In October, I ordered a set of rubber floor mats for my car from Canadian Tire. I knew slushy weather was coming but didn’t have time to get to Castlegar to pick them up myself. So, I added them to my online cart and hardly blinked when my credit card information so conveniently appeared in the field. A quick, reflex-like tap-tap-tap of my security code and finally, a confirmation that I’d get my mats within a couple of days. Then the antsy page refreshing started.
I don’t know about you, but I check those parcel trackers obsessively. So, the next day, I watched my package leave a store in Penticton and sail right past my house, all the way to Calgary – a distribution hub for the company. A day later, my package retraced its route westward and finally landed at my house it Grand Forks. The whole experience was excessively convenient but decadently wasteful.
We pay with garbage each time we ask for convenience. (I should know, I have more than a couple aluminum tins from frozen lasagne dinners waiting for recycling day). And while it’s just so darn handy to click and order a book on Amazon or a set of floor mats from an online store, it’s really often at a detriment to our community – both environmentally and economically. Buying local can cost more, but for those who can, the benefits to our community members can be tangible and the satisfaction of purchase immediate.
Around Christmas time particularly, I have made it a tradition to avoid shopping malls. (Of course, that’s easier here, where there are none). Twinkling decorations hide the to-be garbage flying off the shelves and it’s all just very overwhelming. Stuff, in general, is overwhelming. Shoddy strings of Christmas lights (which are recyclable, by the way), rolls of wrapping paper bought only to be torn and trashed and tacky decorations for the simple sake of tacky are all great fun, but let’s be conscious of our consumption.
Enjoy them. Appreciate them, care for them and, if you can, repair or reuse them.
I used to find it amazing how my mother would always meticulously unwrap whatever we’d gotten her (nearly always a book) with such care as to not rip the paper or lift any of the ink off it with the tape. How could she not just tear into the wrapping with the anticipation of seeing what mystery novel we’d gotten her this year? Inevitably, that wrapping paper would get tucked away in a drawer in the sewing room and get used again the following Christmas.
Perhaps knowing that her kids might not have the same restraint when it came to Christmas, my mom has also always used the same few fabric bags – Christmas prints, of course, just more durable than normal wrapping paper – to disguise anything she and my father have given my siblings and me. After the flurry of holiday excitement, each year, the bags would go back into the same sewing room drawer, to be pulled out again later.
Both systems-turned-traditions in our family have had the happy benefit of cutting down on waste during a time of year meant to appreciate what we’ve got and who we’ve got.
That’s not to say that wrapping paper isn’t fun and all and that you should just put the book directly on your givee’s beside table. So, in the spirit of the season, I offer you a “life hack” during this period that can otherwise be overwhelming for many.
Step 1: Read this newspaper.
Step 2: Create two piles – one of clippings of stories or ads that you want to keep, and one with everything else. Being sure to keep pages flat will help you further on in the process.
Step 3: Dig through your recycling bin and repeat this process with all usable news pages left in there.
Step 4: Take the money that you were going to spend on use-once wrapping paper from the store and put it back in the piggy bank.
Step 5: Start wrapping! Find your favourite pictures or headlines and wrap your loved ones’ gifts with those limited-edition sheets of paper – that’s right, once we’re sold out, there will never again be wrapping paper like this.
Step 6: Enjoy watching the faces of those you’ve gifted things to – appreciate their presence, their joy and their company.