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Greening The Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many HBS students will begin to feel the excitement that accompanies the anticipation of not only four weeks of vacation, but also of receiving presents such as the Nintendo Wii or the new Prada Gauffre bag. Although giving and receiving gifts can be a wonderful way to thank the important people in your life, it also has the potential to be extremely wasteful. Unused or unwanted gifts are often thrown in the trash immediately, or after only a short period of time. Items such as wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons, and bows generate additional waste, as does the manufacturer’s packaging of many presents.

Exactly how much extra waste is created during the winter holiday season?

 The U.S. throws away 25% more trash during Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of year. This amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!
Hint: Buy gifts that look beautiful with no packaging-for example, a gift basket (with a reusable basket) or a potted plant in a hand decorated pot.

 If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon (60 cm), the 38,000 miles (63.000 km) of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
Cut back on ribbon usage-use paint or markers to decorate packages instead.

 If every family in the U.S. wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
Wrap your presents in creative materials-newsprint, brown paper bags, old calendars (or even HBS cases!) that you can then decorate, or in reusable tins, baskets or boxes.

 The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high, and they require the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees.
This year, send electronic greeting cards or telephone the people you love to wish them a happy, green holiday season.

By making a concerted effort to reduce the materials you use, you can have a significant impact on the environment this holiday season. Be sure to also keep these gift ideas in mind:

1. Give experiences rather than “things.”
 tickets to a play, concert, sporting event, museum
 music, language, art, or cooking lessons
 passes for ice skating
 gift certificates to a favorite restaurant (or a home-cooked meal!)
 back and neck massages
 babysitting
 breakfast in bed every Sunday in January
 a monthly lunch date
 list of 100 of your fondest memories with the recipient (on recycled paper!!)
 lift tickets to a ski resort

2. Give gifts with an environmental message.
A refillable thermos bottle or coffee cup, a canvas tote bag, a battery recharger, fair trade chocolate, or items made from recycled materials. Choose solar powered instead of battery powered products, or ones that require no power at all.

3. Give donations or memberships to local non-profit organizations.

4. When entertaining, choose reusable glasses, dishware, silverware, and cloth napkins.
If you need to go with disposables, choose eco-friendlier options, like recycled paper napkins and plates, or plastic cups that can be recycled. Choosing organic and/or locally grown food also makes a difference for the environment.

December 11, 2006
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