Sustainability During the Holidays

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A trash can filled with lights, a tree, and other holiday trash.

Americans amass nearly 30 pounds of extra trash during the holidays.

The holidays are an increased time of consumption, involving Black Friday, holiday decorations, and gift shopping. And considering the harmful effects of producing and transporting goods to consumers, broader cultural practices need to shift to mitigate our impact on the environment.

One way to reduce your environmental impact this holiday season is to pick a slower delivery speed when shopping online. The extra time to deliver a package allows for multiple orders to be shipped together, resulting in less fuel being used and less pollution from transportation. This also encourages shopping earlier, so you don’t have to stress out about last minute gift shopping.

Another way to have a more sustainable holiday season is to stay away from traditional wrapping paper. Plastic, found in typical glossy wrapping paper, has never been able to be effectively recycled; America’s plastic waste was simply shipped off to China, but China stopped accepting American plastic in 2018 due to the overwhelming quantity. Consider using paper that can be recycled (like a print edition of the Jesuit Chronicle!) to wrap your presents, or just putting presents in a gift bag that can be reused.

Reducing holiday food waste is another great way to be more environmentally friendly. It’s important to be mindful of all the energy and water used to produce food and the methane it produces when it ends up in a landfill. Additionally, getting meat, vegetables, etc. for holiday dinners from local producers not only supports the local economy, but it’s also a more environmentally friendly option since it doesn’t support the pervasive practice of large-scale factory farming.

The last suggestion is to rethink the ethos of the holidays. Although general cheer and joy is an obligatory part of the winter season, buying a bunch of stuff seems equally as necessary, especially considering all the holiday deals and gift-giving obligations. But simply reducing consumption is one of the best ways to create a more sustainable future.

Of course we do need products to live, and treating yourself and others during the holidays isn’t a horrible thing to do. But we are currently consuming our way into the apocalypse; our current rate of consumption is just not sustainable.

Saving the environment will definitely require changes on a much larger scale than recyclable wrapping paper and slower online delivery options, but shifting a culture of uncritical consumerism can start with these small changes during the holidays.