Celebrating the Holidays Sustainably
By: Sofia Ferraro
Overconsumption has become a huge problem in the United States, and the negative impact on the environment surges during this time of the year. The holidays have become complete with extravagant decorations and an abundance of shopping and gifts, perpetuating increased pollution and resource depletion.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 25% more household waste is produced, and an additional one million tons of trash enters landfills every week. This is made up of wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, packaging materials, extra food, and Christmas trees. Among the hustle of the holidays, climate change and pollution are some of the least on most people's minds. However, it’s important to remember the environmental impact of some of these activities. It can be challenging or even impossible to have a fully green holiday season, but it’s essential to be mindful that there are many small efforts anyone can make!
1. Eco-Friendly Wrapping
Choose recyclable wrapping paper or use reusable gift bags or jars, and reuse materials such as ribbons, bows, and bags. This can significantly reduce the 8,000 tons of wrapping paper that go to landfills each year.
2. Order ahead of time.
Ground shipping has a lesser impact on the environment than priority or one-day shipping. Order gifts with enough time before the holidays, and opt for longer shipping times when possible.
3. Sustainable Gifting
Consider buying vintage items, thrifting, or making your own gifts! As well as being less expensive, these can also be more personal and unique. Think about gifting experiences, which can create lasting memories without contributing to pollution.
4. Support local businesses.
Small businesses have a minuscule carbon footprint compared to large companies. Buying gifts in person rather than ordering them online can also reduce the impact of shipping waste.
5. Lasting and meaningful gifts
5.8 billion pounds of gift returns get thrown away every year. It’s important to buy gifts that will be appreciated and used by the recipient so they don’t add to this exorbitant waste. Prioritize quality items that will last a long time instead of ending up in a landfill.
6. Eco-Friendly Tree Disposal
If your family has a Christmas tree, look into local recycling programs that will take it and turn it into mulch. Don’t just throw your tree away; although they can decompose naturally, a lot of trash ends up underground where there is a lack of oxygen.
7. Minimize food waste.
During the holidays, many families gather for big meals, which can significantly contribute to food waste. Instead of throwing away excess food, save it for leftovers and enjoy it throughout the next few days.
As the holidays approach, it becomes especially necessary to recognize the impact American consumption can have on climate change. It’s fully possible to participate in holiday celebrations and traditions while still making an effort for the environment!
1. ABC News 10: Americans amass nearly 30 pounds of extra trash during holiday weeks.