With Christmas a week away, we are now in the throes of the holiday shopping season. It is also, unfortunately, the trashiest time of the year. And even though we don’t hear many Christmas carols with lyrics about garbage, it is a fact that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash than at any other time of the year.
I know that when you go out Christmas shopping, you probably aren’t thinking, “I wonder how much garbage I can purchase today?” But depending on the products and gifts you purchase, that is — at least partly — what you are doing. When you look at the reality, it is easy to see how Americans generate an extra 1 million pounds of garbage each week during the holiday season.
My least favorite thing about Christmas used to be having to load up all the torn wrapping paper, bows and packaging after our family had opened Christmas presents. We would have several large garbage bags full of stuff. It is actually embarrassing when I look back at how much waste we accumulated.
I know I have shared these statistics before but they are certainly worth repeating. If each family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon each year, we could take that 38,000 miles of ribbon and tie a bow around the Earth! And then there is all the food and leftovers from holiday meals. At least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year. If we all put one less cookie on Santa’s plate, we could reduce his snacking by 2 million pounds. He would be much trimmer. Santa and I could both do better with pushing the cookie plate away and reaching for some veggies.
Then consider how overpackaged most consumer products are these days. I realize a lot of packaging is made to prevent shoplifting but all that plastic really generates a tremendous amount of waste — not to mention the frustration created when we try to open those things. When we buy items that are overpackaged, disposable or even of poor quality, it means that your cash eventually ends up in the trash.
But, as with any problem, there are solutions. Shopping season is a great time to think about ways to reduce garbage accumulated during the holidays. So how can we reduce our holiday “wasteline” this year?
• Use a reusable shopping bag, which reduces the number of plastic bags accumulated.
• Let your fingers do the shopping. Consider ordering gifts by phone or online. Just remember to look for items that are easy to ship and will not require a lot of packaging.
• Buy products that aren’t heavily packaged. We live in an age where products have safety seals to prevent tampering and alarms to prevent shoplifting. The excess material often ends up in garbage cans. Look for items with light packaging or consider buying items in bulk, which will decrease waste and your total cost.
• Buy rechargeable batteries for electronic gizmos. I know the upfront cost for rechargeable batteries is steep, but most of these batteries can be recharged more than 1,000 times! That is a significant cost savings over time in comparison to regular batteries. It is also much better for the environment. Also, when it is time, remember to recycle any batteries at a Recycle It! Fair instead of tossing them into the garbage.
• Consider giving gifts of your time. When we were growing up, money was scarce so my sisters and I would sometimes write up coupon books that our family members could exchange for our help with chores and other tasks. This is also a wonderful way to help children understand what gift-giving is all about.
• Consider buying gift certificates or making a donation in honor of someone on your gift list. Make a reservation for a trip you and your spouse have always wanted to take. Making a donation to charity in someone’s honor is a great package-free gift idea. It is a gift that will keep on giving.
• Reduce the amount of wrapping or wrap responsibly. Try to buy gift wrap that contains recycled material and avoid buying plastic-coated paper and foils that cannot be recycled or reused. Make gift tags from Christmas cards from last year. Make gift cards — and even Christmas cards — on your computer with a printing program or use block stamps. Instead of gift wrap, use gift boxes, baskets and other containers that can be reused for other gift-giving events or for household purposes. Save and reuse gift bags, boxes and bows again and again.
• Send electronic Christmas cards instead of “snail mail” cards. You can save a lot on stamps by doing this, too.
• Remember: Re-gifting is a way to help the environment. Sometimes a re-gifted item is just looking for the right home. If it is an item that you do not need or want, help it find its way to someone who might. Just make sure you do not give a re-gifted item back to the same person who gave it to you!
As you can see, there are loads of ways to reduce the amount of waste we accumulate during the holidays. There are just a few more critical things to remember when you are packing up all that trash for disposal: recycle all that you can, save any items you can reuse next year and tie off garbage bags tightly so that items cannot blow out of your trash can or vehicle on the way to a solid waste convenience center. Secure your trash load so you do not give the environment an unwanted gift of litter on our roads.
Have a happy waste-free — and litter-free — holiday and a joyous Christmas!
Don’t miss these
• Through Dec. 31: Win-dex Award attractive businesses of the quarter nomination period. To nominate a worthy business, call KLB at 880-4888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
• Dec. 26-Jan. 8: Bring One for the Chipper. Plan now to recycle your live Christmas tree after the holiday at any Solid Waste or recycling convenience center or designated locations on Fort Stewart. There is a new location in Hinesville is at the corner of Oglethorpe Highway and Carter Street. Trees will be chopped into mulch or made into fish habitats in local ponds. For information, e-mail email@example.com or call 880-4888.