Dreaming of a green Christmas

I am a recent graduate of UNC-Asheville, currently volunteering in an orphanage in Tanzania, East Africa. The only news source I have access to is Al-Jazeera, [which] Americans [are told] is merely radical propaganda and supports terrorism. But I have found it to be a reliable and candid source of news … particularly in its tireless coverage of global warming … .

The effects of global warming are particularly evident here in Tanzania. The November rainy season this year was shorter, and when it did come, it came with such force that it washed out many roads, making travel difficult. Tanzania is extremely impoverished; fewer than 20 percent of children are able to attend secondary school. This lack of education can easily explain the ignorance and inaction about global warming and the environment that I see here (although everyone has noticed the consequences), but we in the Western world have no excuse. We have access to education and information, and the ability to make informed choices. How we respond to [this] incredibly pressing issue will directly affect our lives, our environment and what resources are (or are not) available for future generations.

The holidays are approaching, and consumerism is the reason for the season. It’s easy to forget about global issues amid the excitement of gift buying and decorating. However, I propose several simple ways you can lessen the holiday impact on the environment.

Forgo wrapping paper. Wrapped gifts look beautiful, but is that really worth the irreversible environmental damage caused by the production and disposal of wrapping paper? Stanford University researchers [say] Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year: 25 million tons, or about 1 million extra tons per week. Instead, buy several yards of reusable cloth and ribbon to wrap gifts. Or hide unwrapped gifts around the house and organize a scavenger hunt. If you cannot give up the [paper] tradition, look for recycled paper. And save the bows! Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without my mother diving after discarded bows, which can be used for years.

Try to buy gifts with minimal packaging. [And] instead of giving gifts among family or friends, use the money to organize a trip together … [an] experience far more memorable. Try to organize an environmentally friendly trip [using] efficient transportation.

Offset your holiday environmental damage by donating to a reputable environmental organization; a donation in someone’s name makes a thoughtful gift. Be aware of the environmental and human-rights records and practices of the companies from which you buy. A good Web site is www.newdream.org.

Turn down the heat and put on that holiday sweater you couldn’t get away with wearing under any other circumstances. Send holiday e-mails instead of cards. Cards are wonderful, but considering the resources used, an e-mail is much more environmentally friendly.

I’m not asking anyone to abandon the holidays or to give up loved traditions—just to be conscious, responsible consumers taking simple steps to dramatically inhibit the progression of global warming.

— Jordan Perry
Asheville /Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

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4 thoughts on “Dreaming of a green Christmas

  1. Rob Close

    Who cares, she’s volunteering at an orphanage in the third world, that’s a pretty good use of fuel if we’re going to be burning it anyway. Which I doubt you’re saying we should stop, eh Jason?

    She’s got some smart yet subtle suggestions, while using first-hand evidence to support her argument. Great letter, Jordan. Hope Africa treats you well.

  2. travelah

    Jordan, more power to you for doing something other than making a buck … however …. your logic doesn’t strike me as very sound.

    1. The washouts of the roads didn’t have anything to do with global warming or anybody’s use of paper products.

    2. Who taught you that paper making causes irreversable environmental damange to teh extent that we need to use cloth to wrap things.

    3. Do you have any idea what the environemntal impacts are of making the clothes you wear and the cloth you wish to wrap things in? I dare say a woolen mill produces more environemtally harmful effluent than the average paper mill.

    4. Taker a trip somewhere rather than exchange gifts? How many tons of CO2 shall be released on all these trips you propse (not that CO2 is really that big of a problem anyway)?

    5. Do you know where your pants are made and who made those pants?

  3. Hopefully

    Well well, that traveling font of misinformation, Dr. knowitall is at it again, using his hyper-intellect to astound the locals. How you could find anything wrong with what Jordan is doing is beyond me, but, there you go! Lets see, your advice to her is stay at home and wear paper pants. Good thinking. Good work Jordan and happy holidays to you!

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