That’s a Wrap on Gift Wrap

As Thanksgiving comes to an end and we feel the Christmas spirit set in, an overwhelming need to purchase presents covered in plastic packaging and gift wrap washes over us. Our minds race to think of the perfect gifts, to prepare extravagant meals and to find the biggest tree. The toll this takes on our environment is great. According to Commercialwaste, an environmental research firm, the amount of trash produced between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day has increased by an estimated 25% since 2010 (about one million more tons of garbage each week). The wrapping paper, ribbon and plastic packaging from all the presents we give and receive will eventually find its way to the landfill. Also stated by Commercialwaste, thirty eight million miles of ribbon, eleven billion dollarsworth of packing material, and 2.6 billion holiday cards will wind up in the trash and forgotten by all. But forgotten doesn’t mean gone. All of these things will slowly decompose in the landfill, producing methane gas, a smelly greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Global warming is one of the most prominent threats to the planet and our future. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warns that if we do not limit our carbon footprint and take steps to improve our effect on the environment within the next twelve years, global warming will become catastrophic and irreversible.

Not only are we hurting the environment with waste during the holidays, but an estimated 15 million trees are cut down and decorated for Christmas each year. The overall effect this has on the environment is appalling, and it will only get better if we change our ways. Instead of cutting down a tree, try investing in an artificial one. While fake trees can be expensive, you can reuse it every year, and save a few real ones.

Food waste has a particularly large environmental impact as well. According to foodwaste.com, an estimated 74 million minced pies are thrown away each Christmas, as well as 4.2 million plates of turkey. As for drinks, about 225 pints of lager and beer are wasted, along with 35 million bottles of wine.

The idea of over-compensating on the holidays in order to impress company is not uncommon. It’s been documented that people buy food in bulk, in fear of not having enough on the table for everyone. With so much food being prepped, cooked and baked, we tend to overlook how much is winding up in the garbage. Food and drink accounts for 33% of the US’s CO2 emissions, and a large portion of this rolls in around the holidays. If you do have extra food after the holidays, you can donate it to a local shelter. Roughly 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life, says foodaidfoundation.org. With world hunger being such a detrimental problem, donating leftovers is a great way to give on the holidays, and help the environment at the same time.

Another way to protect the environment during the holiday times is to reuse gift wrap, ribbon and bows from the previous year, as well as using recycled paper for cards. This will decrease our waste percentages and help slow global warming.

Instead of over-buying food to impress your guests, impress them with your cooking. And instead of letting all that wrapping paper go to waste, remember to reuse. This Christmas, let’s give our earth a present and be conscious of our actions. As the Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it’s not going to get better, it’s not.”

 

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