The holiday season is often seen as a time of celebration but statistically, it is also the most wasteful time of the year. Stanford University has studied that in the US, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving to New Years than any other time of the year. This is 25 million tons of waste. To understand the amount of waste better, it’s said that if every American family would wrap three presents in reused materials, the amount of wrapping paper saved would be enough to cover 45,000 football fields. It has also been studied that in the US approximately 40 percent of food is thrown away. This number gets even higher during the holiday season when on average 5 million pounds more food is thrown away. It’s obvious that a change has to be made. To have a sustainable holiday season this year, we have to be conscious of our own choices. Let’s think about how we can celebrate in the most sustainable way without burdening our planet. Here are our 5 steps to start:
Buy Eco-friendly Gifts
Giving gifts is a great way to delight our family and friends, however, it can also be an extremely wasteful way to do so. Overconsumption is a big part of our today’s society as we are looking for temporary satisfaction by buying things that we most often wouldn’t even need. During the holiday season, the overconsumption increases higher than at any other time of the year. In the United States, people spend over one trillion dollars on Christmas shopping each year. A big part of this amount we spend on gifts that we only buy to have something to give. What we need to start thinking about is the environmental impact of the gifts that we are buying. There are various great ways to gift our loved ones and at the same time to not burden the planet. This year consider making the gifts yourself, buying secondhand or buying gifts from sustainable brands that are truly trying to make a difference. We have put together a list of top 20 eco-friendly gift ideas to help you get started. Whether you would like to make your own gifts or buy a gift from a sustainable brand, you can find inspiration here.
Use Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper
To save the 45,000 football fields of wrapping paper, we have to come up with alternative solutions to wrap our gifts. There are hundreds of creative ways to make our gifts look beautiful without using traditional wrapping paper. Have you ever thought of using a piece of fabric as a wrapper? If you need inspiration, here is how to wrap your gift by using a Japanese method Furoshiki. Another great way is to use recycled brown paper or old newspaper to wrap the gifts, and to decorate the packages with dried flowers.
Food Waste Plan
Food waste is a serious source of waste and to have a sustainable holiday season we should pay close attention to reducing it. In order to do so, a good idea is to create a food waste plan for the holidays. Write down exactly what you need and how much. Avoid buying extra because most likely you have enough in the first place. If you however decide to buy more than you actually need, plan to use the products in an order that the first ones to expire will be eaten first. The idea here is that you don’t throw away food after the celebrations.
Zero Waste Decorations
If you don’t own holiday decorations from the previous years, don’t buy new ones. There are many amazing ideas online about how you can make them yourself. This doesn’t only save you money and the planet, but you will also get unique decorations! Here are easy tutorials on how to make your own orange garland and eucalyptus wreath.
What it comes to buying a Christmas tree, a real tree is known to be a more sustainable choice. The carbon footprint of a natural three is around 3.5kg when the tree is either put to splinters for woodwork or burned as firewood. However, if the tree ends up decomposing in the landfill its footprint increases to 16kg. Whether you burn or throw your Christmas tree to the landfill after the holidays, it is way more sustainable than an artificial tree. The carbon footprint of an artificial tree is 40kg. To make the artificial tree to be a more sustainable choice, you have to reuse it at least for 12 years.
Last but not least, to have a sustainable holiday season when you have to travel to your destination, consider the environmentally friendly travel options. If it’s possible, travel by train or bus instead of by plane. These create way fewer emissions and are therefore more environmentally friendly ways to travel. It has been studied that flying emits on average 6 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a high-speed train. To put this into perspective, a plane ride from Paris, France to Barcelona, Spain is said to emit 237.7kg CO2 when the same distance with a train emits only 11.4kg CO2. That being said, if you want to travel environmentally friendly take a train instead of a plane.
This holiday season, let’s all commit to take steps towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. The statistics don’t lie and if we keep doing what we’re doing now, our planet won’t last long. There is so much we can do to save this planet just by making more conscious choices that make a positive impact.
Author: Oona Yletyinen
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