Thanksgiving and Black Friday garbage has a costly environmental impact

Shop wisely this Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Up to 80% of items – and any plastic packaging they are wrapped in – will either end up in landfill, destroyed by incineration or converted to shoddy recycling. Likewise, millions of pounds of food will be wasted after Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

The lure of a deal can often mean buyers buy more than expected.

Much of our holiday consumption is often very short-lived, according to a recent report, Building a Circular Economy, published by think tank Green Alliance and engineering students from the University of Leeds in the UK .

This environmental impact can be costly. Black Friday is expected to produce 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from product deliveries alone, the same as 435 return flights from London to New York.

Black Friday is expected to produce 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from product deliveries alone, the same as 435 return flights from London to New York.

When assessing the impact of in-store shopping or online deals – Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday tend to offer a mix of the two – another MIT study found that the carbon footprint shopping online was lower than the carbon cost of shopping in physical stores.

But another report, from the University of California at Berkeley, found the benefits were lost when consumers opted for expedited shipping. For its part, the e-commerce giant Amazon.com AMZN,
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has advanced a series of efforts to offset its delivery carbon footprint, but experts are adamant that it’s excessive consumerism itself that may need an overhaul.

Black Friday is famous for its rushes for the latest electronics, which at first glance may seem like the kind of expensive, long-lasting freebies that are smaller offenders on the planet.

But UN findings show that only around 20% of e-waste is recycled, and when electronics are thrown into landfills they have the potential to leak toxic materials like lead and mercury into the air. , water and soil, posing a health risk. .

No one expects the joy of giving to be eliminated, of course. And there are efforts that businesses, organizations, and even individuals can undertake. At Carbonfund.org, for example, buyers can feel empowered to reduce the number of cars and trucks on the ground by running fewer races and requesting consolidated shipping. Carbonfund.org also allows individuals to purchase carbon offsets, which are designed to cancel or “offset” some of their greenhouse gas emissions.

food waste

This Thanksgiving, Americans will also waste more than 305 million pounds of food, according to a report released this month by ReFed, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending food loss and waste in the US food system.

“It’s hard to imagine such a large amount, but imagine about a pound of food wasted by every person in the country,” he says. “This is a serious problem with very damaging effects – and with rising inflation the effect on people’s wallets will be felt more than usual.”

It also makes financial sense. This year’s Thanksgiving dinner will be about 20% more expensive than last year, as many ingredients — from pumpkin pie mix and whipping cream to frozen peas and frozen pie crusts — have seen a price spike.

“An inordinate amount of food is wasted during the Thanksgiving holiday – some 200 million pounds of turkey, 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes and 30 million pounds of stuffing will end up in garbage cans across the country,” a said Joe Lombardi, executive director of the Central Ohio Government Solid Waste Authority. “With a little preparation and planning, this waste can be significantly reduced.”

“Around the Thanksgiving holiday, some 200 million pounds of turkey, 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes and 30 million pounds of stuffing will end up in trash cans across the country.”

Food waste is not limited to Thanksgiving. According to Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, a nonprofit environmental action group, up to 40% of food is not consumed in the United States. . Some 160 billion pounds of discarded food is also clogging landfills.

Consumers often throw away good-to-eat foods. “Sell by” dates actually let stores know how long products will last. They are not meant to indicate that the food is bad. Best before and best before dates are intended for consumers, but are manufacturers’ estimates of when foods reach their peak. Manufacturers mainly decide on the shelf life of their own products.

Savethefood.com’s Guest-imator, a community that aims to reduce waste, allows hosts to calculate how much food they need for the number of guests. ReFed also offers some tips to avoid food waste. To start, he recommends that hosts have enough containers, foil and self-sealing bags to give leftovers to guests, and advises cleaning out freezers to make room for uneaten food.

The US Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper app helps reduce food waste by providing information on food and beverage storage. “Store leftovers in small, shallow containers and refrigerate,” the department’s guidelines state. “Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat [for] up to four days in the refrigerator. In the freezer, leftovers are safely frozen indefinitely but will retain the best quality for two to six months.

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