The holiday season represents a high point for retailers and a low point for the environment. There are two major things we can do to help minimize our impacts. The first is to be more mindful of purchasing behaviors and second is to do a better job of managing our waste. Waste is one of the biggest problems associated with the holidays. Waste is highly detrimental to the environment and according to the EPA, 32 million tons of plastic waste are generated yearly, 14 million tons of which are used in packaging. During the period from Thanksgiving to the New Year, Americans generate 25 percent more waste than average. This includes
• 125,000 tons of plastic packaging
• 744 million holiday cards
• 8,000 tons of wrapping paper (which according to Treehugger is the equivalent of 50,000 trees).
The Thanksgiving feast is a notorious celebration of gluttony. Apart from the fact that this contributes to the epidemic of obesity in the country it also generates additional waste. During this feast.46 million turkeys will be consumed (20 percent of the yearly total) and the average American will consume 4,500 calories. Sadly much of the food consumed during this period will end up rotting in landfills.
A total of five million tons of food will be wasted between Thanksgiving and the end of 2013. Worldwide, some 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In the US, 33 percent of food is thrown away as a result of over-buying and misinterpretation of expiration and sell-by dates. In the developing world, an equal amount of food is lost because of poor infrastructure, pests, and disease.
The amount of food wasted in the U.S. each year totals some US$165 billion—and more than US$40 billion of that waste comes from households, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Recently, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued the Zero Hunger Challenge, aimed to reduce all food loss and waste. Moon called for nations to correct the inequity of food waste in a world plagued by hunger. “By reducing food waste, we can save money and resources, minimize environmental impacts and, most importantly, move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat,” he urged. Making enough food rather than too much food is a good place to start.
When it comes to giving gifts, an experience rather than a thing is almost always waste free. When you do receive material gifts make sure you recycle, this especially applies to plastic items which do not properly biodegrade. Wrapping paper and gift bags can either be recycled or reused.
The best way to reduce waste is not to make it in the first place, this includes little or no packaging and wrapping. The next best way is through responsible waste disposal which is primarily about recycling and re purposing.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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