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Unwrapping the truth: The environmental impact of the holidays

Merritt Sellers

A prevalent image you see in the United states around the holidays is the traditional christmas tree: an evergreen standing tall in the living room, bringing a splash of color to an otherwise bleak winter landscape. The constant color, the everlasting sign of life, is a symbol for the timeless joys of the holidays. However, the holidays come with an ever growing load of waste polluting our earth.

From Thanksgiving to New Years, an additional 4 million tons of waste reaches the landfills each week. The average household waste increases by 43% during these months.

It’s easy to look the other way as the trash gets higher and higher. For as technologically advanced as we are as a species, we still manage to have an increasingly negative impact on this earth. This trash can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, and we don’t have infinite space to put it. I’m sure you’ve heard all the environmental talk about using less trash to save the turtles and the coral reefs. The holidays are no exception. Environmental demise doesn’t just pause while you order all your gifts off of Amazon or when you throw out half a turkey because you thought a big one would be more festive. Everything you throw away will be felt somewhere else on this earth. 

I know what you’re thinking: During such a cheerful and exciting time such as the holidays, who wants to be thinking about waste? According to a study done by OnePoll, around 54% of people feel as though worrying about their environmental impact makes them much less excited about holiday festivities and traditions. Even more people, 56%, feel that they have to choose between sustainability or enjoying the holidays. This binary way of thinking, however, gets us nowhere; nobody’s going to save the earth for us. Have you ever limited space for notes in your notebook during a big lecture? You only write what’s important, what’s going to be on the test. So why don’t we treat our limited space on the earth the same way? 

There are many easy ways to reduce your waste that don’t sacrifice the traditional holiday experience. 

To start, consider the question of packaging. Packaging makes up close to 30% of America’s waste every year. So instead of ordering online, shop in person. Try to avoid items packaged in an excessive amount of plastic. Also reconsider what you are using for wrapping paper. Try wrapping presents in fabric so that you can reuse it year after year. Or find paper ready for a second use, a newspaper with a pretty ribbon can make for a beautiful look under a Christmas tree.

 Pay more attention to portions of food. Don’t make too much more than you and your guests will eat. According to Feed America 119 food pounds are wasted each year just in the United States. 

As for presents, Christmas shopping may grow the U.S. economy but it also grows the piles of trash in the ocean. No gift is better than something made at home and a heartfelt note. Go on Youtube and watch a DIY tutorial, or use those sewing skills you learned in Home Education.

When it comes time to put everything away, there’s a few more things you can do. If you have a fake Christmas tree, store it for next year along with all your decorations. There’s no reason to buy new ones every year. If you have a real Christmas tree, find drop locations in your town and greater community so it doesn’t end up in the landfill. Make sure to sort out your trash and recycle what you can. Recycling can go a long way to keep the mass of our landfill down. Repurpose New Years decorations for birthdays and other holidays. Keep some of the extra food as leftovers; you won’t have to cook half as often. Stay smart about what you waste and don’t waste.

There are many ways this world has your back, giving you that evergreen at Christmas, it’s time we show the love back. There’s only one earth after all and it’s all of our homes. At the end of the day, generosity, love, and gratitude is what the holidays are all about. Find that holiday joy in being sustainable and helping us all out.

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About the Contributor
Merritt Sellers
Merritt Sellers, Head Illustrator/Social Media Manager/Reporter
Merritt Sellers is a sophomore at San Domenico and a contributor of The Panther Press. She enjoys sailing, sewing, and art.

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