Holiday Traditions to Break

If You Want to Help the Planet

by TERRI BRYCE REEVES

December is especially hazardous for the environment as Americans toss out 25% percent more trash than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s about a million extra tons of garbage each week, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), a Washington, D.C.- based nonprofit group devoted to environmental education.

The commercialization of Christmas has whet our collective appetites for more gadgetry, new clothing, the latest toys and other gifts, all wrapped up in fancy paper and bows. Ultimately, the manufacture of these products generates more waste, consumes more natural resources, and pollutes the environment.

So let’s give Mother Nature a well-deserved break and opt for some sustainable and smarter alternatives. For starters, here are a few Christmas traditions we suggest you break:

Buying toys. Almost 70% of toys are abandoned
shortly after the holidays, says Toy Library founder
Christie Jacobs, and a quarter of parents toss playthings
months later when their children lose interest.

Instead, give a subscription to a toy rental company.
This new way-to-play offers rotating selections of toys,
thereby keeping children engaged and cutting down
on the manufacture of plastics. Or start your own toy
swap with neighbors and friends.

Purchasing manufactured items. Nearly half of
us return a gift after Christmas, according to Optoro,
a company that tracks returns for retailers. Others are
kept, rarely used, then tossed, and the cycle of needless
manufacturing and wastefulness continues.

Rather than buying “stuff,” consider giving
homemade gifts or experiences. Create memories
with trips to a special restaurant or the theatre. Gift a
massage, facial, house cleaning service or small tree
for the yard. Gym and museum memberships are also
thoughtful ideas, as well.

Home-baked cookies, knitted scarves, and artwork
are one-of-a-kind presents that are appreciated more
because they come from the heart.

If you do buy a product, choose one from a local,
sustainable and ethical maker.

Wrapping gifts. This holiday tradition is one of
the most wasteful things we can do. And each year,
Americans discard enough ribbon to wrap around the
planet, according to NEEF.

Gift bags and cookie tins are great alternatives
because they can be used again year after year. If you
must wrap, consider doing so with recycled paper or
new towels for later use. Rather than using ribbons and
bows, tie your package with sustainable yarn or twine.

Sending holiday cards. Billions of trees worldwide
are cut down each year for paper, some of which will
be turned into holiday cards.

Break the holiday tradition by making phone calls
to your friends and loved ones instead. Chances are,
this gesture will be very much appreciated. Consider a
donation to the many conservation organizations that
plant carbon-capturing trees.

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