The holiday season is a very special time of year to engage in festivities and show others we care. However, the environment is often left in the wake of the end-of-year excitement. Christmas lights that illuminate living rooms and decorate houses demand extra electricity. Shipping gifts across the nation and traveling to visit loved ones increase the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from trucks, cars, and planes. Holiday cards, wrapping paper, and packaging materials can come at the cost of many trees. According to CalRecycle, the 2.65 billion holiday cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. With so much excess an estimated 25% more waste is produced between Thanksgiving and New Years than during the rest of the year. To help minimize this number, here are a few tips to make your holidays more sustainable:
- During the day, shut off and unplug Christmas lights. This will help lower electric bill costs as well.
- Use real dishes as opposed to disposable ones during holiday meals and distribute leftovers to guests in reusable containers to limit waste production.
- Instead of buying cards from stores, send e-cards or hand-make cards using recycled materials.
- Wrap gifts using materials at home, such as newspaper and old printed documents. Also, try to save gift-wrap and ribbons so you can reuse them next year.
- Craft a creative, recycled gift for a loved one. Many ideas for doing this can be found here. If you were planning on giving a gift card, consider an electronic gift certificate option that many stores offer.
- Purchase gifts from companies that are sustainably conscious, for instance a bag of fair trade coffee, or a bar of fair trade certified chocolate. A list of fair trade certified products can be found here.
- Check out your local stores to find some great gifts and to reduce shipping and commuting costs.
- Be thrifty and decorate your house using materials you already have! A great example of this is building a Christmas tree out of books, as demonstrated here.
If you plan to be away from the University for a few days or more this season, please remember to leave your office in an ecofriendly state before commencing the celebrations. To do this:
- 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. Even when electronic devices are not being used, they still consume energy when plugged in, a concept called the “phantom load.”
- 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 60 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 and encouraging others to try these tips, you can help make the holiday season increasingly sustainable for the planet. Happy holidays to all!
Written by Julie Elliot, Class of 2015