My friend Catherine sent me a fascinating e-mail that listed all the waste generated over the holidays. Her e-mail prompted me to verify those statistics and expand on them in an article for our elementary school newsletter.
Did you know?
- Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Years Day? That adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week going to the landfills.
- December 24 and 25 generate 3 billion extra tons of garbage each year. Gift wrap and shopping bags generate 4 million tons of trash annually, and most are not recyclable.
- Half of the paper consumed in the U.S. is for wrapping and decorating consumer products.
- The 2.65 million holiday cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.
- At least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year (over 100 pounds per person).
- About 40% of all batteries are sold during the holidays.
Send holiday cards by e-mail or use electronic greetings. If everyone sent one less card, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. Reuse holiday cards by creating gift tags.
Use newspaper, children’s artwork, or fabric bags for gift wrap. If every American family wrapped three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
Forgo the ribbon, or reuse it. If every family reused 2 feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet?
Shop wisely. Take reusable shopping bags when you go shopping. Purchase gifts with minimal packaging or ones that don’t use batteries.
Use less energy. Drive less and combine trips: if each family used 1 less gallon of gas during the holidays, we'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million tons. Encourage carpooling to holiday events. Use LED lights to reduce 90% of energy consumption.
Cut back on gift giving (read my other blog post on simplifying the holidays). Ask your friends and family to participate in “the Hundred Dollar Holiday,” started by environmentalist Bill McKibben and friends (participants limit holiday spending to $100). A national survey found that 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending.
Produce less waste while entertaining. Send leftover food home with guests or donate to a shelter. Set up recycling stations at holiday events. Use cloth napkins and durable goods instead of paper and plastic. Offer water in pitchers rather than bottled water. Serve locally grown, sustainable foods.
Do you have any suggestions to share on how to green the holidays? If so, please leave a comment.