Holiday seasons generate a massive load of waste.
The United States has about 4% of the world's population, but it generates 12% of the world's municipal solid garbage— the number increases throughout Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Every holiday, we discard numerous pounds of holiday food, plastic containers, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, and other household items.
Image Credit: Sarah Pflug via Burst
Waste minimization during the holiday season necessitates a progressive approach, a definitive rethinking of how we organize and commemorate the most festive time of year.
Planning can pave a way for a better future — a sustainable march towards and throughout the holidays. A design that focuses not just on green consumption but also on how we consume on a daily basis.
- Cancel The Tinsel, All That Glitter Is Not Gold— They Mostly Become Waste
Waste management is taxing Americans billions of dollars with the average cost to landfill MSW at 53.72 $ per ton in 2020 (waste was generated in terms of hundreds of millions of tons). We spend money during new products during holidays, only to spend more ridding the leftovers. Now, does that even make sense?
Most of us don't know what to do with bright, bristly holiday decorations that aren't recyclable. The consequence? Abandoned elves, Christmas ornaments, and wrappings— they fall right into the wrong containers, .i.e., landfills. These plastic waste also pollute our seas and oceans when wind-blown. Oceans serve as a habitat for over two million marine species, and help expel carbon dioxide from the precious air that we breathe to stay alive. Along with sparing landfills, we must do everything we can to conserve the ocean.
- Stop The Food Waste
During the holidays, we have an inclination to do everything over the top— over decorating, overbaking, overcooking, overbuying/ gifting. What comes next is monumental quantities of baked foods and highlands of leftovers in the trash bins. Meanwhile, landfills bear the burden of plastic and organic waste. This results in the release of methane, a greenhouse gas which has 80% more warming potency than carbon dioxide.
The United States produces 25% additional waste over the festive season—yearly amounting to nearly 1 million extra tonnes of trash according to CNN. Food waste alone, thrown away by Americans in a year, accounts for about 40% of the total food supply, resulting in detrimental volumes of greenhouse gases.
The waste figures are troubling!
At this point, it’s no longer about the numbers, but the impacts of our mindless actions— a predictable ramification of our consumption habits, particularly during holiday seasons. So, holiday or not, these staggering statistics are a warning signal that consumers and businesses need to start working together to lessen our environmental footprint. The more we transfer wastes to landfills, the more methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) is discharged into the air. This accelerates global temperatures, and the repercussions come back to us in the forms of wildfires, storms, floods, droughts, etc. As demonstrated by the merciless California wildfires, these natural catastrophes can have disastrous effects on the planet and its inhabitants.
- Rethinking Holiday Celebrations - The Minimalist Christmas
How can you cut down on your 2021 Christmas waste? A fresh take on how we embrace Christmas is how. Making decisions with the greater picture in mind pushes us to thrive for changes that make a difference. Retrofitting our celebration habits can lessen trash and allow us to understand how our wastes traffic with the world.
- Giving Plastic Wrappings The Cold Shoulder
As we get ready to celebrate the season of giving in 2021, let’s house our gifts in sustainable packaging as much as possible. Pay mind to the materials to wrap the gifts until the grand reveal— use repurposed paper or old newspapers that you've decorated yourself. Make recycling and reusing the priority by avoiding plastic wrapping and ribbons. You can also put the gift in reusable cotton drawstring muslins. They're eco-friendly and useful in so many ways, beyond gift wrapping. Adopting these few simple steps can help in fully preventing holiday plastic and paper wastes.
What about the gift aside from the wrapping, you ask? Decide on gifts with no packaging or make the packaging itself the gift— organic cotton backpacks, toiletry bags, laptop sleeves, totes, are all great sustainable gift options that don’t require additional packaging. You can also make gifts at home— instead of store-bought times, gift cookies, cakes, or pies made with locally sourced ingredients.
- The Special Holiday Meal
It’s heartbreaking when you think about food waste, yet, every year, millions of people becomes victims of starvation. Don’t let your holiday food go to waste this Christmas. Decide your menu in an amount that is consumable— cook with recipes that involve food scraps. If there are clean leftovers or unopened food left, donate them to charities and hunger-relief organizations. Hunger still stands as the biggest health poverty— you can help turn someone’s dream to sleep hunger-free into a reality by supporting organizations like Feeding America. Feeding America is the nation's largest hunger-relief organization, with over 200 food banks and food rescue organizations around the country.
Instead of wasting our blessings, why not contribute to a good cause? Christmas, after all, is a time of giving— a perfect opportunity to search beyond our own selves, to discover the true meaning of love and giving back.
- The Christmas Tree Dilemma
Real Christmas trees are lovely and add a truly joyous ambiance to your house. The problem with real Christmas trees is that thousands of tonnes end up in landfills and they (pine tree) take decades to decompose. Not to forget, the emission of harmful methane gas. However, real trees, if replanted, chipped, or burned on a bonfire, can bring down the carbon emissions by up to 80%, or roughly 2 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
Then, there are the fake Christmas trees--- they look magical and we can reuse them. But again, a single 6½ foot artificial tree emits 88 pounds of carbon dioxide. Now, we can counter the carbon footprint by reusing them in the future festive season. But for how long? Who is to say we would use them for 20 long years (or more) just to neutralize its primary emission!
While the debate on which tree, real or artificial, is better for the planet is nothing new, if you were to analyze manufacturing methods and recycling potential, a real tree appears to have a lower carbon impact.
So, what should you do? We say, skip the tree altogether.
Trees are precious— they create oxygen which is a necessity for every species on earth, vegetation, and green cover. In a nutshell, trees nourish the ecosystem. By cutting trees, we are putting not just our lives in jeopardy, but also the planet. We’ve caused mother nature enough problems, let’s leave the trees alone and go for a no-tree Christmas tree this year. And instead, try aesthetic DIYs— book tree, ladder tree, wall art tree, or even decorate an existing plant or tree!
Yes, the nostalgic scent of real evergreen is irresistible, but we’ve entered a time and space where conscious thinking is no longer a choice. Moreover, accessories shouldn’t matter so long as we have the Christmas spirit. Right?
Holiday rituals have evolved over the years— at this juncture in history, waste reduction needs to become a mainstream festive tradition. We can make ourselves proud and leave a bountiful planet for the coming generations by shaving off our mindless desires to glorify materialistic conducts during holidays.
Wishing you the most peaceful Christmas!