The holidays are suddenly upon us, and with that holiday magic comes delicious food, parties, and gifts of all kinds! Although this will be another holiday season in a pandemic, we can still find ways to safely celebrate and connect with our loved ones. If you are participating in any December festivities, it’s important to reflect on how our decision-making around the holidays can affect the environment. From the period between Thanksgiving to New Years, the United States creates 25% more waste than any other time of the year. This extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage. As we all know, garbage ends up in landfills, which in turn release methane, pollute our waterways, and take up precious animal and plant habitat.
As you prepare for your celebrations and finalize your presents, consider giving our planet a gift as well. Read the tips below on how to reduce your holiday waste and carbon footprint.
Food waste: As we prepare for our holiday meal we often become overzealous with our large portions and numerous dishes. This can lead to food waste, which is especially harmful in the landfill because food is broken down anaerobically and results in methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas 70% more potent than carbon dioxide. Follow these guidelines to reduce your food waste.
Gifts: Giving presents to the people in our lives is a beautiful way to show our love, however many material gifts do not serve our planet. Consider these options to reduce your gift waste footprint.
Wrapping paper: Traditional gift wrap is unfortunately not recyclable so it’s important to save and reuse any wrapping paper that’s gifted to you, and use alternatives such as the ones below.
Ecards: Instead of sending out a holiday card through the mail (which require materials to create and greenhouse gases to deliver), try using an ecard instead! Use this site to create your ecard for free: https://www.123cards.com/christmas-ecards/
Trees: Recycling your tree is easy in Asheville. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your tree gets to the proper place: https://www.ashevillenc.gov/news/how-to-dispose-of-or-recycle-that-christmas-tree-2/. Better yet, consider a potted Christmas tree that you can continue to use for years to come!
Lights: In the United States, Christmas lights use up more electricity than some economically disadvantaged countries, such as El Salvador or Ethiopia, do in a year. Most of our electricity is produced from fossil fuels, which result in greenhouse emissions and the release of other pollutants. Make sure to turn your light off during the day and don’t keep them on all night long. Consider solar lights like these: https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/g37975001/best-solar-christmas-lights/
New years/holiday party: Throw an eco-friendly holiday party using the following tips.
By Livia Charles, Sustainability Coordinator at Asheville GreenWorks