The Holidays: Too Much of a Good Thing?

With the holiday season winding down, and bills stacking up I cannot help but wonder the impact all this consumption has on the environment. According to the EPA,” the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – about 1 million extra tons.” Unfortunately the U.S. is to blame for the majority of this waste and consumption. In fact, the United States only accounts for about 5% of the world’s population, yet it consumes 24% of the world’s energy. It’s not hard to comprehend that our numerous presents, food waste and wrapping paper all add to the waste and energy use that occurs during the holiday season.

0So what can be done to deter this waste and harmful environmental impact? Some steps are simple, like gifting less presents, using decorative boxes instead of wrapping paper, and creating less decadent and wasteful food dishes. However, is this really realistic? For many people, Christian or otherwise, Christmas has become a cultural holiday full of luxury and excess. It’s a time when we all gain extra weight eating too many cookies and get many gifts that we may never use or not even need.

What Americans need is the push to consume less, and perhaps explaining the consequences of such a decadent holiday seasons is the answer. Or maybe we could supply incentive or higher taxation for producing less or more garbage. Another approach I’ve seen has actually been through business. Companies that focus on green gifts, like reusable bags, water bottles and other useful and environmental presents are definitely combining sustainability with success. Furthermore, some companies like Patagonia (a popular staple on Miami’s campus) actually tell shoppers not to buy their product if they don’t need it! I found this astounding and actually found myself pursuing the Patagonia as opposed to say North Face brand, in order to support an environmentally conscious company.

So yes the holidays are a time to eat and receive presents, however what I think we need to keep in mind is it is truly about family and friends. Spending time with the ones we love does not need to involve hundreds of presents and cookies per person. I know that it is a lot to ask for people to be environmentally conscious during the holiday season, but perhaps next year some of you readers can make the effort to consume less and simply enjoy time spent together more.

Learn more:

http://www.epa.gov/region9/waste/recycling/index.html

http://www.mindfully.org/Sustainability/Americans-Consume-24percent.htm

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