Green Tips for the Holidays

This year’s holiday season may not follow tradition, but there are still ways to wrap up 2020 in a joyful and eco-friendly way. University Facilities and Services would like to offer some tips to help you celebrate with both sustainability and festive cheer in mind.

While the holidays are for gifting and enjoying delicious meals, it is also the most wasteful time of year in the United States. Americans dispose of 25% more trash between Thanksgiving until New Year’s compared to the entire rest of the year—this amounts to 25 million tons of garbage! Over 333 million square feet of wrapping paper, or 5,787 NFL football fields worth, is used to package gifts. More than 2 billion holiday cards are sent each year, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. Packaging from online shopping generates nearly a third of solid waste. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle during this time of year.

Reduce (Waste and Resources Consumption)

  • Give creatively, thinking beyond material things (e.g. dance lessons, concert tickets, massage therapy, donations towards a cause etc.)
  • Purchase a pesticide-free tree
  • Use energy-efficient LED lighting to decorate your home and tree
  • Support local businesses and farms to reduce CO2 emissions
  • Opt for curbside pickup or purchase in store instead of having your order shipped
  • Reduce plastic by using reusable tote bags when shopping
  • Avoid using disposable dishes and cutlery
  • Send electronic cards (e-cards) rather than traditional paper cards
  • Reduce food waste by storing them for future meals

Reuse and Recycle

  • Reuse gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons, and bows
  • Use kitchen drying rags to wrap gifts; it’s like two gifts in one!
  • Purchase decorations that you can use year after year
  • Compost, or mulch your tree
  • Compost unwanted leftovers
  • Purchase recycled materials (cards, stationary, wrapping paper, etc.)
  • Reuse old sweaters to create an ugly holiday sweater
  • Recycle gift wrap, cardboard boxes, and cards
  • Use paper bags and recycle them after use
  • Recycle any plastic bottles and glass
  • Use old newspapers as a trendy alternative wrapping paper
  • Make cards out of recyclable materials
  • Make your own gifts out of old materials
  • Donate old clothes to a local organization or a local thrift store

If you are leaving the University for the holidays, please see our Holiday Energy Savings Checklist use these simple measures to conserve energy in your office before taking off:

  • Unplug all kitchen/ break room appliances, such as microwaves, coffee makers, and kettles etc.
  • Unplug all office appliances and devices including lamps, televisions, computers, printers, chargers, space heaters etc. Even when electronic devices are not being used, they still consume
    energy when plugged in, a concept called a “phantom load”. If all of the devices are plugged
    into a single power strip, simply flip the switch to off.
  • Remove all perishables from the fridge and increase the temperature to the maximum setting
    Higher temperatures tend to need less energy to sustain.
  • Lower your thermostat to 60 degrees in the winter or raise it to 85 degrees in the summer. This will prevent unnecessary heating/cooling while you are away. If you need assistance or have
    questions, call the Facilities Customer Service Center at 585-273-4567.
  • Close your windows and blinds to keep heat from escaping your room and building.
  • Close all doors to contain conditioned air.
  • Turn off all your lights.

With limitations on holiday gatherings this year, it is even more important to reach out to others and celebrate together in whatever ways possible. Connect with friends and family through video calls and play virtual games or watch a classic holiday movie.

University Facilities and Services would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season!


Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022

Photo Credits: Cherries/Adobe adapted by Emily Su


5 Replies to “Green Tips for the Holidays”

  1. Hi, Fred. You bring up a good point. Everything we do makes an impact. It can be tricky to determine which decisions make the biggest impact without doing a complete life cycle analysis from cradle to cradle. So there certainly could be experiences that have a greater impact than goods. However, the point is to consider this rather than going with the status quo and choosing manufactured consumer goods. When buying typically material goods, a great idea is to shop local to minimize the impact of shipping and help support the local economy.

  2. Hi,
    If these are tips to truly make the world greener, is there evidence that much of this is actually green, or even if everyone does these things, makes any difference to the major environmental challenges we face? For example, your very first point says that instead of giving things we should give experiences, give creatively. But do dance lessons not require buildings and heat and electricity and other resources? Do they not require me to regularly drive my car in order to go to them? And what about the clothes and shoes I am likely to buy in order to go get them? It is very possible that giving dance lessons instead of, say, a book, is far more “damaging” to the planet that otherwise. So why would we make that recommendation, and others?

    Thank you,

  3. Speaking from experience, the point about ‘Support local businesses and farms to reduce CO2 emissions’ make a lot of sense. While yes, we will be doing our little bit to support the environment by taking this step. We should not forget that when the biggies (Amazon etc…) were literally stopped in their tracks (at least where I live) when the lockdown due to the coronavirus was in full effect, it was the small local businesses who stepped in and kept us supplied with essentials. Now that the biggies are back, let us not stop supporting the small local businesses. They need our support.

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