‘TIS THE SEASON FOR WASTE
Estimated holiday retail sales in the US for 2019 will be about $730 billion dollars. We spend an extra 3 million hours shopping November and December. And what do we get in return?
Giving gifts is economically inefficient. You know best what you like, and much of what you get is not something you would personally spend money on. The ‘dead-weight loss’ of Christmas gift giving, meaning money spent vs value received, is billions of dollars of loss. If that $50 sweater you got is something for which you would have paid less, or not purchased at all, that is a negative return on the gift investment. The gang from ‘Friends’ knows this.
Much of what is received as holiday gifts we return, donate, re-gift, or just throw away. The 2017 holiday season saw 28 percent of the gifts people purchased returned, at a value of $90 billion. In 2013 a Daily Mail survey reported that 17 percent of recipients planned to donate an unwanted present, 13 percent planned to re-gift one and 10 percent would simply throw the bad gift away. When you return a gift to the store, chances are good that it will end up in the trash. 5 billion pounds of returned Christmas gifts end up in landfills each year.
What about gift cards? That’s wasteful as well. Americans are currently sitting on $15 billion in unused gift cards and credits. On average $3 billion in gift cards go unused each year. For comparison, the 2018 revenue for 350.org was $19 million (not billion) dollars. On top of this the average American goes into $1,000 in credit card debt to pay for the holidays. The best gift is cash, but what fun is that?
Then there is the physical waste of the holidays in terms of its carbon footprint. The volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, resulting in an extra 2 billion pounds (900 million kg) of garbage.
We spend money we don’t have for stuff we don’t like, and throw away billions of pounds of waste and rubbish in the process. All because companies have sold us on the idea that we have to, that it’s tradition. Let’s create new, less wasteful ones.