Wisdom Magazine's Monthly Webzine Skip Navigation Links
Wisdom Magazine, a bi-monthly compendium of information and resources related to holistic health, spirituality and metaphysics, is the largest free holistic publication serving New England with 50,000 copies printed and distributed to over 2,000 locations throughout Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Home  About  This Month's Articles  Calendar of Events  Classified Listings  Holistic Resource Directory
 Educational Programs  Sacred Journeys & Retreats  Reiki Healing
 Article Archives  What's New in Books, CD's & DVD's  Wisdom Marketplace
 Where to Find Wisdom Near You  Subscriptions  Web Partner Links
 Advertising Information  Contact Us
Denali Institute of Northern Traditions
Ellie Pechet
Margaret Ann Lembo
Sacred Journeys Retreats
Pekham Grayson
Lynn Andrews
Vibes Up
Light Healing
Lindsey Arsenault
Alternatives For Healing


by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss

Dear EarthTalk: How can I minimize energy and packaging waste this holiday season?

-- Marianne, via e-mail

If you’re dreaming of a green holiday season this year, you’ll have to take care to shop and decorate with the planet in mind. Celebrating the holidays plays a substantial role in the creation of waste during this period as a result of packaging from gifts and surplus food being thrown away and making its way to the landfill. But whether you’re looking forward to a lavish holiday with your friends and family this year or a more minimalist celebration, you can still be green and enjoy the festivities.

One way to reduce your environmental footprint is to shop locally. While online shopping may seem greener, it involves excess packaging (think shipping boxes and padding) and pollution (from miles flown/driven by UPS and FedEX to get purchases to your door). By patronizing nearby businesses instead, you'll be supporting the local economy and reducing pollution. If you do shop online, try to consolidate your purchases into one big order to minimize the number of special trips shippers must make to your house.

Another way to green your holiday celebrations is to switch over from those flashing lights and inflatable snowmen to more subtle displays of holiday spirit. The Center for Global Development reports that Americans consume 6.63 billion kilowatts of electricity annually on holiday lighting and decorations. Instead of being part of the problem, unplug and light some candles. All-natural soy varieties—Real Soy’s ginger or cinnamon-scented candles are popular around the holidays—are friendlier to the environment than traditional petroleum-based paraffin candles.

Holiday cards are another clog on the waste stream during the holiday season, with Americans sending out some 2.65 billion of them each year. Ultimately many end up in landfills—especially if they're covered in glitter or foil—and as such can’t be recycled. E-cards are a great alternative as they express the same sentiment without any waste.

Single-use wrapping paper is yet another environmental scourge of the holidays. An estimated 30 million trees are sacrificed each year to support Americans’ disposable wrapping paper habit, much of which ends up in landfills. An incremental improvement would be to only buy and use wrapping paper that doesn’t contain glitter—or even better just use brown paper—for ease of recycling or composting. Alternatively, shop for fabric gift wrap which can be used over and over again.

Last but not least, is it better for the planet to get a real or fake Christmas tree? A fake tree may save you money in the long run as you can buy it once and use it for many years instead of throwing away $50 a year on a real tree. But most of the fakes come from China (which involves lots of carbon emissions in transit) and contain PVC and other chemicals that make them impossible to recycle. Meanwhile, a real tree can be chipped and returned to the earth as mulch (either by you or your municipality) once January rolls around. Or even better, buy a live tree and plant it in your yard. That way you can feel the spirit of the holidays year-round and feel good about your commitment to protecting the planet.

CONTACTS: Real Soy Candles, www.realsoycandles.com; Center for Global Development, www.cgdev.org.

Dear EarthTalk: It seems to me the single biggest potential “environmental” problem we could face—even bigger than global warming or a nuclear war—is a comet or asteroid striking the Earth. Do we currently track these space rocks and if so, how? And do we have any hope of deflecting them if they are headed right for us? -- James McClintock, Austin, TX

Environmental advocates don’t normally consider interstellar rocks to be their discipline, per se, but it is true that such an event could cause considerable environmental damage and even threaten the very existence of life on Earth. Indeed, when a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid struck the Earth some 66 million years ago, it wiped out three-quarters of the planet’s plant and animal species (including the dinosaurs) and caused damage to the environment that lasted centuries.

Humans weren’t around to witness the effects of that cataclysm, of course, but we do know that a large impact today could trigger massive firestorms, mudflows, earthquakes and tsunamis as well as acid rain, ozone depletion and rapid greenhouse warming—not to mention an “impact winter” whereby pulverized rock dust and other debris would blanket the skies and block the transmission of sunlight, effectively stopping photosynthesis around the globe. A big enough strike could effectively wipe out life on Earth.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is charged with providing timely and accurate communications on these threatening space rocks—including issuing warnings about potential impacts—and leading the coordination of federal response planning. Currently PDCO uses a combination of existing satellite and telescope technologies to track comets and asteroids but is currently developing a new space-based infrared telescope dubbed “NEOCam” (short for Near-Earth Object Camera) specifically for the purpose of surveying the solar system for large space rocks (larger than 140 meters across). But the project is far from a front-burner concern for NASA right now, and proponents are hoping Congress will earmark funds specifically to complete its development in the short term.

Meanwhile, the California-based B612 Foundation is focusing on detection of smaller asteroids. “The real gap is the 100 times as many asteroids smaller than 140 meters but still large enough to destroy things on the ground,” reports Ed Lu, the co-founder of B612. His team is currently working on a network of five to 10 telescope-equipped satellites to track these smaller space rocks and provide early warning services.

But just because we’re able to detect and track asteroids doesn’t mean we can deflect them. According to expert witness testimony at a 2013 Congressional hearing on the topic, NASA would need five years’ lead time—and a commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars—to be able to intercept an asteroid.

Despite this warning, we’ve made no progress in the intervening years. A June 2018 report from the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council warns that America remains unprepared for an asteroid impact event and urges the federal government to fund efforts to get ready for what astronomers say is inevitable at some point in the future. That said, unlike other environmental problems besetting us, there isn’t anything individuals can do to protect the planet from asteroid or comet strikes—except to urge their representatives in Congress to support legislation that funds programs and technologies designed to detect and deflect those incoming civilization busters.

CONTACTS: “Environmental Damage from Asteroid and Comet Impacts,” users.tpg.com.au/users/tps-seti/climate.htm; PDCO, nasa.gov/planetarydefense; B612 Foundation, b612foundation.org.

EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.org. Send questions to: question@earthtalk.org.

Add Comment

Article Archives  This Month's Articles  Click Here for more articles by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss
Pelham Grayson
Lindsey Arsenault
Light Healing
Lynn Andrews
Sacred Journeys Retreats
Alternatives For Healing
Holistic Ed Programs
Ellie Pechet
Denali Institute
Margaret Ann Lembo

Call Us Toll Free: 888-577-8091 or  |  Email Us  | About Us  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map  | © 2019 Wisdom Magazine