‘Tis the season for gift giving! This doesn’t mean we have to empty our wallets and fill up our trash bins though. Americans spend 35% more money and 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! Not only does wasteful spending effect our savings, it hurts our planet with all the waste created. Let’s all do our part and lower the amount of trash we create this Holiday!
Take a look at some statistics of holiday spending in this infographic:
So how can we lower our costs and waste this Holiday? Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! 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! The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper!
(Statistics found at Use Less Stuff. Visit this website and use the checklist to reduce your waste this holiday season!)
Everything from wrapping paper to Christmas trees is discarded after the festive fun is over. But there are so many ways to reduce our waste:
Paper – If all the wrapping paper we throw away was laid out in a line it would reach all the way to the Moon – that’s a lot of paper! But it’s very easy to recycle and saves you a ton of money each year. Put it in your recycle bin or take it to your local recycling center. Save salvageable paper and reuse next year! Or use it for some creative crafts and save on decorations too.
Why spend money on new gift bags every year? Reuse ones you are given again next year and save on paper! Save sturdy shopping bags throughout the year and cover up brand logos with old cards, wrapping paper or even a custom printed image! Find instructions to make custom gift bags here.
Christmas cards don’t have to be thrown away. Try cutting them up and making new cards, ornaments or gift tags out of them. You’ll be extra organized for next Christmas and save a few pennies!
If you have a real Christmas tree, it’s a great thing to recycle. There are services who will collect it for you and then shred and use as compost to help next year’s trees grow or as chipping to cover pathways.
How about getting a living Christmas tree with roots? That way it will keep on growing year after year and eventually be planted in your backyard.
It’s estimated that we throw out over 7 million tons of food every year. So why not help out in the kitchen and get creative with all that leftover turkey? Make a sandwich or soup instead of tossing it out. If you’ve got a compost bin, throw in all those veggie peelings. Birds love Christmas leftovers too! Any scraps will give them energy and nutrients to help them through the cold winter months.
If you’re given any presents that don’t fit or have old things that you won’t need anymore, don’t throw them away. Many charities pass on gifts to people in need. To reduce waste, give gifts of time and gifts that are sure to be used. Here are some suggestions:
• Certificates: Baby-sitting, taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, or cleaning the car. Kids can make a “coupon book” for parents with chores, hugs and massages as gifts!
• Trips/Outings: Experiences are better than gifts! Museums, parks, beaches, hikes, full moon walks, or winter picnics are great activities to gift someone with. Or get some tickets for a movie, concert or sports event.
• Hand Made Gifts: Something home made is much more sentimental than something store-bought! Fill a basket with baked goods, assemble a collection of favorite family recipes, make a holiday bouquet from fresh greens, holly, etc. and tie with bow, make Christmas ornaments from family photos, or video tape family members telling favorite family stories/memories..
• Gift Certificates: The answer for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family! Restaurants, record stores, book stores, video rental stores, department stores, or grocery stores.
• Memberships: Help your loved ones get active, relax or learn with memberships to health spas, swim clubs, museums, zoos, or amusement parks.
• Subscriptions: Have a friend that loves to read? Magazines, newspapers, or book club subscription can make a great gift that lasts all year!
• Creative Gifts for Children: “Dress Up Box” filled with costume jewelry, scarves, hats, aprons, and ties; cooking equipment and a recipe with ingredients to encourage your little ones to help in the kitchen; blank journal or diary or blank scrapbook with scissors and tape where your child can get creative with and even save their holiday cards; flower seeds and pots to get them outdoors and gardening!
• Gifts to the Environment: Send e-greetings to family and friends who are on-line; add a battery charger with rechargeable batteries for electronic gift; bus/light rail/train passes, bicycles or walking shoes encourage friends and family to drive less!
For more tips on having an Environmentally Friendly Holiday, check out www.ReduceWaste.org
Other Holiday WasteWhile it is one of the most visible components of holiday waste, wrapping paper is not the worst. For every pound of wrapping paper that we throw away there are several pounds of cardboard packaging, blister packs, twist ties that shackled Elmo to his box, ribbons and bows. Behind the scenes there is even more waste. The gift that you purchased at the store was probably delivered in a master carton on a pallet surrounded by plastic wrap. Pre-consumer waste is really the hidden part of the iceberg of holiday waste and can only be reduced by reducing consumption or shopping at stores that are actively working to reduce waste. Believe it or not Walmart has, and continues to, reduce packaging waste through its highly ambitious and effective sustainability initiative. This year, as you search for last-minute gifts, consider gifts that keep on giving, such as an investment in Kiva or gifts that support a local services-based economy such as a 1-hour massage.
Online shopping helps you save on gas and transportation fees! Check out our Chipper Shop for some great eco-educational gifts, books and apps for the kids. We pride ourselves in keeping to our motto: “Less Packaging, More Fun!” How are you helping the planet this Holiday Season???