It’s Fun, But Ho-oh So Wasteful!

By James Haralson

In a classic scene from the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, brothers Ralphie and Randy wake up on Christmas morning to find a living room filled with presents. They rush down the stairs and begin ripping and tearing the wrapping paper from the gifts, throwing it across the room.

Soon the entire room is filled with a sea of wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift boxes with no place to go except in a garbage can destined for a landfill.

This fictitious family was too preoccupied with a Red Ryder BB gun, a leg-shaped lamp, and finding an open Chinese restaurant on Christmas day that they overlooked a more significant problem: holiday waste.

Waste from things like garbage, wrapping paper, Christmas trees, food, and transportation pose significant environmental concerns every holiday season.

According to Use Less Stuff, Americans will throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season than any other time of the year. This includes 25 million tons of garbage each holiday season, and roughly one million extra pounds each week.

A major part of this holiday waste is paper use. According to The Recycler’s Handbook, “half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products.”

Christmas cards are also taking up a good portion of the holiday waste. According to ULS, the “2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.”

Americans can also be wasteful with the Christmas trees they purchase. The Environmental News Network reports that out of the 50 million Christmas trees purchased in the U.S., “about 30 million go to the landfill.”

Another staggering figure is in the amount of food that is wasted every holiday season. ULSnotes that at least “28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted” during the holidays. This equates to over 100 pounds per person.

Vehicle transportation also has a significant environmental impact over the holidays. ULSfound that if each family reduced their gasoline consumption by “one gallon,” greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by “one million tons.”

While these facts may seem Grinch-like, there are many ways Americans can reduce their holiday waste this season.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency suggests some of the following points for reducing waste this holiday season:

  • Buy holiday cards made from recycled paper or make your own creative cards on recycled paper.
  • Be selective when deciding how many holiday cards to send.
  • Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials.
  • Recycle unwanted and duplicated gifts by promptly exchanging them or giving them to a local charity.
  • Don’t wrap oversized gifts. Hide them and give the recipient clues. Make the search a treasure hunt.

ULS also suggests opting for electronic Christmas cards instead of the traditional paper cards. The organization suggests visiting electronic card web sites like American Greetings and Hallmark.

Whether you receive the gift you wanted like Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB Gun, or a gift you were not expecting like Raphie’s pink bunny suit, applying these simple holiday waste-reducing tips will make for an enjoyable holiday season for both you and the environment.