Green in more ways than one
The holiday season is a joyous yet wasteful time of year, prompting significant environmental damage. According to the Stanford Recycling Center, the amount of trash in the U.S. increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, equaling nearly 5 million additional tons of garbage. But there are ways to reduce the impact on the environment during the holidays.
Wrap with care
Rather than covering your gifts with wrapping paper that will be admired for 20 seconds before it’s ripped to pieces, try wrapping your presents in something that will be enjoyed and reused long after the presents are unwrapped: scarves. Known as Bojagi or Bo, this ancient Korean wrapping technique is a great alternative to wrapping paper. You can buy special Bo wrapping scarves online or use your own fabric, although square scarves are best. The scarves can be reused by those who receive them as neck scarves or over and over (and over) for wrapping.
Stay in touch
A holiday card has always been a great way to send warm wishes to friends and family. The Use Less Stuff Report states the paper from holiday cards is enough to fill Autzen Stadium 10 stories high. This year, in an age when birthday gifts can be sent via Facebook, try sending your season’s greetings through e-mail instead of snail mail.
Reduce your traveling
Going home after finals to enjoy the holidays with family and friends is a great release from the everyday stresses of college. Unfortunately, all the emissions given off by traveling are extremely harmful to the environment. If you live within driving range of home, try to carpool with other students instead of driving alone or take a bus or train. According to The Use Less Stuff Report, if every U.S. family reduced its holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by one million tons. If you live farther away and must fly, a non-stop flight will have less harmful effects on the environment.
The Christmas tree is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holidays. And while trees are normally thought to be good for the environment, Christmas tree farming is not the best way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Fossil fuels are needed to power machines around the farm, and fertilizers give off their own harmful emissions as well. So instead of buying a new tree each year that will only be enjoyed for a few weeks before it’s abandoned, try buying and decorating a potted tree that can live indoors throughout the year. A Christmas ficus may be unusual, but it can easily become a feature of the house as it grows larger each year. However, if you still want a fresh pine over your presents, just make sure it’s sent to become mulch, not a topper on the landfill.
It may be more beneficial to the environment and to your community if you purchase services instead of goods as presents. For instance, when you buy someone a massage, you avoid all the pollution that comes with a material gift. There are plenty of gifts out there, from concert tickets to memberships to local museums, galleries or gardens.
One of the best parts of the holiday season is food. To ensure the freshest and most sustainable holiday feast, buy locally grown products. The closer the food was grown, the fewer emissions were released to get the food to your table. Try to buy all of the trimmings for your feast in the same shopping trip — the more trips you make, the more gas you burn.
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