Americans generate around 25 percent more waste during the holiday season — and between the gluttony of Thanksgiving, the societal norms of gift giving at Christmas and your unabashed addiction to celebrating the college football bowl season (OK, maybe that’s just me) it’s easy to see how this has become the case.
Despite the correction in our global economy, consumerism will take its annual place on center stage over the next month. With this in mind, I am bringing you some ideas on how to sail through the season with an eye on greening your holiday decisions. And like so many ideas toward resource efficiency, you may just save some money and come away feeling good about yourself at the same time.
- When buying gifts, look for those packaged in recycled and recyclable materials. This, at the very least, gives the giftee the option of recycling. I hate it when I get something in polystyrene foam and have to put that in the trash knowing it is going to sit in a landfill forever.
- Buy local. An incrt of Fayetteville’s charm is its locally owned businesses. The money paid to these businesses often goes right back into the local economy.
- Don’t buy junk. I know this is a subjective term, but when you really don’t know what to buy someone, feel free to buy them an experience. A gift certificate to Greenhouse Grille, Nightbird Books or perhaps some place you know they will enjoy but are unlikely to visit themselves. A gift certificate may seem impersonal, but they will be grateful for the nudge to branch out and you can feel good knowing that your gift isn’t in the trash.
- Gift your time. My grandmother’s tiny little house cannot possibly hold another picture of a great-grandchild or trinket so I started gifting her unconditional use of my time. In the past it has been a trip to dinner, but could easily be free labor around the house or driving her to an appointment.
- Recycle. If you only make one trip to a recycling drop-off site a year, Dec. 26 is the time to do it. Seventy-five percent that goes into the landfill can be recycled, so collect the wrapping paper, wine bottles, and steel cans so they can make another trip through the loop.
- Change a habit. I am reluctant to do this with the actual gift because it is supposed to be about the giftee not the gifter, but use the holiday as an opportunity to educate. I may go ahead and buy my aunt the DVD that is on her Christmas list, but I may give it to her in a reusable grocery bag. Then when she thanks me for the DVD, BAM! I tell her the reusable grocery bag can reduce our dependence on oil and her personal carbon footprint. I am nothing if not sly.
- This last one has nothing to do with green, but while you’re braving the holiday stress do something nice for a random person.
John Coleman is the Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Fayetteville