sunday times: holiday waste

November 20, 2005

in Environmental issues

I’ll admit, the holidays are not my favorite time of year. At least here in the U.S., they are well able to represent many of the uglier aspects of American culture: consumerism, waste, over-indulgence, keeping up with the Joneses (“affluenza”), waste.  Did I mention waste?

Through various sources I learned that:

  • 2.65 billion holiday cards sold in the U.S. each year, out of a total of 7 billion greeting cards of all types.
  • Americans throw away 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve (a 25% increase from normal).
    • If every American wrapped 3 gifts in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • About 70% of the Christmas trees sold in the U.S. are now artificial, most made with PVC (a petroleum product).
    • Buy a real tree, then recycle it.
  • Conventional incadescent holiday lights use 2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy a year.

While “”reduce, re-use, recycle” are great, I kind of like “eliminate.”  How about no cards — sending e-cards instead (Christmas or more secular versions).  Not wrapping gifts at all?  Or giving gifts that don’t need to be wrapped and are not consumer goods, like donations or memberships to worthy organizations?  Instead of lights, how about vegetable wax candles, or taking a winter solstice hike in the woods and enjoying nature-decorated trees in a natural setting?

AdBusters is designating Friday, November 25 as “Buy Nothing Day,” reminding us to take a break from the annual consumer binge.


Charlie Moores November 20, 2005 at 5:05 pm

Good one Nuthatch.

Incidentally, you might be interested in this link –
It gives alternatives to the waste of killing 300million Turkeys a year.

Kris November 27, 2005 at 3:00 am

I love the holidays, but I don't like the consumerism and waste. I should do more to fight the waste–your suggestions are good–but one thing I'm happy to have done is to eliminate at least some of the consumerism of the holidays. A couple of years ago I told everyone on my gift list that from now on we would be giving homemade gifts or donations to worthy causes in the "giftee's" name, rather than buying things (although we still buy toys etc. for the little kids). I'm quite sure that some people dislike this and think we're just being cheap (!), but I feel good about it. We do birdhouse gourds and the like (hoping to expand the gourd thing, as we enjoy growing and crafting them), but mostly it's home-canned and -dried foods, homemade candies, baked-goods-in-a-jar, handmade soaps, homemade liqeurs, homemade wine, and that sort of thing. We enjoy it and I think the family is getting used to it. We get most of the jars and bottles back to re-use, too. We tend to use gift bags, which are re-usable and passed back and forth holiday after holiday. We just got fed up, if not nauseated, with the shopping/spending frenzy–it really detracted from the holiday. I'd much rather spend the time creating our own gifts than trekking through the big malls, etc.

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