There’s nothing like sitting among the shredded wrapping paper, untied bows, and empty boxes that are the ravages of a successful Christmas morning. The cat swats excess paper around the living room and your little cousins make crowns out of the bows. But then comes mom, trash bag in hand, scooping all that packaging up to be taken to the landfill.
The fact is that as wonderful as the holidays may be, they produce an enormous amount of waste.
Between Thanksgiving and New Years Americans throw out 25% more garbage than during the rest of the year. The packaging we throw out is estimated to cost eleven billion dollars per year. Food waste is also a huge problem, with Americans in 2016 trashing approximately 204 million pounds of turkey over Thanksgiving.
So what can we do to fix that here at Bard?
Ever seen dumpsters full of books around campus? Book pages are a great source of recyclable wrapping material. Conventional wrapping paper can be difficult to recycle—although there are recyclable and biodegradable types—so getting creative with your wrapping material is a great way to reduce waste. Newspaper, comics, maps, old fabric, and other reused/recyclable materials are great alternatives.
Be careful about the types of conventional wrapping paper you recycle. Paper that is shiny or contains glitter generally can’t be recycled, but wrapping paper that is only made from paper sometimes can. Check with your local waste collection company to see if they accept wrapping paper.
Cutting down trees is often viewed as a paradigm of anti-environmentalism, but in fact cutting down a live Christmas tree every year is more eco-friendly than buying a fake plastic tree. This is because Christmas trees tend to come from Christmas tree farms, and farmers plant several more trees for every one that is cut down.
Just make sure to recycle your tree when you’re done with it.
Recently the Bard Office of Sustainability ran a table at the craft fair where we sold upcycled gifts, from bowls made out of old records to i-Pad stands made from coat hangers and yarn. The gifts we weren’t able to sell are at the Freeuse store now, along with instructions on how to make your own if you’re interested. Freeuse is a great place to get second-hand clothes, household objects, material for crafts, and much more. Using items that have been used before rather than buying them new is an excellent way to reduce waste. Freeuse is located in the Kappa House garage and is open from 5pm to 7pm Monday through Thursday and from 1pm to 2pm Friday through Sunday.
It’s important to think when making your Christmas list, do I really want this? Make sure the things you are asking for, whether they be clothes, toys, gadgets, or something else, are actually things you will use. Giving to thrift stores or charities is a great way to delay unwanted gifts from being thrown out, but making sure those items aren’t produced in the first place is even better.
And remember, you can be green without being a grinch!
By Ella McGrail
Class of 2021