This holiday season of giving, receiving, feasting, and decorating can come with some additional baggage—trash baggage, that is!
When this holiday material is discarded it can be headed to landfills, where, far from making things merry and bright, it undergoes bacterial decomposition, which produces “landfill gas”: a mixture of predominantly greenhouse gases including methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The methane in particular makes landfill gas stand out—landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States.
Methane, a greenhouse gas with an impact on climate change more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, is the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activity. Carbon dioxide, the other major ingredient in landfill gas, is the first.
How to Have an Environmentally Friendly Holiday Season
This year, consider trying out a new way of celebrating the season to help reduce your holiday waste:
- Give a gift that needs no packaging—an experience! Offer to take friends or family on a trip to your local public lands, or offer to pay the entrance fee for a national, state, or local park you know they would enjoy.
- Each year, an estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold in the US, or enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. Instead of a traditional card, consider an e-card or a telephone call to friends and family.
- When shopping for holiday foods, decorations, and gifts, use reusable shopping bags. These can be stronger than traditional single-use bags, protecting your purchases and reducing the amount of paper and plastic distributed by vendors.
- For an eye-catching gift tag, cut off the front of any holiday cards you received in the previous year. The card's decorative front will spruce up your gift, and you can write the recipient's name on the blank side.
- Save on gift wrap by reusing intact pieces from the previous year, or by opting for a more durable material that you can use again and again, such as a cloth bag.
- Once it's time to pack up the decorations, set aside your Christmas tree for recycling. Many areas collect trees in the first few weeks after Christmas to be mulched and used for water conservation and weed control.
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- CalRecycle. 2013. “A Season for Giving, Nor for Discarding.” California Department of Resources and Recycling Recovery. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20150102131618/http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/publiced/holidays/NoWaste.htm
- CalRecycle. 2014. “ â€˜Give Green' by Decking the Halls with Less Waste This Year!” California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20151218112831/http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/publiced/holidays/
- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 2015. “The Cosmic Distance Scale.” NASA. Accessed November 13, 2019. http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/features/cosmic/earth_info.html
- Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. 2015. “Reduce Waste Generated During the Holidays.” Accessed November 13, 2019. http://www.epa.state.oh.us/pic/facts/holiday.aspx
- The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. 2014. “About CFAES: An after Christmas Story: Tips for Reducing, Reusing, Recycling Holiday Trash.” The Ohio State University. Accessed November 13, 2019. http://cfaes.osu.edu/faculty-staff-resources/cfaes-monthly/archives/tips-for-reducing-reusing-recycling-holiday-trash
- Stanford Buildings & Grounds Maintenance. 2015. “Frequently Asked Questions: Holiday Waste Prevention.” Stanford University. Accessed November 13, 2019. http://bgm.stanford.edu/pssi_faq_holiday_waste
- US EPA. 2019. “Landfill Methane Outreach Program: Methane Gas.” Accessed November 13, 2019. https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas#methane
- US EPA. 2019. “Landfill Methane Outreach Program: Basic Information.” Accessed November 13, 2019. https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas
- US EPA. 2019. “Overview of Greenhouse Gases: Carbon Dioxide.” Accessed November 13, 2019. http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html
- US EPA. 2019. “Overview of Greenhouse Gases: Methane Emissions.”Accessed November 13, 2019. http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html