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  • Writer's pictureSophia Wang

Holiday Waste

With the holiday season coming to an end, it’s time to take a quick look at the environmental impact. Typically, an additional 2,887,500,000 pounds of waste per week are generated by Americans during the holidays relative to the rest of the year. This waste falls into six categories:

  1. Wrapping Paper

Around 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper end up in landfills in the US, with a large proportion coming from the holidays.

What Can Be Done?

There are many options to cut down on wrapping paper waste including eco-friendly material paper, reusing gift wrap, and giving experience gifts (memberships, tickets, etc.). 

  1. Returns

About 8.75 million packages were returned within a few days in January 2021 with many being sent to landfills. Every year, returns account for 5 billion pounds of waste and 15 million tons of carbon emissions.

What Can Be Done?

When giving a present, do in-depth research and consideration to limit the possibilities of returns. If you want to return a gift, try regifting or swapping gifts before turning to returns.

  1. Food Waste

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste, totaling around 70 billion pounds, with the greatest amounts coming from the holiday season.

What Can Be Done?

When planning out meals, be sure to make the appropriate amounts of food and be ready to have a plan for leftovers.

  1. Greeting Cards

With an increase of greeting cards being sent over the holidays, around 1.3 billion holiday cards are mailed per year, equaling the amount of CO2 emissions from 22,000 homes’ energy use for one year.

What Can Be Done?

Sending e-cards minimizes physical waste, while certain certifications are given for cards that use sustainably-sourced materials and the recyclability of the card.

  1. Decorations

Every year, households may start fresh with decorations and dispose of old ones, increasing the waste in landfills.

What Can Be Done?

Try to buy decorations that will be long-lasting or handmade, or even make decorations yourself for DIY Christmas decor.

  1. Holiday Lights

Holiday lights consume enough energy to power 400,000 homes for a year, meaning opting for a more sustainable option can have a large impact. 

What Can Be Done?

LED lights use 80% less energy while also lowering the electricity bill, generating less heat, and last up to 25 times longer.

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