It’s that time of year when most Westerners are celebrating holidays and holy days with gift-giving. A time when we, the environmentally aware, cringe at the waste of the wrapping paper and struggle to curb an anxiety attack when the plastic packaging isn’t recyclable or when the paperboard boxes go into the landfill—ordinary garbage can—instead of into a recycling bin. A time when we freak out about the batteries that are required for the assorted devices and games and how many batteries will go into the landfill over the lifetime of that device because not many people save batteries to recycle.
Yes, I’ve been called the recycling police, and worse. I can’t not be while I observe the wide-reaching physical impact of our commercialism. But, Christmas gifts! I know, I know, the joy of giving and the joy of receiving and all that, that . . . that commercial marketing ploy; the only way to reasonably explain the move from the holy days to the commercialized holidays.
My “Aha!” moment: Economics and the environment are inter-related.
My family participates in exchanging Christmas presents with assorted family members and friends. The Christmas tree of my youth had three times as many gifts around it as are in the photo above—and we were a family of four. My mother used the fanciest wrapping paper she could find and embellished every package with her own hand-made fancy bows, which I’d save to reuse in crafts or for other gifts.
After all of the gifts were distributed and opened, we’d look around for more. “Did we get them all? Are there any more hiding under the tree or that got pushed under the table?”
My step-father was always in charge of the garbage bag to gather all of the wrapping paper that had been strewn all over the living room floor. I think I was ten years old when I started asking, “Where does our garbage go after we throw it out?” That was the year I became an environmentalist.
Stanford University has a web page that talks about waste from the holiday season ranging from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. In that time period, an extra one million tons of trash daily in the United States, which includes greeting cards and ribbons. I personally get satisfaction knowing that my ribbon re-use has had an impact, too: “If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.”
The Stanford page also offers thoughtful, creative ideas to answer these questions:
- How can I reduce waste during the winter holiday season?
- How can I reduce waste and buy great gifts this holiday season?
- How can I protect the planet this holiday season?
- What are some Green Resolutions that I can consider this year?
The Good Men Project Premium Members’ Environmental Social Interest Group (Environment SIG, for short) met for our first time, this evening. James Blakely, our SIG leader, suggested that families give gifts of outings. Events such as hiking a nature trail or a walk in the neighborhood to observe which birds have or have not migrated have lasting benefits. Focus on the gift of spending quality time together, preferably in nature, also reduces packaging materials while being educational and opportunities for bonding.
New Social Interest Group Will Address Key Environmental Issues of Our Time <– (Click here for details on how to join us!)
The Environmental Social Interest Group will discuss not only how men relate to nature but also important environmental issues of our time and how we as a community can take action to solve them. Please join us.
The little things we can do to protect our planet add up. If you care to make a difference, join us.
Photo credit: Flickr/KylanRobinson