The holiday season is generally characterized by spending time with friends and family, sharing delicious meals, and exchanging gifts. However, in America, with the holidays also comes a huge spike in spending and consumption. The pressure of great sales during the holiday season encourages Americans to go on huge shopping sprees, especially on Black Friday. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons combined all add up to an additional 1 million tons of waste a week to our landfills (EPA). In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons, most of this likely discarded during the holidays (EPA). However there are many simple ways to “green” your holiday season by reducing, recycling, and reusing.
- Give creatively, thinking beyond material things (e.g. dance lessons, concert tickets, massage therapy, etc.)
- Use energy-efficient LED lighting to decorate your home and tree
- Take public transportation or carpool when shopping or going to gatherings
- Reduce shopping bags by bringing reusable bags when possible
- Buy food and gifts locally—this will reduce shipping impacts and support the local economy
- Send electronic cards (e-cards) rather than traditional paper cards
- Reuse gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons, and bows
- Purchase decorations that you can use year after year
- Replant, compost, or mulch your tree
- Compost unwanted leftovers
- Use reusable dishware during holiday meals
- Reduce food waste by sending leftovers home with family and friends
- Purchase recycled materials- cards, stationary, wrapping paper, etc.
- Recycle gift wrap, cardboard boxes, and cards
- Use paper bags and recycle them after use
- Use old newspapers as a trendy alternative wrapping paper
- Make cards out of recyclable materials
- Make your own gifts out of old materials
Making sustainable choices during the holiday season can be especially hard amongst so many sales and the pressure of finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. If you’re struggling to find that perfect gift or know someone who already seems to have everything, consider making a donation to a worthy cause. Changing the Present is a nonprofit website that allows you to donate to numerous nonprofits. When you donate, you can create a personalized greeting card to announce a donation made in a friend’s name. Similarly, charity gift cards, like the ones offered by Tisbest, allow the recipient to donate to a charity of their choice.
The World Wildlife Fund allows you to “adopt a species” by donating to WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals. In return you will receive an outrageously cute stuffed animal, an adoption certificate, a photo, and a gift bag. Other sustainable companies that donate a portion of their proceeds include Toms, People Water, Faucet Face, WeWood, Patagonia, Better World Books, etc.
Before leaving the University for the holidays, it is important to shut down your office or dorm in order to conserve energy in your absence. Whether you are taking a much needed vacation or simply going home, there are some steps you can take to save energy.
- Eliminate the phantom load by unplugging chargers, printers, copiers, coffee makers, toasters, computer paraphernalia, microwaves, electric kettles, lamps, fax machine, and clocks. If your electronics are plugged into a surge protector, simply turn it off.
- Close and seal windows as tightly as possible to keep heat in. Closing blinds and curtains can add additional insulation and prevent the warm air from literally going out the window.
- Turn down the thermostat, or call the Customer Service Center (273-4567) to see if Facilities can do it for you at the University. No need to heat an empty room.
- Turn off the lights on your way out!
The University and planet will thank you for reducing your energy consumption.
Written by Alyssa Lemire, Class of 2017
Photo Source: www.publicdomainpictures.net/