Archive for December, 2008

So, I know this is a merry season, a time to relax with family and friends. And it is wonderful; but I always feel discouraged after spending time in a mall or shopping area, seeing how many things people are buying and thinking about our culture of endless consumerism. The holiday season is rampant with materialism; in fact,

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day, Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage each week, including holiday wrapping and packaging.

– Robert Lilienfield, co-author of the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are, notes that if every family reused just 2 feet [0.6 meter] of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

I work for Campus Life at Cornell as Student Sustainability Director, and one of the things I do for my job is send out weekly emails with sustainability tips to the staff. Here’s one of my recent ones:


  1. Instead of giving more items to people, consider giving a more personal gift such as tickets to an event, a coupon for a free night/day of babysitting or gourmet meal, or donating to a charity in someone’s name:
    1. Oxfamamericaunwrapped.com invites donors to “buy,” for example, a sheep ($45), building tools ($25) or the planting of 50 trees ($30) as a way to support Oxfam’s programs in developing countries (the recipient gets a card with a photo, not an actual sheep).
    2. Go to http://www.treehugger.com/giftguide/ for a very extensive guide to the best affordable, low- environmental impact, and fun gifts.
  2. Wrap presents in posters, decorated grocery-store bags or pages from glossy fashion magazines. Or put a small present in a beautiful scarf and make the wrapping part of the gift. If you love traditional wrapping paper, buy the recycled versions from sites like fishlipspaperdesigns.com and paporganics .com ($4.99 for two 24- by 36-inch sheets).
  3. And if you do go to the mall, don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags! Keep some in the trunk of your car in case you forget (also handy for grocery shopping).

I recently went to the mall carrying my big canvas bag…I felt a little strange, especially since I think salespeople thought I would shoplift with my large bag. But it turned out to be really nice because I had lots of space for my Sigg bottle, and it felt good every time I told the cashier “No Thanks” to a bag.

Happy Holidays!


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