What does your living room look like after Christmas morning? Is it spotless…everything already bagged up or tossed into the recycle bin? Or, is it more like a hurricane went through it with wrapping paper, bows and ribbon everywhere? It’s astonishing just how much garbage we accumulate over the holidays! Waste increases by a whopping 25 percent between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.
Let’s have a quick look at some more figures. During that same time period one million more tons of waste are thrown into landfills each week! Half the paper bought in America every year is used for wrapping paper. The amount of Christmas cards purchased each year could fill a football field ten stories high. That totals 2.65 billion cards. Now you don’t have to feel guilty if you forgot to send one to your aunt Edna.
The amount of waste during the holidays is not limited to paper. Americans use more electricity to light up all the Christmas trees and houses. They use more trees, come to think of it. 30 million of them end up in landfills annually. We throw a lot of extra food away in times when more people are relying on food banks to feed their families. People travel more to visit family members in turn consuming more gasoline. The list goes on.
How do we reconcile this without turning into a total Grinch? Nobody wants to cancel Christmas or anything like that. There are ways to be more “green” without going completely off the grid. Yes, you can still have your Christmas turkey and open presents.
One idea is having a gift exchange in which everyone only buys one present. This one saves you a lot of money while encouraging your family to be thankful for a helping the earth. Make a game of it. Everyone puts a number on their wrapped gift. (This game works best with more than two people!) It might be useful to have a monetary limit. Each gift has to be less than $50, for example.
The family writes all the numbers down and drops them in a hat. Roll a die to see who goes first, second, etc. The first person chooses a gift and opens it. The second person opens a gift, but then has the option to steal the first person’s gift and so on. After the last person has opened a gift, or stolen one, the first person has the option to steal. Once a gift has changed hands three times, however, it’s locked and cannot be stolen.
Other ideas include making homemade gifts, using recycled paper, saving wrapping paper and bows from the previous year, sending e-cards and putting LED lights on your house or tree. Think about these possibilities during the next holiday so it doesn’t become a garbage bonanza again.