According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, household waste increases by more than 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day due to all the holiday trash that is generated. Many items are bought, used, and quickly thrown away. However, there is no such thing as “away” because plastic pollutes the planet for lifetimes, says David Pinsky, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace USA.
In fact, only 9 percent of all plastics ever created have been recycled. So while everyone is focused on the merriment and holiday cheer, actively minimizing waste should also be considered. “The holidays are filled with joy and community, but they are also overflowing with single-use plastic packaging that pollutes our communities, our environment, and the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat,” says Pinsky.
Disposable decorations are some of the worst holiday offenders. If a decoration is not compostable or recyclable, it will probably end up in a landfill somewhere. Although decorations are used for a short period, their imprint long outlasts their usefulness. Here are a few to try to avoid.
Tinsel is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film and coated with a metallic finish, making it one of the most harmful decors. Greenpeace USA calls PVC “the poison plastic” because it releases toxic chemicals throughout its lifecycle that build up in the water, air, and food chain, which causes severe health problems. A great alternative to tinsel is bunting made out of paper or fabric (a great way to use up that old Christmas shirt) and embellished with little designs.
Another dangerous holiday “staple” is artificial snow because it is often made from ground-up polystyrene. Not only is the material an environmental pollutant, but it is also possibly carcinogenic. Both spray-on snow and fake snow powder are dangerous for your health. Avoid decorating with fake snow altogether, but if you must, make it yourself or purchase plant-based artificial snow that is more eco-friendly.
Christmas baubles are often made from blown glass, blown plastic, or expanded polystyrene, which are nonbiodegradable materials. Instead of purchasing store-bought ornaments, you can fashion your own from bottle caps, upcycled fabric, or multicolor paper. You can also adorn the tree with edible treats or create decorations out of pine cones and toilet paper cores.
Consider alternatives to single-use wrapping paper as well, such as newspapers, old maps, outdated glossy magazines, or scarves. If every family in America wrapped even just three presents with reusable materials, there would be 45,000 football fields worth of wrapping paper saved from landfills.
This holiday season is unlike any other, and as we make tough choices for the health and safety of our family and friends, perhaps we can use this time to reset some of our other holiday traditions as well, to make this time a little kinder and gentler to the earth as well.
Feature Image: Pexels
This article originally appeared on AD CLEVER | Carla Delgado