Despite the growing awareness of the many environmental issues facing modern society, it takes real effort to live a green lifestyle in today's world. During the holidays, it would seem almost impossible, but there is hope.
It is estimated that in the United States alone an extra 25 million tons of garbage is generated during the holiday season. Included in this number is 2.65 billion Christmas cards, which is enough to fill a football field higher than a ten-story building. Enough ribbon to tie a bow around the planet 12 times over and 4 million tons of wrapping paper, which accounts for approximately 30 million fewer trees on the planet.
Beyond even these staggering numbers, though, is the untold extra number of sales flyers and catalogs that are sent out this time of year and the vast number of fad presents that consumers get talked into buying for their friends and family that will ultimately be destined for the landfills and incinerators of the country.
There are ways to lower the environmental impact of the holidays and thankfully, most of them are pretty easy to instigate, many will help you save a little coin this year and one special suggestion will even help you recoup some of the season's negatives by being carbon negative.
The most obvious way to cut down on holiday waste is to reuse rather than throw away wrapping materials. True, this may not seem practical for wrapping paper, as most people tear into gifts like a lion on a fresh kill, but the ribbon is another story. If each family in the United States would reuse just three feet of ribbon, it would keep 57,000 miles of ribbon from entering our landfills.
Another of the more obvious ways to trim the holiday waste is actually one of the fastest growing trends of the season, shopping online. The majority of people these days rarely if ever go a day without being online, and many stay constantly connected to the web through their mobile phones and tablets.
If you are going to be online anyway, why not save some time, gas and headaches by doing your shopping there and having it delivered to your door. A note of caution should be added here for the ecological minded. The way some companies package their products for shipping is anything but environmentally friendly, so it pays to do your homework or simply ask before ordering.
Another great new trend we are seeing is people embracing the idea of green gifts. Instead of buying the latest greatest that Madison Ave. is pushing this year, why not give a gift that is in itself a benefit to the environment.
One of the best examples around is the Nature Bag—Earth's Greenest Bag™. Nature Bags are not carbon neutral. They are carbon negative.
They are crafted from a fast-growing jungle vine that is found in northern Laos which actually cleans greenhouse gasses and other pollutants from the atmosphere. The story gets even better from there, though. They are not produced in some smoke-belching, energy hungry factory. Every bag is hand tied by members of the Khmu Tribe, using a design that has served them for over 5,000 years.
They are expandable, rugged, reusable, and beautiful to behold. Best of all, they are being marketed online by as part of the Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project. This is a joint venture by two nonprofits, the U.S. based, JungleVine® Foundation and the Laotian, Lao JungleVine® Development Ltd. These fine organizations are dedicated to promoting sustainable development, the preservation of native crafts, and protecting the environment.
Every penny spent on a Nature Bag goes to helping some of the poorest people on the planet achieve their dreams of educating their children, preserving their jungle home and providing a viable living for their families, all worthwhile causes.
Too often the joy of the holiday season gets lost in the hustle and bustle rush to get everything done yesterday and there can be a tremendous amount of pressure to forget those ideals that we work so hard to uphold the rest of the year. The holidays don't have to be the season of waste, though. With a little forethought, you can stay green, help those less fortunate, simplify your own life, and save a little money.