Yet another holiday season is upon us, and with it comes warm gift exchanges by the fire, the scent of ferns wafting throughout the house, and unfortunate covers of holiday classics blaring incessantly on most radio stations. While many see the holiday season as the happiest time of the year, it’s not quite so joyous for our environment, with waste and pollution of all kinds increasing sharply between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. So this year, challenge yourself to modify your holiday habits and to develop green traditions!
Each year in the U.S., roughly 30 million Christmas trees are cut down to be sold, many of which are incinerated or added to the landfill within a month. In Britain alone, more than one billion holiday cards are thrown away each Christmas season. That’s enough to stretch around the world five times, with each rotation amounting to nearly 25,000 miles. Britain pitches enough wrapping paper to travel around the globe nine times, as well as 125,000 tons of plastic packaging. And Britain’s inhabitants represent less than 1% of the world’s total population. The average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash each day, which increases by more than 25% just in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. With excess food waste, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons, packaging, and shopping bags, an additional million tons of waste end up in American landfills per week during the holiday season.
Over $70 million worth of holiday gifts are returned each year in the U.S. alone, and these returned goods can have even more negative effects on the environment than unwanted gifts that are sent straight to the landfill. On average, a returned item of clothing will travel over 3,600 miles, contributing air pollution from trucks and planes, before it is sold to a secondary consumer, not to mention the distance it traveled to reach the primary consumer. Both online and in-store purchases rack up a considerable carbon footprint.
With reason, the environmentally-conscious amongst us feel a little angst mixed in with our holiday cheer. However, this is a season of hope! There are countless simple ways to enjoy a green holiday season. For starters, get creative with gifts! Avoid the packaging and carbon footprint of store-bought items by giving something homemade. Instead of physical gifts, give services and experiences such as memberships or tickets to games and concerts. If DIY gifts are out of your comfort zone or you’re set on a physical gift, look for products that have minimal packaging, and be sure to use reusable shopping bags. Use recyclable wrapping paper or, better yet, reuse gift bags and boxes (my mother has been using the same shoe box from the 90s for as long as I can remember).
At the end of the season, be sure to take your tree to be mulched. Avoid fake trees, as they are shipped almost exclusively from Asia and typically require over ten years of use before they become a more environmentally- sound choice than an annual live tree. If and when you receive a gift that is just not your style, consider donating it to someone in need in order to avoid the endless shipping cycle of the returns process. Finally, replace your traditional, paper holiday card with an electronic card. With these easy modifications, you can enjoy a holiday season that is just as merry as the last, with a clear conscious that your gifts and decorations are also a gift to our environment.
Wrappily offers 100% upcycled and 100% recyclable wrapping paper.