Let me start with this premise. Christians celebrate Christmas as a way to commemorate Jesus’ birth. That’s the seed anyway of the holiday frenzy I find myself annually caught up in. I don’t know if it’s the same for those observing Hanukkah, but not getting sucked into the consumerist vortex that is American Christmas is like trying to lift your limbs on the centrifugal force ride at the amusement park.
As a result, each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans generate one million tons of trash. Between the packaging, holiday cards, unwanted gifts, wrapping paper and excess food, we discard about 25% more stuff during the holidays than during the rest of the year. 300,000 trees are cut down to make holiday cards in the US alone. In fact, half the paper that America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products.
If you know me well, you know I try to consider the planet in my choices and those our family makes. But I resist offering tips on being more earth friendly because everyone has access to green tips through newspapers, magazines, TV and the internet. I’m more interested in impacting your thinking and perception as a way to generate change or cultivate habits that make sense for your situation.
So I’m hoping if I inform you wrapping and tissue paper are NOT recyclable in most municipalities and that most wrapping paper is coated with heavy metals and contributes to air and water pollution and deforestation (which in turn impacts our health) you will consider alternatives to that enticingly pretty paper. Maybe try reusable bags,cloth, newspaper,old maps or even grocery bags that you or your kids can decorate. You could even be a two-for-one recycling machine if you get those items from the thrifty which not only saves you money but means no new resources were used to make the bags, cloth, etc. Then when the person you’re gifting reuses that stuff, you're now a three-for-one-recycling machine and you've helped them precycle and recycle.
I just geeked out right there, didn't I?
And if you have kids, you probably have a ton of artwork around you can use to wrap with. The kids feel proud and you don’t have to bury their artwork in the bottom of the recycling bin when they’re asleep.
I’m also hoping that if I mention how destructive coal mining is to coal mining communities, you might consider solar holiday lights for the outside of your house, putting your lights on a timer or using LED lights which use less energy and if one goes out the rest of the strand still works. The thrifty is a great place to find lights, by the way. And fake Christmas trees and holiday decor.
Or if you knew that 30% of landfill is packaging, you might consider precycling which means choosing an alternative to that item encased in unrecyclable plastic or cushioned by Styrofoam, which is not only unrecyclable but downright evil.
No matter what faith tradition you follow, this is the time of year we commemorate God’s tangible engagement with humanity. In the Genesis creation story, the phrase ‘And God saw that it was good’ is repeated after each ‘day’ God created something. While I’m not a big Bible reader, I don’t remember God calling anything else good multiple times.
During the holidays, in our efforts to honor God’s intervention in humanity, it seems a dishonor to trash the thing God repeatedly calls good.