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By Shannon Scott

Picture this: its Christmas morning, all the gifts have been ripped open, wrapping paper flying, and now it’s time to clean up. Everyone knows that giant garbage bag that gets passed around, filled to the brim with paper, waste, and ultimately (though we don’t always think about it), your hard earned money.

But what if we were able to eliminate that dreaded black garbage bag altogether? Find out how to start your holiday season off right with yourSAUGA’s tips on how to reduce your waste AND your spending this Christmas!

1.Reuse all tissue, bags, ribbon, bows, etc.

Forget scrambling to find a bag or bow ten minutes before the party! For every gift you receive, keep everything it came in to reuse later. Not only will you have something on hand at all times, but it’s a great way to save your hard earned bucks while reducing garbage that would otherwise end up in a landfill or the ocean.

2.Don’t buy wrapping paper

Ripping up wrapping paper brings out the child in all of us; I’m among the majority who dabble in a bit of frantic unwrapping on Christmas morning. Everyone loves it, but many people don’t know that wrapping paper isn’t recyclable. You may be thinking that with it being paper, it should be going straight to your blue bin; however, the dye, wax, and non-paper additives that are applied to it makes it non-recyclable, and therefore, destined for the dump. An alternative and sustainable option to wrapping paper are bags and boxes from the dollar store. These items come in festive colours and patterns that are still sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

If you just can’t imagine giving up your favourite wrapping paper, try wrapping your boxes in it to be reused from year to year. You can also try using classic brown craft paper. It’s recyclable, and you can decorate it and dress it up with the ribbon you received with your last present!

Have a comic lover in the family? I’ve used the comics from the Sunday newspaper to wrap my gifts – it’s a great way to give a present a personal feel while keeping a clean conscience.

3.Try using a reusable mug

With the cold weather on its way, warm coffee and hot chocolate are a must. Make your favourite drink at home and bring it to the office in a reusable mug! If you’re addicted to Starbucks or Tim Horton’s, never fear. Both Starbucks and Tim’s actually give you $0.10 off your drink when you bring your own tumbler, so not only will you be saving some money, you’ll be saving another cup from the landfill.

4.Use old holiday cards for decorations on gifts, crafts, etc.

Cards are wonderful and a great way to show you care – but most of us probably won’t keep the ones our dentists send us. No need to toss them! Cut out any bits and pieces you like and use them to decorate gift wrap, gift bags, your own cards, and more! Even envelopes can be reused if they weren’t sealed – just slap a label over the original writing and address it to whomever you’d like!

5.Use cloth napkins at the dinner table

It may seem like a small thing, but having reusable napkins that can be thrown in the wash after a big Christmas meal is a large step to reducing your waste. Going off of this same idea, replacing paper towels with reusable cloth towels for your Christmas cleaning will save you tons of money in addition to reducing the amount of towels that gets tossed away.

6.Be conscious of the presents you buy

Resist the urge to buy items that contain a large amount of unnecessary packaging. According to the Cornell Waste Management Institution, discarded packaging makes up a staggering 30-40% of our trash. While it isn’t easy, we’ll be doing our part to lower this percentage when we make more conscious choices at the checkout counter.

7.Regifting

I know what you’re thinking, but regifting doesn’t always have to be taboo (as long as you remember who gave it to you, of course). If you know someone who would legitimately enjoy the gift far more than yourself, there’s no need to let it go to waste.  Consider, however, pinning a note with the prior gift-givers name on it. From prior experience, receiving an item you had gifted someone the year before is a big no-no!

8.Change up those holiday leftovers

Having turkey for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn’t ideal, but leftovers never seem to end after that big Christmas dinner. Stop the endless turkey sandwiches by visiting http://www.foodwise.com.au/recipe-room/our-recipe-finder/! This website will generate a recipe for you based on the items you have in your fridge and cupboards, making it easy to create a new meal without sentencing your holiday food to the compost.