I’m dreaming of a green Christmas


Jonathan Li, Columnist

Christmastime. Just hearing the word lifts the spirits of even the most jaded individuals. Christmas means caroling, reuniting with friends and family, stuffing our deprived bodies with quality food and, most importantly, forgetting about internships and the harsh realities of the real world. Indeed, it is the most wonderful time of the year for everyone, but what about the day after?

The day after Christmas is like a scene out of “The Walking Dead.” Each year, I look out at deadly quiet streets and see trash cans overflowing with paper gift wrap and plastic wrappers, Christmas trees piling high on street corners and lavish front lawn displays reflecting off cars. Growing up in an environmentally conscious household, I am used to turning off Christmas lights before we went to bed, limiting our Christmas decorations to a single wreath and handing out unwrapped Christmas presents. People are going to unwrap them anyway,  so why bother wasting paper?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of household waste increases by more than 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, equivalent to an additional 1 million tons of waste into our landfills. This showcases the need for greater public awareness of our environmental impact during the holiday season. Even though being eco-friendly is probably the last thing on most people’s minds, being green doesn’t have to be difficult with these simple tips.

Reuse. Wrapping paper can rarely be recycled due to the dye or lamination. So choose to wrap your presents with CTA maps and newspapers, or use a basket and old canvas bags. If you’re looking to step up the presentation, spruce needles and pinecones are great, eco-friendly alternatives to putting on non-degradable ribbons.

Regift. Regifting doesn’t make you a modern day Scrooge screaming “Bah, Humbug!” at American materialism. With the average American projected to spend almost $800 this holiday season, do you really want to wait in those long holiday lines getting something for someone that he or she might not really want? As a college student, you can do yourself a favor by giving away those Secret Santa presents that have been collecting dust because as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Avoid electronics. Think outside the realm of traditional gifts and find a creative way to spend your money and time. Here are some ideas to get you started: 1) Shared experiences. Give things that you can go to with your friends, like purchasing concert tickets ahead of time, covering the next dinner outing or taking care of the tab the next time you go out. 2) Necessities. Promise to do your friend’s laundry for a month, donate to their Dance Marathon page or buy an e-book for that class that both of you are taking next quarter.

Buy a potted tree. According to the EPA, 33 million live Christmas trees are brought to American homes each year and subsequently discarded. Buy a potted Christmas tree so you won’t need to worry about buying a new one the following year. As an added bonus, they last a lifetime.

Being green during the holidays doesn’t have to make you a Grinch. This Christmas, consider giving a gift back to the environment. Each person who commits brings us all one step closer to a more sustainable future so  your great-great-great grandchildren can enjoy Christmas as much as you did.

Jonathan Li is a McCormick junior. He can be reached at [email protected].