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