In the United States, waste generated by the holiday season—Christmas through New Year—reportedly adds some six million tons of trash to landfills.
I don’t know if anybody has come up with estimates for the Philippines, but I am certain we also generate so much trash, keeping in mind that we like to say our Christmas begins in September and does not officially end until the Feast of the Epiphany, the first Sunday of the new year. We use a lot of paper and throw away so much extra food.
This holiday season, let us not just be kind to our fellow humans but also to Mother Earth. After all, any kindness we show her ensures our own survival. As we celebrate, let’s keep in mind the 3Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle.
Here are a few suggestions from freelance writer Becky Striepe, writing for the online Care2.com, on how we can celebrate and still be earth-friendly.
- Don’t shop, make!
Unleash your creative spirit and make both your gifts and packaging. The Internet is full of ideas on what you can do. I referred a friend’s daughter, who has started to make cute stuff out of discarded paper towels and toilet paper cardboard tubes, to a website that turned what would otherwise have been thrown away into anything from table organizers to hanging lamps.
Many recipients will appreciate a personally made gift more than a store-bought present. There are also so-called experience gifts. Give tickets to a show, an entertainment venue, a movie, etc.
- Skip the cards.
Of course, there are people who, even in this day and age, do not have e-mail addresses. But by sending e-cards to those who do, you reduce the amount of potential waste. If you get greeting cards, recycle them.
- Rethink the use of gift wrap and ribbons.
My friend Rachy Cuna, the well-known stylist and floral architect, has a lot of ideas on reusing and recycling. He often uses part of his gift as wrapper or accent, like a pretty scarf or wrap to make a native basket look more festive, or placemats for wine packaging. Use the wrappers and ribbons of gifts you receive for craft projects, or reuse them.
- Get a Christmas tree that you can use for several years.
I have had my tree for about 10 years now, and it looks none the worse for wear. I just make sure that at the end of the season, it is carefully repacked and stored.
Make sure, though, that you get an artificial tree that is nontoxic. If you want a fresh tree, use a potted plant. But use LED (light emitting diodes) lights, as they are cooler. The old bulbs emit so much heat, they damage, even kill, sensitive plants. Compost a real tree if it does not survive the season.
- Get rid of non-LED lights.
As I have mentioned before, non-LED bulbs generate so much heat. The energy is often used up as heat rather than light. Unplug the lights when nobody is around to enjoy them.
- Choose holiday gifts that do not require batteries unless the recipient really wants them. Or choose something that will run on rechargeable batteries.
- Use alternative means of transport if you have to travel during the holidays.
I know our public transport system is often unreliable, but there are some alternatives to driving, which uses up a lot of gasoline and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. If several members of your family are going to the same place, get a van or a bus instead of bringing separate cars.
Take air-conditioned public utility buses. Check the Internet for alternatives. From what I understand, the transport problem has given rise to so many small but more convenient traveling options.
- Reduce food waste. Save energy in the kitchen. Reduce food packaging waste.
Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793-94; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.