For many, the holiday season is a time of celebration often associated with feelings of joy that are easy to get caught up in. However, there are plenty of ugly things that can be exposed about this time of year, and wastefulness is perhaps the most disturbing. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spends $900 dollars on gifts each year, but our wastefulness doesn’t stop there.
During the period from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, Americans produce as much as 25 percent more waste per household than the rest of the year. Food, wrapping paper, ribbons, cards, shopping bags and decorations are all utilized in excess and then simply thrown in the trash. This is estimated to add 1 million tons of extra waste to America’s landfills each week.
According to the Recycler’s Handbook, over half of American’s paper waste is comprised of shopping bags and wrapping paper. Americans send nearly 2 billion Christmas cards each year, made possible by an estimated 300,000 trees. While some people do choose to save cards over the years, the waste produced by them annually could cover a football field ten stories high.
Food is also significantly wasted during the holidays. Over 28 billion pounds of edible food are thrown away each year – roughly 100 pounds by each American. And, of the 50 million Christmas trees purchased each year, 30 million aren’t recycled and are put into landfills.
While it is unlikely that the materialistic traditions that the holiday season is based upon will disappear, there are things that individuals can do to limit their own personal waste. People could reduce their paper waste by reusing wrapping paper, wrapping gifts in newsprint, reusing shopping bags, and sending electronic greeting cards. Excessive food can be hard to predict and prevent, but donating unused food to shelters or food banks will help those who are in need. Live Christmas trees can be recycled – often cut into chips to be used as mulching.
According to the Center for a New American Dream, around 78 percent of Americans wish the holiday season was less materialistic. Although we want improvements, we must act in ways that will ensure them.