The Most Wasteful Time of the Year

The Most Wasteful Time of the Year

I read an article recently that said that 30% of all Christmas gifts end up in a landfill within 90 days. Another said that 50% of the gifts will be in a landfill within a year. These statistics are both horrifying and hard to substantiate. I tried to think of what I got my kids last year, stuff that I know took me forever to pick out and wrap and is surely being used and enjoyed. And I couldn’t. Now that I’m shopping again this year, I’m afraid these landfill statistics might be true.

My basic formula for Christmas is this: I get my kids a real gift and then the rest of the stuff under the tree is filler. These gifts are there to liven up Christmas morning. You buy a backscratcher not because anyone on Earth needs one, but for the moment your kid says, “Wow how cool!” and then proceeds to scratch his own back for five seconds. That thing will survive in my house for another 24 hours while doubling as a shoehorn and a sword. Then it will be landfill.

Same goes for the mini Magic 8 Balls and the pocket sized notepads that fill their Christmas stockings. It turns out not only do my kids not need their backs scratched, they don’t need that much help making decisions and don’t have a lot of tiny thoughts they need to jot down during the day. Landfill. Nearly everything that calls out to me from the television falls into this category: the ballon-a-palooza, the bubble-palooza; really any kind of palooza is going to be a hit on Christmas morning and then is going straight to the trash.

An internet search of “best gifts for teen boys” offers a unanimous answer: beanbag chair. This is troubling because a beanbag chair is just a piece of fabric sewn around a bunch of landfill. My family has owned several beanbag chairs over the years, and their average life span is about two weeks. When they pop, they excrete tiny and impossible to catch landfill-ettes that make you wish you’d thrown the chair out when it was brand new.

The second most popular gift for teens is a game that tests reaction speed, giving the loser a pretty serious electric shock. I actually bought this thing last year. As I watched them play, I thought “I can’t believe I’ve managed to make adolescence even more stressful and dangerous than it already was.” Then I threw it out.

If you scroll down far enough, these websites also offer zero-waste alternatives. For $20 I can have a star named for them. Or for $30 I can get them an acre of land on the moon. I’m not sure my kids are this whimsical (read: gullible), and I have one who would actually ask for documentation via a title search and a fully executed deed of ownership. According to my math, this is $50 worth of waste.

As I wander around my kids’ rooms, I actually don’t see any of the stuff that I remember getting them last year. This makes me concerned that much more than 30% of the gifts I buy turn out to be landfill. So as I’m shopping this year, I’m holding each item in my hand, Marie Kondo-style, and trying to imagine it resting on the top of my kitchen garbage. If I can, I’m not buying it. At this writing I’ve gotten my kids each a pair of socks with our dog’s face on them. Necessities? I’m not sure. But at least they’re impossible to throw out.

People You Might See At Thanksgiving

The Hostess. In my family we refer to her as “Stefanie”, and boy is she a chump. She’s hosted Thanksgiving for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years. For her birthday I gave her a gravy ladle, which is just like your husband giving you a broom. It’s a gift that says “you can feel free to keep… Continue Reading

I’m Turning Into My Grandmothers

I love those Progressive Auto Insurance commercials where they joke about how we’re all going to turn into our parents. Precocious as I am, I’m starting to think I’ve skipped a generation. I’m turning into my grandmothers. I had two grandmothers who were totally different from each other. Dora, my maternal grandmother, was a bit… Continue Reading

I Went to the DMV

I walk into the White Plains DMV not for the first time. I vaguely remember that I have to park on the roof and descend a flight of stairs that might give way at any moment. My husband has just gotten a really good deal on a used car, and I have been tasked with… Continue Reading

Motel 55

I’m running a one star hotel. I’m not worried about improving my rating, as it’s peak season and all of the rooms are full. There aren’t a lot of other options for my guests at this time of year, so the myriad complaints to management about the quality of service go largely ignored. Breakfast is… Continue Reading

Dog Park Rookie

When I got a dog I was excited to start going to the dog park. I thought it might be just like going to the playground with little kids, standing around shooting the breeze with other parents. In fact it’s been so long since I’ve lingered at a playground that I thought the dog park… Continue Reading

The Cleanse

There’s nothing more annoying than a person on a cleanse. Or even just a person who wants to talk about their diet: what they’re eating, what they’re not eating, what they have eaten but are not likely to eat again. A recent conversation with a man who was in the middle of a month of… Continue Reading

If You’ve Got Five Kids, You’ve Got A Lot of Teeth

“That’s just so many teeth,” I said to the confused mother of five seated across from me at lunch. It was a weird follow up to the pretty standard suburban question: “how many kids do you have?” Depending on your point of view, there are plenty of more appropriate reactions, including “how wonderful” and “so… Continue Reading

The Headshot Decision

A single friend of mine just joined a dating site and showed me, with much hilarity, a string of guys who have expressed interest in her. There was nothing really wrong with these guys on the surface; they seemed normal enough. But it was the profile photos they’d chosen that cracked me up – three… Continue Reading

Field Notes From the Wilderness

I just read a book about a family surviving in the Alaskan wilderness. They had no heat, no electricity and no running water. In the depths of winter they would use their four hours of sunlight to collect firewood so that they could melt snow for drinking water. As always happens with great books, I… Continue Reading

Pin It on Pinterest