The holiday season is a time for eating delicious food, visiting with loved ones, and exchanging gifts. It is also a time of excess that can take a toll on the health of our planet.
One night’s feast turns into the next day’s trash. Decorations that bring joy for a month can end up decomposing in a landfill for years. According to the EPA, household waste in the United States increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, totaling about 1 million extra tons of waste. The holiday season is also responsible for much of the 28 billion pounds of edible food discarded every year. In fact, Americans waste 33 percent more food during the winter holidays than any other part of the year.
This waste creates a number of problems for human and environmental health, including air and water pollution. Landfills produce harmful gases, including methane, that contribute to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. As the world’s population grows, so does the amount of discarded goods.
Though climate change can seem like an overwhelming problem to address, the actions of individuals make an impact. Adopting healthier habits is hard enough during your regular schedule. So how do you practice sustainability amidst the additional travel, events, shopping and food?
[email protected], the online MPH program offered by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, recently published a graphic with “11 Ways to Reduce your Holiday Carbon Footprint.” Some of these suggestions, including eating less red meat, reducing food waste, and shopping locally are strategies that can be used year round. This list is just a starting point. Be creative with your sustainable choices and choose the ones that work for you.
Environmental guilt doesn’t have to be the cause for you to miss out on seasonal celebrations. There are a number of ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle, even while you’re caught up in the holiday hubbub.