It’s the most wasteful time of the year

Our environment suffers during Christmas due to the large amount of trash produced

Alexis Bahensky

More stories from Alexis Bahensky

Movie Madness
May 24, 2022

Photo courtesy of Alexis Bahensky

Americans produce 25 million tons of trash during every holiday season. If this continues, the health of our environment will continue to decline at a rapid rate.

Christmas is one of the most anticipated holidays for all ages. While the day allows us to spend time with family and open presents, there is a dark side to the joyous occasion: the harm it brings to the environment. 

In America, people throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season (this starts at Thanksgiving and ends after the new year). The extra waste adds up to be over 25 million tons of trash. The amount of waste produced during the holiday season is a simple fix, yet traditions seem to stop us from caring about the future of our environment.

When you go to different houses during the holidays, you’ll likely run into a Christmas tree. They are everywhere during this season, decorating living rooms, offices and even schools; however, they aren’t your everyday evergreen. Most trees put up are artificial. Around 82% of trees put up each year are artificial. Real trees receive little attention. They are messy to clean up at the end of the year and can’t be reused yearly as artificial ones can; however, the environmental benefits are greater.

Most are afraid that real trees are more of a fire hazard than artificial. That simply is not true. Less than 1% of Christmas trees, both real and artificial, cause fires each year. So instead of keeping your artificial tree, go out and buy a real one. They may lose fewer leaves; however, those on real trees will eventually grow back. Those on artificial trees will not, which will cause people to throw them out, so you can’t use the excuse that artificial ones are easier to clean and last longer because it simply isn’t true.

Households should consider getting a tree with roots. Doing this allows the tree to be planted once again after Christmas has ended. You still get the joy of decorating the tree, a classic holiday tradition, along with knowing you have made the earth a better place. 

The trees themselves aren’t the only problem; the ornaments on those trees also pose a threat to the environment. In past years, Americans spent over $50.00 on decorations for their trees. Currently, people are spending $63.00 on average. That is $13.00 more than past years and the holiday season isn’t even over yet, meaning this number has the potential to rise. Most of these decorations contain plastic, which isn’t biodegradable. Switching to more environmentally friendly ornaments would cause less waste, but the problem isn’t with the ornaments; it’s the need for each tree to have a theme. 

When you think of a tree, usually what pops up in your head is the classic ball ornaments of the classic red, green and white colors. Most also prefer a more elegant look using blue and white as their base color scheme. While it is pleasing to the eye, the environment suffers for it. There are so many themes to pick from that many switch themes yearly. New decorations mean throwing out the old ones, causing harm to the planet. Rather than creating new themes each year, keep old ornaments and stick with one every year. Better yet, stick with meaningful ornaments. Rather than using the classic ball, collects ornaments over the years that have some sort of significance. Not only are you decorating your tree, but you’re also giving it significant meaning while at the same time saving the planet.

We all love presents, but they cause the most harm during this season. Receiving them is always exciting, but it’s seeing them in pretty wrapping paper and bows that get many excited for this time of year. America alone uses 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper yearly, spending over seven billion dollars on the material. This wouldn’t be a problem if it was paper, which can be used in compost as it only takes 2-3 weeks to decompose; however, most are not. Many are plastic-based, which doesn’t allow them to decompose like wrapping paper created from paper.

Most families try to throw all the decorative material they use to wrap their gifts in one nice pile to throw in the recycling bin later. While they think they are doing the environment a favor, they are doing it a misdeed. Recycling companies are forced to throw out tons of trash because of wrapping paper because people don’t realize they bought plastic-based rather than paper-based gift wrap. Most wrapping paper also contains glitter. The mesmerizing substance used to decorate many items can’t be recycled. Because of this, wrapping paper that claims to be recyclable can’t be. The glue residue and bows left behind cause the same problem. 

Rather than using wrapping paper to decorate your gifts, switch to gift bags. Yes, most contain plastic; however, they are reusable, unlike wrapping paper. Not to mention there are so many more fun patterns and images that can be used on gift bags, and glitter won’t pose a threat to the environment for a long time to come if we switch to this gift wrapping method. They may not be as pretty, but saving the earth is far more important than having a gift wrapped in an unrecyclable substance and tipped off with a bow that poses a threat to the health of our environment.

Do our environment a favor and put aside old Christmas traditions to allow the Earth to prosper instead. These traditions may create aspects of the holiday, but it doesn’t truly make Christmas. As human beings, we can change for the better and save our planet from further harm. We don’t need to hold on to harmful traditions to enjoy the holiday season.