Tis’ the season to be wasteful

Holidays are harming planet with waste

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Waste that is collected over the holiday season accumulates to 25% more than during the regular trash clean-up season.

Jessica Majors, Photo Editor

While many view the holidays as a splendid time of the year, filled with exchanging gifts, making cookies and spending time with loved ones, many sidetrack possible impacts there might be on the environment during this time. Many ask: is Christmas destroying our planet?

Researchers at Stanford University call this time of the year, the end of November to the New Year, the “world’s greatest annual environmental disaster.”

Have you ever thought about what happens after you unwrap a present? Usually, you take the wrapping paper, ball it up and use it as a basketball as you shoot it into the garbage bag that your parents set out to help make the clean-up process go by faster. Not thinking anymore about it, all the presents are unwrapped and you are left with extra garbage bags to take out to the trash, but where does that wrapping paper ball end up? 

That single ball you created from the wrapping paper ends up along with over 25 million tons of other garbage collected just from the waste gathered from the holiday. “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year,” Stanford Research Center said.

“In 2016, we threw away no less than 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, enough to wrap around the Island of Jersey,” Commercial Waste Online said.

This ongoing annual problem can be fixed with one simple task: recycling. Most recycling plants can process a large majority of gift wrap along with other paper products, producing hefty recycled bales. After the bales are collected, they are then sent to paper mills to be repurposed into other usable goods like cardboard liners. 

Another easy alternative is to use newspapers instead of traditional wrapping paper for wrapping gifts. Newspaper is easily recycled and serves the same purpose of decorative paper, but in a safer manner. 

These safe and easy fixes can help conserve the nation’s waste buildup and help keep the environment green. 

Another holiday tradition that many participate in during the season is sending Christmas cards to other family members to let them know they are thinking about them and wishing them a wonderful holiday season. 

On average, a typical family will send out around 50 to 100 cards to family members and loved ones while receiving up to 30 cards from others. This accumulates to approximately 1.3 billion cards sent each year in the United States. 

“…if we placed all our Christmas cards alongside one another, they would stretch around the world 500 times,” Commercial Waste Online said.

Going the same route as wrapping paper, Christmas cards and their envelopes can be recycled and help save the environment. While it is an easy step to make changes to our environment, still, people manage to throw away over one billion cards per year instead of recycling them. Studies show that if every household sent one less card a year, that it would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

Many other side effects play a role in our environment, like how 28 billion pounds of food get wasted every year during the holidays, and how 33 million live trees are sold in North America each year for the holidays. All this matter adds up to put a damper on our environment.

Safe and easy options that seem bare to others can help lead this world into a greener state and prevent this commonly favored holiday from being known as the “world’s greatest annual environmental disaster.”