Opinion | Think green this holiday season

Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, don’t forget to act sustainably.


Sophia Meador , Opinion Columnist

The holidays are a bustling time for everyone, which can burden our environment.

Amid the parties, shopping, festivities, and gatherings, Americans generate 25 percent more waste throughout the holiday season, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While the holidays are a busy time for everyone, we can’t forget to be green. ‘Tis the season for sustainability and taking care of our environment.

While some are sledding down snowy hills this season, landfills are overflowing with holiday waste. Americans generate an additional 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week during the holiday season, according to the EPA.

Landfills leave a large footprint on the environment. As a result of human waste, it generates landfill gas, a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material. Landfill gas is composed primarily of methane, carbon dioxide and a small amount of non-methane organic compounds.

Landfill gas is anything but merry. Because methane is a greenhouse gas, it traps heat into our atmosphere, contributing to the overall warming of the planet. Landfill gas contributes to more than 15 percent of methane gas emissions in the U.S.

While we need to be mindful of our environmental footprint year-around, it is important we are especially mindful during the holiday season. This season is a time for giving, so we need to give back to our environment and act sustainably.

One sustainable act is to reduce your overall waste.

Are you reading a printed copy of The Daily Iowan? Think before you recycle newspapers. An estimated 2.3 billion pounds of wrapping paper ends up in landfills each year. Instead of buying wrapping paper, wrap your holiday gifts in newspaper and other recycled paper. Simple acts like this can reduce your overall waste and promote recycling.

Another substantial source of waste comes from holiday cards. An estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold in the U.S. each year. While this wholesome gesture is tradition for many, a lot of cards end up in landfills after the holidays. Rather than sending printed cards, consider sending electronic cards to reduce waste and save money.

You can make sustainable changes in the way you celebrate the holidays and how you give during the holidays.

With an abundance of retail advertisements and social media promotions, it can be easy to follow the current fads and trends. Even with the best intentions, however, many gifts go unused and wasted each year.

Gifting sustainably is one key way to decrease holiday waste. Shopping at thrift stores or second-hand shops is a perfect way to reduce overall waste. Because the practices of many clothing corporations are harmful to the environment, shopping second-hand helps Iowa City have an abundance of thrift stores like Artifacts, Revival, and The Savvy Boutique, which are perfect for your gifting needs.

Another way to be sustainable this holiday season is to limit your consumption of unnecessary goods and items. Before you purchase a gift, consider whether this item has long-term value. Instead of gifting items, consider how you can give experiences.

Giving experiences is a sustainable way to give to loved ones and your community. This could mean tickets to a local show at FilmScene or the Englert Theatre, or gift cards to a local restaurant.

It is also important to keep your home green. Remember to turn your Christmas lights off before bed instead of keeping them on overnight. If you plan on buying a plastic tree this year, consider buying a real one to compost after the holidays.

This holiday season, do not forget about the impact you leave on your environment. Be green and act sustainably this year.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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