Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Wasteful and Ungrateful Holiday Habits

The focal point of my next few posts will be what I call Christmas Craziness.

My generation remembers back when there was one present for each of us kids under the tree.  That one gift would get me SO excited, and I couldn't wait till Christmas Eve supper was over. We would leave the supper dishes in the sink and head straight to the living room where mom handed out one gift at a time. With memories like this, it's hard for me to understand the frantic frenzy of disrespect that has come to be the norm for this blessed season.

What are the side-effects of this new Christmas?  Why do we sit back and let the merchandising captains lure us out into the deep dark waters with credit cards for life boats?  What is this craziness doing to Mother Earth?  Are there ways we can help Her?
  • From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%.  This includes wasted food, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons.  What does this add up to?  5 million extra tons added to our landfills.  Let's repeat that.....5 million tons.  
  • The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.  If each of us would send one less card, we could save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.  What is a cubic yard?  36 inches tall by 36 inches wide by 36 inches deep.
  • If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, we would save 38,000 miles of ribbon, enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.
  • At least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year.  Let's watch what we scrape off the plates into the wastebasket.
  • $2.6 billion is spent annually on wrapping paper.  Unless we recycle and reuse, it will all end up in the landfills.  We buy it, we wrap it, we tear it, we throw it.
  • Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S.  Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill.  Some of the remaining 20 million are collected and taken to enormous mulching machines where they're turned into wood chips to be used for landscaping.  Artificial trees may be an initial expense, but they pay off in the long-run.....not only for the consumer, but for Mother Earth.  
  • The average American spends $800 on gifts during the holiday season and then takes the next year to pay for them....with growing interest.  Forget the plastic.  
  • According to a national survey, 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending.  So, why do we keep doing it?  Who's holding the gun to our heads?
  • About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season.  Batteries are costly, and if there are lots of toys in the house,  investing in rechargeable batteries and a battery charger might be the way to go.  About 200,000 tons of batteries containing toxic acid, lead, nickel, lithium, and other bad stuff get thrown into landfills each and every year, where they can leach into our groundwater.  Go to, enter your location and zip code to find the nearest household battery recycling drop box.
  • If each family reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about 20 miles), we'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons.
  • An estimated $46 billion of gifts will be returned the day after Christmas.....62% of clothing and shoes......17% of toys, games and hobbies.......14% of consumer electronics......13% of kitchen and bath......10% of beauty and cosmetics........10% of jewelry and watches. 
Would I have considered asking to return my Christmas present when I was a kid?  Never, ever, never.  We were smart enough to know that no matter what we got, it told us what our parents could afford to spend on Christmas.  Their example taught us never to be wasteful and always to be grateful.
* statistics from