The Cost of Christmas: The environmental impact of the holiday season

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The Cost of Christmas: The environmental impact of the holiday season

Lauren Duhon

Lauren Duhon

Lauren Duhon

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The holiday season fills our hearts with joy, but it also fills the world with waste.

Christmas is the most wasteful time of year. While we are wrapping our gifts in gorgeous paper and continuing traditions with our decorated trees, the population is hurting the environment; one ornament at time.

The holidays are not just candy canes and gumdrops. A lot goes into to this part of the season, and many things have a not so jolly impact on the environment. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste will increase by 25 percent due to the increase of paper, food and trash usage, which we all know goes to landfills unless recycled.

According to Busch Systems, in 2014 six billion cards were sold during the holiday season. That’s enough to fill a whole football field 10-stories high. Luckily, e-cards are becoming more popular, and the number of cards have gone down in the last four years.

Another thing that is awful for the environment, believe or not, is online shopping. The U.S. Postal Service delivered 850 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in 2017, which is 15 percent of the entire year’s deliveries in a little over a month. With that many deliveries, imagine the gas emitted into the atmosphere, increasing greenhouse effects.

In the United Kingdom, the University of Manchester recently noted in a study that the U.K.’s combined Christmas dinners produce the same carbon footprint as a single car travelling 6,000 times around the world.

That is just the U.K. alone. In reference to Brilliant Maps, the United Kingdom only has a population of 63.18 million people, which is almost five times smaller than the population of the United States (309.35 million). If the U.K.’s carbon footprint is 6,000 times around the world, then the U.S.’s footprint would be more than four times that amount.

Additionally, there’s the problem of all of the Christmas trees. There is no way around the waste involved. On one hand, if you get a real tree, the obvious consequence is killing a plant that could have helped provide oxygen for the animals and people around and helped diminish an ecosystem for the animals and other species around.

On the other hand, if you get an artificial tree because you don’t want to ruin a healthy tree, buying an artificial tree is just as bad. The energy and resources used to produce the plastic trees are harmful. Then 10 years later, you have used the tree and are ready to get a new one for the upcoming holiday season. Not only does the tree you’ve thrown away now sit in a hole in the ground never to be properly disposed, but also you are now in need of a new tree, repeating the cycle again.

On top of the traditions, everyone participates in gift exchanges. Most try to go all out, spending as much as their budget will allow. As materialistic as it sounds, such a small gesture can bring so much joy. Most of the happiness comes from the single fact that you thought of them and that could mean the world.

During this holiday season, if you want to show someone you care, don’t get something extravagant but personal. If a present can’t be afforded, a heartfelt note or an act of service will do just the trick.

However, wonderful as giving gifts is, that is not all the holiday season is about. As cliché as it sounds, the season is also known for its kindness. It is known for people helping each other willingly, family gatherings and the sensational joy that you simply cannot get year-round. Many family memories come from the holidays. Doing something kind or a service for others or even yourself can lift up people’s spirits and doesn’t cost a dime or hurt the environment.

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