The end of Thanksgiving ushers in excitement and preparations for the approaching holiday season. The holidays are wonderful for spending time with loved ones, enjoying a relaxing vacation, and celebrating with festive gifts and delicious meals. In addition to all of these positive elements, the holiday season also brings with it one negative force – wastefulness. From the trees expended to create greeting cards, to the electricity consumed by Christmas lights, to the waste derived from packaging, wrapping, and shipping gifts, vast amounts of environmental resources are depleted during the holiday season. In fact, Americans produce 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Years than any other time of year, resulting in one million extra tons of garbage per week! Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to make this time period significantly “greener.”
- Decorate your home with hardy decorations that can be used year after year.
- Turn off your Christmas lights during the day to conserve electricity.
- Throughout the festive holiday meals, use real dishes and silverware rather than plastic ware. Afterward, send guests home with food in reusable containers so that the leftovers do not go to waste.
- Instead of buying paper cards, send an e-card or hand make cards with recycled materials.
- Use recycled materials such as newspaper to wrap gifts. Additionally, save the wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons, and bowsfrom gifts you receive in order to reuse them.
- Just like cards, many gifts can be created from recycled materials as well. Alternatively, donate to a charity, name a star after a loved one, or plant a tree in their honor. Click here for a list of creative homemade gift options.
- If you give a gift card, use the e-gift certificate option that many companies now offer.
- Whatever you do choose to buy, seek out items from local business to decrease the resources used for shipping. New York State is famous for its wineries in the Finger Lakes region. Also, consider giving the gift of ecotourism. There are many places worth exploring in the Adirondacks.
- Buy gifts from organizations that are conscious of sustainability. One idea for the coffee lover on your list is a bag of fair trade coffee.
However, before embarking on the holiday vacation, take a moment to make sure that your office or dorm room here at the University is as eco-friendly as possible while you are away.
- Even when electronic devices are not being used, they still consume energy when plugged in, a concept called the “phantom load.” Therefore, unplug all appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, coffee makers, lamps, televisions, computers, printers, and chargers. If all of the devices are plugged into a single power strip, simply flip the switch to off.
- Close the windows and seal them as best you can, to keep the warm air inside from escaping. Lowering the blinds helps with this too.
- Decrease the temperature on the thermostat to 55 degrees. If you encounter difficulties, call the Customer Service Center at 585-273-4567 to request that Facilities assist you.
- Last but not least, shut the lights off when you leave.
By implementing these tips and ideas, you contribute to making the holiday season increasingly sustainable for the planet. Happy Holidays!
Written by Abigail Fagan, class of 2014
photo by JD Hancock, cropped. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/5545810212/