Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas and the Environment

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, both as a religious and as a secular holiday.  While Christians celebrate the humble birth of the Messiah, many non-Christians see it as a time of year to gather together with friends and family, to share hospitality and love.  What become problematic is the over-consumption that takes place this year.  In our efforts to please our loved ones and to conform to society's norms, we engage in a frenzy of shopping, seldom stopping to really think through our choices.  We have come to equate Christmas with "stuff" rather than with "love." 

Annual total Christmas spending is estimated to be around $500 billion, with the average American spending over $800.  Most of this spending is for presents that go under the Christmas tree, items that we think we and our loved ones *need* for Christmas.  The truth is that many of these items are not needed (nor even wanted) and the vast majority of it will go to landfill within six months.  

The manufacturing process wreaks havoc on our environment.  In order to get the raw materials necessary to create the goods we demand, trees are harvested from forests, oil is pumped from the ground, various minerals are mined from the earth.  Extra gasoline is used to transport these raw goods to the places where they are turned into plastic toys, electronic devices, and other in-demand trinkets.  Needless to say, the manufacturing process itself leads to all sorts of toxic waste.  Once ready, the products are again shipped out, using more of our precious petroleum fuel.  In addition to the actual presents, we also consume resources and energy to make the packaging for the products, the bags to carry them home in, and the wrapping that we add before putting them under the tree.

Much of what we buy ends up in landfills.  Of course the packaging is the first to go, then the unwanted items, then those that break, and finally those that are no longer desired due to planned obsolescence.  Those items end up slowing breaking down into chemicals that leach into the ground and into our water sources.  Chemicals from landfills include:  arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, benzene, choloform, ethybenzene, toluene, and xylene, just to name a few.  To learn more about the dangers of these chemicals, go here

Now that we know what happens to all the gifts that are exchanged at Christmas time, maybe it's time to rethink the quantity and quality of what we give.

Photo source:  www.landofgraciousliving.com

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