Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Paper

I can't help it anymore.  Whenever I think of Christmas, even when I am in the throes of it, reveling in it, loving it, I think about the paper.  Christmas is a most wonderful holiday, but far too much of it involves paper.

I'm not talking so much about wrapping paper, that product which is said to be far too toxic to burn in the fireplace.  That is its own issue.

No, I'm thinking not about the packages instead of the packaging. Christmas shopping involves bags, receipts, return slips, promos, boxes, and that's just if you are shopping in stores.  If you go online, then you are adding all of the larger boxes, corrugated papers, inserts, and various types of product cushioning that goes with gift transportation.

And in all of this, we are out of control.  If you are getting, for example, an Apple phone for Christmas, then you are receiving the most beautiful and unnecessary packaging going these days.  Your phone will come in a protective shipping box, then inside of that, a beautiful white outer box, and inside of that various trays and compartments and cubbyholes that make you say, "Wow, this is the most beautiful, stylish, space-efficient packaging that I have ever seen," as you admire the beautiful packaging and then set it aside, never to be used again.

But Apple is the symptom, not the disease.  We have so many products that contain an extra layer of packaging or more, unnecessarily tying up natural resources for the sake of style.  Even the more environmentally-conscious coffee pods that fit the Keurig (using a mesh screen instead of a plastic cup) have a dozen coffee pods in a plastic foil pouch inside of a cardboard box.  The box is totally unnecessary, except that I'm sure it helps with the stacking/ arrangement on a grocery store shelf.

In much of Europe, I'm pretty sure, such a product would be just in the plastic and not in the box.  But in our mega-groceries, we are slaves to ease of display, and so we concede to what looks best on a shelf.

If a toy truck came just with a price tag sticker, if a box of Christmas lights only needed a cellophane bag, what do we really lose?  For those of us who have recycling options, our bin is less full, for those of us who don't, we would have fewer boxes.  And less paper used.

In so many ways, from VRBO's to cellphone buy backs, we are discovering that there are ways to use resources and products more fully.  But this notion seems not to have reached our basic product decisions-- pasta boxes, cereal, dishwasher pods.  We lose nothing if items come in thin, strong plastic bags instead of paper-hungry boxes.

With CDs, it took a few forward-thinking artists who refused the large, cardboard boxes for CDs to beak the whole industry of its actions.

Who will do the same for the products we buy every week?

There is so much joy associated with Christmas that I hate thinking of waste as the first aspect of the holiday.  But I can't help it.  The world is running out.  Anything that takes a preponderance of air, earth, or water deserves some scrutiny.  And all of the thrown away/ tossed away/ maybe recycled detritus of Christmas weighs heavily upon me, on all of us, even if we aren't paying attention.

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