Wastefulness abounds during holidays

By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor 

The holidays and the idea of indulgence seem to be inextricably woven together. After all, who doesn’t love gorging on mountains of cookies and tearing into a sea of wrapped gifts on Christmas morning?

But that “treat yo’ self” mentality can quickly morph into becoming wasteful, which Americans, especially around the holidays, desperately need to recognize.

According to Stanford University, American households throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than the rest of the year. All of that colorful wrapping paper, metallic ribbon and those unwanted presents amounts to more than 25 million tons of extra garbage rotting away in landfills.

There is, though, a quick fix to cutting down on all of the rubbish. Stanford suggests that if families simply reuse two feet of ribbon and sufficient paper to wrap three presents, it would be enough to tie a bow around the planet and cover 45,000 football fields, respectively. Many people save gift bags for later use; keep the same philosophy when it comes to wrapping paper and decorations.

Another solution to this problem is to choose gifts that are more conscious and meaningful. Put some dedicated thought into what you decide to purchase for someone rather than just snagging the first deal you see that they may or may not actually like. Often times the best presents are ones that create virtually no waste at all. Surprise a friend with concert tickets, sign them up for a museum membership or plan an outing to the park.

Statisticians project Americans to spend $830 per person on presents this year. This is despite nearly 70 percent stating in a Pew Research Center survey that they wish Christmas did not have such a strong financial focus. Becoming a mindful shopper will not only slim down the Dumpsters, but it will also save you from the awkward moment of finding that cat sweater you got for a relative in the trash.

But Christmas trimmings are not the only things that people are tossing, either.

According to a 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten. That’s $165 billion worth of waste each year, which puts a strain on the country’s water resources. Given the drought that has been plaguing California for the past year, carelessness is not an attitude this country can continue to keep.

Although it’s not just families or school cafeterias that are trashing an equivalent of two dozen boxes of cereal per person, per month. Major corporations known for throwing opulent parties and conferences are the worst offenders.

Popular indie hotel service Airbnb left more than 1,800 pounds of food untouched after an annual employee conference. Software company Salesforce orchestrates its own yearly conference which resulted in more than 4,000 uneaten boxed lunches.

Food Runners San Francisco, a charity that gathers unused food from events such as these and delivers them to local neighborhood food programs, was able to save those lunches and donate them to shelters. But it’s probably safe to say that most companies don’t think twice about ordering absurdly large quantities of food and then leaving it there for the catering company to do with it what they please.

DoSomething.org states that approximately one out of every six Americans go hungry. That’s a frightening statistic, but it’s miniscule compared to the 795 million that are starving worldwide. Even slashing average food waste down to just 30 percent could have a profound impact on those numbers.

Making better choices with how we handle waste can make this world a cleaner, fuller place for all. Isn’t that the best Christmas gift?