December 14, 2010

Holidays = 5 Million Extra Tons of Waste. We can make a difference!

Ho Ho Ho. Boo Hoo Hoo.

Photo: www.freedigitalphotos.net |frances comarino

In the U.S., an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holiday season (from Thanksgiving to New Years Day). 4 million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags. Need I say more? Well I will.

* Food waste increases 25% — 28 billion pounds of edible food wasted (100 pounds per person)!
* 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high!
* 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.
* Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased. Of those, 30 million go to the landfills.
* And what about all that packaging gifts come in before you even wrap them up? Plastic, cardboard… oh, and those crazy wire things that hold toys and all the tiny toy parts to the packaging… Ooph.

Photo: www.freedigitalphotos.net | m_bartosch

I know, we’ve heard it all before. Use newspaper; re-use kraft paper grocery bags (which you shouldn’t have in your possession, because you use a reusable shopping bag, right?) and decorate with paint or markers–get your kids involved; place gifts inside of other gifts. Wrap it up in old maps. An eco-chic tote makes a nifty gift bag! Send e-cards. blah blah blah. Everyone will be talking about your ingenuity at the egg-nog bowl.

We can make a difference!

Not at your holiday gathering, you say? You’ll be ridiculed? Oh, come on! You can stand up to that nonsense–-think of the trees and the landfill space you’ll help to save. Take it from me. I know. It’s hard at first. But after a while, they’ll get used to what I’m sure my family calls, ‘odd eco-ideosynchracies’. Who knows, maybe you’ll even inspire them!

Okay, if you are just unable to gamble your holiday reputation on homemade gift wrap and e-cards just yet, at least go for recycled paper. Even better: recycled with soy based inks. Baby steps to earth-friendlier living are very commendable.

What about the wrapping paper on gifts we receive?

I say, make it a game to unwrap gifts as carefully as possible–-the ones who’ve ripped their gift wrap to shreds get KP duty. Here are some clever ways to reuse gift wrap/cards…

* donate it!
* cut up and put in an album along with your holiday photos
* use as drawer liners
* cut out pictures from the paper for future gift cards
* use scraps as decorative accents on another gift instead of bows or ribbons
* matte pictures with it
* create your New Year’s outfit, ribbons and all (kidding)
* wrap another gift, of course!

Whatever you do, don’t feed the paper and cards to your blazing fire.

Many decorative papers actually contain lead and other toxins and the last thing you want to do is poison your holiday guests (or, more importantly, your children). And not all wrapping paper is recyclable. If it contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver colored shapes, glitter, plastic, etc., it is destined for the landfill. Be sure to remove the tape before tossing it into the bin.

Giving is one of the most joyous experiences during the holiday season and year-round. Giving up wrapping paper, holiday cards and ribbons is a way to give back to the planet, lasting well into future generations in the form of trees and open space (free of landfill).

How do you celebrate the holidays with less waste?

photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net

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