‘Tis the season scientists!
I’m a big fan of the holidays. The weather, the spirit, the music, the whole shebang. It’s a time of appreciation and family gatherings. Relaxing and having time to focus on yourself is always nice. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa (or something else!) the holidays tend to be filled with excitement and entertainment. Maybe your family is hosting, maybe you will travel to your extended family this year. Some people have traditions, some don’t. Either way, the holidays will be memorable in some fashion.
Do you know what I’m not a fan of?
It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, the holidays are usually not very eco-friendly. I took it upon myself to look up some statistics about the waste production around the weeks of Christmas and you will not like what I found. It is an important part of understanding the importance of changing habits, so even though it’s slightly uncomfortable to read, I urge you to continue.
38,000 miles of ribbon are sold (with that you can tie a bow around the earth)
2.65 billion greeting cards are sent out (you can fill a football field 10 stories high with these cards)
5 billion pounds of waste comes solely from returns
Holiday lights suck enough energy that they could power 400,000 homes for a year
Each person on average accumulates 35 pounds of waste per week, but during the holidays this rises to 44 pounds. With the large population in the US, this means an extra 2,887,500,000 pounds of waste PER WEEK is created during this time. (yikes….)
These are just a few examples that stood out to me. This really resonated and made me think about the larger impact of just a few weeks out of the whole year. We can do better. We have to do better. Our planet is counting on us. Fortunately, it’s not a lost cause. There are simple changes that we can all make to work towards a better future. A cleaner and more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Let’s jump right in!
When it comes to making your house or apartment festive, slight changes can really decrease your environmental footprint. You still get to feel that holiday spirit and mother earth is surely more thankful to you.
Make sure that your lights are LEDs. This cuts down the amount of energy used by 80%!
If you have a Christmas tree that you like to decorate, reuse your ornaments from year to year.
Talking about the tree, it is more eco-friendly to use a live tree than a plastic one. That is if you compost it once the season is over.
Think about alternative ways to turn things you already have into something a little more festive
When thinking about what to get for your loved ones, there are clean alternatives that decrease the amount of waste. My personal favorite is giving “experiences” instead of physical gifts. This eliminates the chance of your gift getting returned! If you are stuck, here are some examples.
Tickets to movies, concerts, or shows
Reservations to some of their favorite restaurants
For animal lovers, “adopt” a wild animal online and the money goes to preserving and protecting that animal in the wild
Simply an outing that the two of you could enjoy together, emphasizing quality time over tangible objects
Passes to classes in yoga, dance, cooking, or surfing
This is the part of the process that creates the most waste. You have wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, and the cards and tags that go along with each present.
Surprisingly, many types of wrapping paper are not recyclable. The paper can be laced with foils, sparkles, and other materials that take away the possibility of recycling. So, if you insist on wrapping presents in the traditional wrapping paper, look for ones that are not made with said materials. There are now some that are made out of recycled paper! This is the alternative we want!
Ribbons and bows do make the presents more aesthetically pleasing to look at but in reality, do we really need to use them? Maybe not. If you do want to use them, make sure to collect them after all the unwrapping instead of throwing them out. They can be used for next year.
Lastly, I want to share an environmentally conscious way that my family does the tags on our gifts. Over the years, we have collected all of the holiday cards that we receive from people. They fit the theme of the holidays with the trees, snow, and other stereotypical spirited scenes. We cut bits and pieces of the cards into the shape we need for a tag. One side tends the be pretty and the other side is blank. You write who the gift is for/from and tape it onto the present. Giving another life to the cards is a great way to save money as well as help the earth.
I hope some of these ideas help you and your family during this season and for future years!
Happy holidays everyone!