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Most Wonderful? Make the Holiday Season More Environment Friendly

Print Article Contributed by BSM Staff

BLOOMINGTON, IN – When we use about 8,000 tons of wrapping paper during the holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year isn't that wonderful for the environment.

That equals roughly 50,000 trees, according to Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group and a leading advocate for sustainability in the professional cleaning industry.

He suggests considering the following:
•   Waste increases by more than 25 percent from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day;
•   Enough holiday cards are sold to fill a football field 10 stories high;
•   About half the paper used in the U.S. is used during the holiday season, mostly for cards and wrapping paper;
•   An estimated 28 billion pounds of food is wasted during the holidays;
•   Thirty-three million trees are cut down for holiday use, most of which are tossed as waste at the end of the season.

"These numbers are shocking and as our population grows, all of them are likely to increase," said Ashkin. "It is obvious we need to make the holiday season greener and more sustainable."

To do this, Ashkin suggests the following:
•   Eliminate packaging materials; deliver gifts in baskets made of recycled materials, or package your gifts in recyclable containers that can be reused or recycled
•   Give carbon offsets. Each of us produces about 36,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Carbon Offset organizations fund projects to help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
•   Send a gift card using an app provided. There is no packaging involved, it's all electronic.
•   Make homemade goodies, preferably using organic ingredients
•   Purchase from retailers that are committed to protecting the environment and sustainability
•   Decorate holiday trees the old fashion way using cranberries, popcorn, flowers, and greenery
•   Select locally grown foods, prepare only as much as needed, and use the leftovers for compost

"One holiday gift I find most rewarding is giving of my time," said Ashkin. "I take someone to a ballgame, the theater, or an event. It builds and bond's relationships like no other gift can."

Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which helps facilities monitor and measure their use of natural resources.