In recent years, we have seen a push for eco-friendly lifestyles more than ever. Christmas is a time full of joy and giving back, but it is also one of the most excess times in every way. From overusing electricity, stocking up on food and tons of wrapping, one of the “happiest times of the year” can also be one of the most harmful to our environment. The Eagle Edition encourages students, family and faculty to be more mindful of the resources being used during Christmas time and reduce consumption to help the environment while still having a festive Christmas.

Every holiday season brings more waste to landfills and harm to the environment than any other time of the year. According to a study conducted by Stanford University, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the time period between Thanksgiving and New Years than any other time of year. This extra waste amounts to approximately 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. The study states that if every American family were to wrap just up to three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the time period between thanksgiving and new years than any other time of the year.

Eagle Edition Staff

In addition to wrapping paper being wasteful, the Christmas card business is equally as harmful. Over 2.5 billion Christmas cards are sold each holiday season in the United States. If each family sent just one card less, it would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. In addition to sending less hard-copy Christmas cards, sending online e-cards is another alternative to reducing the amount of paper used during the holidays. While reducing the amount of wrapping paper used or how many Christmas cards are sent out each Christmas might not seem like a significant reach to help the environment, each little action adds up to help reduce the amount of waste we use during the holiday season.

Reducing your carbon footprint during the holiday season is much simpler than many would think. Wrapping paper is typically thrown away after being used. Instead of buying brand new wrapping paper each year just to throw it away after using it, try wrapping gifts in old newspapers, maps or magazines. To avoid using wrapping paper completely, another solution would be to use decorative tins, boxes, or bags and then continue to reuse them every year. As for plastic bows, reusable cloth ribbons can be used in substitution for a more environmentally friendly option. There are also various brands such as Wrappily, that makes eco-friendly wrapping paper. When it comes to purchasing gifts for loved ones and friends, or even making a wish list of your own, look for gift ideas that will be timeless and durable instead of purchasing gifts that are trending. 

And the U.S. Department of Energy said that more than six terawatt-hour per year of energy is wasted due to holiday lighting displays. This is the equivalent to the total monthly energy consumption of nearly 500,000 homes. Holiday lighting displays use an excessive amount of energy from burning natural gas, oil and coal. Avoid setting up over the top light displays that will require lots of energy to use. You can also consider only purchasing decorations that do not need to be plugged in or only use candlelight. A few various ways to save energy during the holiday season include switching to LED lights, using smart plugs and timers for your holiday lights so they are not on all night long and choosing fiber optic decorations.

Although artificial Christmas trees do seem like a more environmentally friendly option when it comes to choosing a tree, the materials used to make the trees are actually very harmful to the environment. According to USA Today, Americans purchase approximately 10 million artificial Christmas trees each season. The artificial material used to make the trees include plastic and metal that usually have to be shipped to the U.S. from China, which increases the carbon emissions and resources. Artificial trees are not recyclable or biodegradable, so even if they may last a lifetime, they will still eventually end up in landfills. The main draw to purchasing real trees as opposed to artificial trees is the look and smell. Real trees do not require shipping which cuts down the carbon emissions that are used when creating artificial trees. Tree farms are beneficial to the environment and for people who work them. They create jobs, homes for animals and oxygen for the Earth. Real trees are also biodegradable as opposed to artificial trees that are not. Real trees can be used for lumber wood or composted and used as fertilizer. If you wish to just get rid of your tree all together after the holidays are over, instead of leaving it out on the street to be picked up, you can also consider donating your tree to local organizations that are accepting donations. For example, many zoos are often happy to take tree donations to use for the animals as toys or even catnip.

As busy as the holiday season can become, considering taking these small actions to help save the environment can go a long way. Christmas is a time of giving back, which is why it is time to consider giving back to the environment, even if it is just reducing the number of Christmas cards you send or the type of wrapping paper that you use to wrap your gifts. Your little actions go much farther than you might realize. The environment needs more help than ever, especially during the holiday season.

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