going, that BYO habit may just be infectious.

Think backpacks, handbags. Bike panniers. Reusable water bottles, spoons, forks, napkins. Reusable food wrap instead of cling wrap. Stainless steel or bamboo containers.

Invest in a thermos. Or two. Or three.

If what you are packing for the kids or yourself needs to stay hot, or cold, there are all kinds of insulated varieties of thermos on the market to suit your needs.

Remember: Reusable and Bring Your Own. Every time.

So you don’t have to waste your hard earned money buying single use versions over and over again. You’ll reduce your personal garbage output, too.

Tip Three

Watch what you buy!

As a parent, I know all too well how easy it is to cave to those fancy pre-packaged, fun things that kids clamour for in the grocery aisles when you shop together. That’s mistake No.1.

Leave the kids at home when you grocery shop.

While all those single-use servings of hummus, or dip, or peanut butter, or individually wrapped cheese strings, or mini bags of chips, carrots, salami, yogurts are quick and easy to toss in a lunch bag, all that waste also adds up, physically, and in terms of your wallet.

How about buying in large containers instead, and divvy this stuff up accordingly into reusable containers that can be washed and reused over and over.

And finally, sometimes packaging and snack wrappers are unavoidable, but you can still take those candy wrappers your little ones bring home to your nearest recycling depot as part of the flexible packaging recycling program.

Can you make a difference? You bet you can; just BYO!


Get rid of those books

Personal Library Too Big? Re-purpose!

Are you a lover of books of all kinds?

Have a hard time getting rid of old magazines?

If you’re like me you promise you’ll one day take another look at that chocolate zucchini cake recipe, or that backyard landscaping article, but one day never seems to come.

Is your hardcover book collection taking up more and more valuable real estate on your shelves as each year passes?  Always have one too many outdated phone directories cluttering up your home office space?

Here are some tips to help you cull that book, magazine and directory clutter once and for all.

First, be aware hardcover books or softcover paperbacks are not permitted for recycling in your curbside recycling cart.

They are not part of the Recycle BC paper and packaging program. There are still many other options available to you to help regain some bookshelf real estate.

Consider a book swap with family and friends. Sell them, or give them away online. Consider donating them to your favourite thrift store or charity, or having a garage sale.

Try contacting your local chapter of the Friends of the Library. They gratefully accept not only donations of books, but also CDs, DVDs, puzzles and games. And their sales help fund valuable local causes.

IF your books aren’t in good shape, West Kelowna’s Planet Earth Recycling is an option to consider, a good spot for outdated textbooks or encyclopedias that you may have a hard time unloading.

You can put your old phone books in your curbside recycling cart. The same goes for business directories.
Keep in mind though, if you’re getting any directory delivered to your doorstep and you never use it, because you do all your info lookup online, remove yourself once and for all from the company’s delivery list. Today.

That way by the time the next issue is about to hit circulation, you won’t be on it, and won’t be wasting valuable production/delivery time by accepting something you don’t need or want.

How about those stacks of magazines taking up household space and energy? Yes, they too can get tossed into your curbside recycling cart. Or, if they are still in good shape and can provide some entertainment and education value, pass them on to others.

Check in with your local seniors’ centre, long-term care facility, doctors’ or dentists’ offices, women’s shelter, kids daycare to see if they can use those old magazines.

Swap with friends and family. Or, send them on their way to your local thrift store. Just remember to X out your personal information on the front cover before you pass them along.

We may as well mention household paper clutter while we are at it. Those stacks of outdated flyers, kids school projects, even bills and statements are all just fine in your curbside recycling bin.

If it’s sensitive material you wish to shred, keep in mind with shredded paper, you are asked to put that in a clear plastic bag before you put it in your cart — the only time a plastic bag is OK in your curbside recycling bin.

And, of course, if you are not yet a fan of online billing, it’s something to consider if you wish to reduce your paper waste in future.

Oh and finally, have you met Pinterest? The next time you have an hour or 10 to spare, Google  the zillions of fun and crafty project ideas all made from  pre loved books, magazines and kids art: baskets, decoupage lamp shades, wall art, earrings.

The ideas are amazing and endless.

As always, when wondering what to recycle and where, there’s the handy and free to download Recycle Coach app, or visit regionaldistrict.com/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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