Sustainability for the Holidays

December 12, 2019



According to a recent LendEDU survey, Americans will be spending an average of $668 each to celebrate Christmas in 2019.  The majority of these expenses will be for gifts, followed by travel, then decorations. A full 50% of shopping will be done online, while 47% will involve travel to a store, and a determined 3% plan to hand-make gifts.  Can you guess where most of the shopping will be done? Not surprisingly, 47% of those of us who celebrate Christmas plan to shop online through Amazon, while 38% will be cruising the aisles and fighting off the mobs at a Walmart store (1).  


The statistics vary, but predict that somewhere between $700 million and $1 trillion will be  spent on shopping over the 2019 holiday season (2). Now that we understand the staggering price tag for the holiday spirit, consider these figures from Stanford University on the waste generated by holiday festivities. Note that these figures don’t include the millions of gallons of gasoline burned in pursuit of the perfect present: 


Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field ten stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (3)


Part of our curriculum at the Deep Dirt Farm campus focuses on re-purposing, recycling, and reducing our material consumption.  What better time to begin helping the planet (and rebelling against the system) than during the last few months of the year, when retailers prey on the more generous among us?


Here are a few suggestions to annoy your die-hard, Walmart-shopping, climate-denying friends and relatives this year: 


Give an experience or cherished memory

You've heard it before; allow me to remind you--give the gift of an experience this year!  Think art classes, dance lessons, museum memberships or a workshop at your local permaculture institute (click here).  For tons of other interesting ideas, check out this list by zero-waste blogger Kathryn Kellog.


Keep it local

Let's be honest--no one relishes spending hours elbowing through crowded malls, nor should we want to support the online shopping giants ubiquitously castigated for poor working conditions, monumental environmental impact, and obscene tax breaks. But if you insist on giving a tangible gift, try to keep your shopping local.  Supporting small businesses in your area accomplishes several stacked functions. It eliminates emissions from shipping, boosts your local economy, and allows you to understand exactly where your hard-earned money goes. Try visiting a local holiday artisan market to find unique gifts this season. You enjoy the addition benefit of burning off a few unwanted calories in the process.


Donate to a non-profit organization

Tending to come hand-in-hand with the excesses of gift-giving, travel, and food purchased and consumed during the holidays are feelings of guilt and regret. Try balancing (or eliminating) these unpleasant consequences by celebrating the season with charitable giving. Ponder these statistics: nearly a third of annual giving occurs in December; 12% of all charitable donations are given in the last three days of the year; and more than a quarter of all non-profits raise up to half of their annual funds from year-end campaigns and donations (4). Donors can even kill two birds with one stone by making a charitable gift in someone else’s name, achieving two gifts with just one! During this time of year non-profits rely heavily on those of us committed to trimming waste, shopping less, or saving time and money. Donating to a cause close to your heart is a win-win situation and a wonderful way to celebrate the season. A gift to a non-profit organization is, bottom line, an investment in the betterment of your community.  


Deep Dirt Institute invites you to share your generous spirit with us!  There are many ways to support our work, such as making a donation to our online Help Us Grow Campaign or becoming a sustainability ally through our monthly donor program.  An overnight stay at the farm, enrolling in a tour, or workshop tickets also make great gifts!  Consider charitable gift giving for the holidays. When we share our generosity, we inspire others to give back, too. 


Happy holidays from the Deep Dirt team!


Works consulted:





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