Catherine Yasckira ’24
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday spirit is all around, classes are winding down, and we are finally about to go on a much-needed winter break. It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holiday season. The decorations, the presents, the good food, and socially distanced get togethers are what make this time of year so special. However, despite the joy that this season brings the impact consumerism causes during the holidays should not be overlooked. “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week.” (Stanford, PSSI) It’s practically impossible to not produce waste during the holiday season, but there are many simple ways that you can be a bit greener this season, and save a couple of bucks, without sacrificing your holiday cheer!
During the holiday season, more than 700 billion dollars are spent in retail across the United States. And according to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. “When disposed of in an unlined landfill, a battery can leach its toxic constituents and contaminate groundwater, resulting in possible exposure to humans.” (Paynter, 2018) If you are buying a gift with batteries in it, a small way you can help the environment is to find out how to properly recycle those batteries. You could call up your local solid waste district to find out if your community has a collection program or upcoming event. Or if you’d rather, rechargeable batteries are a great option. These can be used more than 1,000 times and recycled at no cost. You can also use this holiday season as a way to promote local small businesses! Buying presents from big box stores may be a simple option, but the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. If you are able to buy locally this year, you can support businesses who may be having trouble economically, while also choosing a more environmentally conscious option.
LED holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than traditional holiday bulbs and can last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. On top of that, they use 0.4 watts per bulb which is 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Along with being environmentally friendly, switching to LEDs can save you money! “Over 30 days, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00 while the same number of LED lights costs only 19 cents.” (Faires, 2016)
In the US, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons. “If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.” (Stanford, PSSI) When you can, try to get creative with wrapping gifts. Using newspapers or fabric scraps can be an alternative that saves you money and reduces your waste this holiday season. If neither of these options works for you, it is better to purchase paper wrapping than plastic wrapping. Paper is renewable and biodegradable, making it a greener option for your holiday wrapping. And to ensure that your wrapping paper is ethically sourced, look to see if it has been certified by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC certifies product that comes from a forest has been sourced in an environmentally-friendly way.
Just making a few changes to the way you celebrate this holiday season can help the environment. It is important to be aware of your impact on the environment every day of the year, and especially during the holiday season with the hustle and bustle of shopping and gift-giving. So, this year, you can try helping the environment while saving a couple of bucks and still having a happy holiday.