Saving Soundly: Tis’ The Season to be Wasteful

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.
-Dave Barry, American Author

With the holiday season approaching, the time comes to buy our loved ones seasonal gifts to show our appreciation and care. Who wouldn’t love to go shopping at this time? All the store clearance sales and discounts at clothing outlets make it hard to resist, but is this what the season is really about? Nowadays, it’s hard for us Americans to consider the consequences of our cultural tradition of shopping throughout the holidays, especially when everybody else is doing the same thing.

Sure, we can cherish the holidays for its seasonal music and food, but I think we need to backtrack a bit. Originally, the Christmas holiday was intended to be a religious holiday that celebrated a birth. Over time, that evolved into a Santa figure, who gives gifts to all under a brightly lit Christmas tree every December. Then that morphed into a societal mantra that requires us to shop incessantly and search for holiday deals. So the question becomes, What happened to the true reason behind the season? That is up to you to decide.

The holidays that we love are slowly impacting the environment in a negative way. For example, the holidays promote the concept of tourism, which equates to more planes and cruises crossing the world. In fact, the number of cruise ship passengers has doubled in the last ten years to 18 million passengers!


Hotels and the environment. (Source: Department of Energy and Climate Change Sustainable Development of Tourism)

It doesn’t end there. The living costs created by hotels and other tourism venues drains vast environmental resources, ranging from power, water, food, and other necessities that tourists use on their trips. Local ecosystems can be further damaged when hotels and other tourism spots expand to areas that were once pristine. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a great vacation! There are great alternatives, such as taking ferries instead of cruises, staying at a relative’s or friend’s house, and even taking public transportation when you’re on vacation!

Okay, back to some discussion about the season. Did you know that in the UK, 8,000 tons of gift wrapping are used annually? That roughly translates to 50,000 trees! And in the US, that number is much larger, by about five times!


Waste produced during various holidays.                                                    (Source:

It’s hard to believe that so much of the environment goes into what covers our presents, and this tradition is so embedded into our culture and society. There are alternatives, however.

First off, you should know that wrapping paper is not recyclable, since most are laminated or dyed. Even the fancier ones have glitter, which make it worse! So what should you do to replace them? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use Alternatives

Newspaper comics, colorful ads, magazine pages all make great alternatives to gift wrapping paper! Plus, you can bedazzle your receiver with a cool and stylish present cover!

  • Reusable Boxes

At times, you may comes across boxes and other potential gift holders, like chocolate boxes and shoe boxes. These are great reusable present boxes – simply decorate the box and cover it festively!

  • Reusable Ribbons

Every year, our gift boxes are topped off with the finishing ribbon. However, we shouldn’t forget the idea that ribbons can be reused – just by using it for your own gift box! And if you’re feeling a bit more green and natural, then you could use an acorn, evergreen, and even a sprig of holly! It’ll look stylish to match the festive feel!

There are so many other ways that can make you more environmentally green, such as purchasing gifts that are recyclable or long-lasting. Avoid the short-lived gifts of electronics and clothes; instead, go for things like eco-friendly candles, household plants, and environmentally-friendly clothes! Even instruments, which can be passed from person to person and certainly can last a long time if taken care of, make great gifts!

Okay, now that you have some ideas of what you could buy, you’re ready to shop. But how do you shop and be green? Here are just some ways you can do more to help the environment:

  • Shop Online

Often times, a lot of energy and pollution goes into traveling to our favorite malls our outlets, which sometimes may be too far away or are located in a traffic-filled city. You save the gas and other energy needed to travel, and have your gifts delivered to your doorstep!

When you buy from your local economy, you not only support your community, but you also save the energy and pollution that’s created when stores ship from far distances.

  • Promote Community Activities

Purchasing a ticket to a local concert, going horseback riding, or buying a ticket to the local soccer game are all great ways to give a gift and support your local community!

It doesn’t take very much to be more green this holiday season, so why not be creative and go for a change this year? Not only will you promote sustainability and environmental awareness, but you will amaze your friends and family with a unique gift that is also environmentally friendly! Most of all, you get the opportunity to cherish the true joys of the season with your loved ones.