It’s that time of year again! The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy company and show appreciation of family and friends. But amidst this joyous time of celebration, the holidays are also one of the most wasteful times of the year. Gifts consume large amounts of material, whether it’s packaging or wrapping, and most especially shipping. Approximately 1.5 billion cards are sent during the holiday season in the United States, requiring 300,000 trees to be harvested. Holiday lights use more than 2.2 million mega watt hours of electricity, which could run more than 173,000 homes for a year. This can all add up to a large impact on the planet. In the past 50 years, people have consumed more resources than in all previous history.
Luckily, there are many ways to save resources and still be festive. Here are some ideas:
What do you give to that person who already has everything? In addition to the old favorite practice of donating to a charity in one’s honor, there are other ways you can give without giving “stuff”. At oceana.org you can adopt a sea creature in a friend’s name. The money goes to support ocean conservation efforts and costs. You can even purchase a tree at Treepeople.com to help provide sustainable solutions to urban ecosystems. Consider local activities, like taking your spouse on an organic wine tour or handpicking produce with a friend at a nearby farm. Changing the Present has information about all kinds of charities. By being conscious, you can spoil your friends and the planet.
But, before you go on that much-needed vacation, remember to keep your office and dorm room low impact in your absence.
When leaving for vacation, treat your office like you would your home. The University and planet will thank you.
By Alanna Scheinerman, Class of 2013