The last holidays of the year can be a doozy on students’ wallets. It can also be a doozy on our trash cans. Black Friday came and went and now Christmas sales are popping up, and next will be Boxing Day prices; how can we get nice things for our friends and family, not stress about paying tuition in January, and not accumulate twice as much garbage as any other month of the year? I have no fear in sounding like a broken record: bring your reusable bags, shop local, be conscious of packaging, and wrap presents with recyclable materials. 

No, wrapping paper is not recyclable. If it has glitter or texture it’s a definite no. There’s also the scrunch test: if you can’t scrunch it, it’s probably not recyclable. Recycling contamination is real sad. If there are a few things in your recycling bin that are not recyclable, it affects everything and the whole lot can end up in landfill. So take a second and refresh that memory on how to properly recycle as we head into this gift giving season.

A few ways to ensure that you’re wrapping responsibly: wrap with newspaper or magazines, use string instead of tape, decorate your own plain paper bags, use fabric, and/or buy recyclable wrapping paper. Newspaper and magazines are a great way to save money. Pick them up from anywhere for free, and if you’re lucky you’ll find a hilarious photo to showcase. 

Natasha van Halderen is the owner of Green Bohème based out of central Nanaimo. Green Bohème opened in 2018. It is a small online shop that offers eco-friendly products to help reduce plastic waste and support brands that ethically source. Van Halderen started the online shop because she found herself searching an array of stores and websites for low-waste goods and thought it would be great to find them all in one place. Her store has great low-waste basics, many of which are Canadian-made. If you live in Nanaimo you can order and pay online, then pick up your order from her front porch.

I asked her what she thinks the biggest hurdle is to making less trash over the holiday. She said, “Obviously gift giving, wrapping paper especially, is an area where people struggle, but I also think it’s all the little things, like plastic wrapped candies, and other food items.” 

She debunked the myth that eco-friendly, reusable products require an expensive lifestyle and hard work: “Yes, the initial cost will be higher for a reusable item, but when you buy a quality product you will have it for months or often years, meaning it will pay for itself many times over. Once you get in the habit of using reusables, you realize it’s not harder at all, it’s just different. Give yourself time to adjust. My experience has been that things actually become so much simpler and streamlined when you make the effort—and once you get into the habit, it stops feeling like effort at all.”

Van Halderen was working toward a low-waste life before opening Green Bohème. She says the shop has been an extension of that mindset. “It has connected me to so many creative companies and individuals who are just as passionate as I am about making a difference in whatever way they can.” 

A great source of tips when aiming for a greener Christmas, van Halderen has a few ideas to offer. “When it comes to gifting, I think it’s good to be mindful of whether it’s actually something the receiver needs. Giving your time or sharing an experience with someone is a nice way to bond and create memories in a low-waste way. I have learned that there are many ways to do the same thing and still achieve a low-waste result. No matter your budget or where you live there are things you can start doing today to make an impact.” 

Green Bohème has the basics and beyond for living low-waste. Whether you’re buying for yourself or someone else, it’s a good place to up your green game this Christmas. Maybe try to challenge your friends and family this year to see who contributed the least amount of trash after the gifts have been opened. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there’s no harm in trying.

Natasha van Halderen, owner of Green Bohème