Christmas: The Most Wonderful and Wasteful Time Of The Year

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December 21, 2018

Andy Williams sang it best, in my opinion. For many people, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But it also happens to be the most wasteful time of the year. By a long shot.  

North Americans throw away 25% more trash over the holiday season than they do in other months. We typically buy more things around Christmas, and a lot of it ends up in landfills. From leftover food and sweets to Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and other packaging items, we’re not doing the planet any favors.

Add it all up, and Stanford University says the extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage.

In the UK, data from Unilever shows that an average of 4.2 million Christmas dinners go to waste every holiday season. Researchers say that’s the equivalent to:

  • 263,000 turkeys
  • 7.5 million mince pies
  • 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding
  • 17.2 million Brussels sprouts
  • 11.9 million carrots
  • 11.3 million roast potatoes

With more people visiting this time of year, we tend to make sure our pantries and fridges are fully stocked, usually resulting in a massive amount of food waste.

Action Plan To Reduce Waste

Zero Waste Canada says we can all make a difference. Making a few simple changes can significantly reduce your environmental footprint over the holidays.

  • The Griswolds’ may have gone above and beyond decorating their house, but that doesn’t mean you have to. More decorations often mean more plastic and unnecessary waste. Keep it simple! The same rules apply to gift-giving and food.
  • Before you shop, ask yourself if you need it. Do you need a serving platter you’ll only use over the holidays? How about a Christmas tablecloth? These things aren’t required to make the season merry and bright.
  • Go through your pantry and fridge and see what food items you already have. Incorporate them into your recipes. I can’t tell you how many times I return from the grocery store with items I already had sitting in the kitchen. I need to clean my act up in this department.  
  • Find out what the bins in your community will accept, and be sure to put the appropriate items where they belong. Zero Waste Canada says contamination of recycling and compost bins are a real problem this time of year.
  • Consider how much food you’ll need to make on Christmas day. What size turkey will you need? Will there be snacks throughout the afternoon? Have a plan to use your leftovers in the days after Christmas, or offer your guests a doggy bag as they leave. Even better, offer to make a nice plate for someone who may not have had a Christmas dinner this year.
  • Instead of buying material items for your loved ones, consider giving them the gift of an experience! Whether it be tickets to a play, a sporting event, or a nice dinner out, an experience gives you time to connect, which is something we all need more of!
  • Wrap any gifts you do buy in re-used materials. If every American family does it, researchers at Stanford say we could save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! If we all sent one less Christmas card, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. I suddenly don’t feel so bad about never having sent a single card to my friends and family.  

Remember, more stuff doesn’t make Christmas better. The Zero Waste approach says the best gift we can give to the world at this time of year is more respect for our natural resources, preserving the soil and air for wildlife and future generations.
Even without piles of gifts and ridiculous amounts of food, Christmas can still be the most wonderful time of the year.

Catherine Sherriffs
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Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her two young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.
Catherine Sherriffs
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