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Tips for a green holiday season

Wrapped gifts, pine cones and hot chocolate.Image: Pixabay

With the stress of the holiday season, it can be hard to find meaningful and environmentally friendly gifts for all of your loved ones. With this in mind, here are some tips to have a happy and green holiday season.

The holidays are the most wasteful time of year in the United States. Americans throw away 25% more trash from Thanksgiving until New Year’s than during the entire rest of the year—this amounts to 25 million tons of garbage! Fortunately, it can be easy to cut down on waste. Here are a few ways to give gifts and spread cheer that cut back on waste:

  • Instead of buying brand new wrapping paper, use what you already have! Recycle old gift bags from previous years, and use newspapers and magazines as an alternative to wrapping paper. Also reuse ribbons—if every family reused just two feet of ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
  • Gift someone an experience rather than a material object. Some examples include: concert tickets, lessons for a new hobby or sport, and gift cards are all popular options.
  • Send holiday messages and gift cards via email to reduce paper waste.
  • Plant a tree in someone’s name! This is a simple gesture that has a positive effect on the Earth.
  • Make someone a zero-waste kit, complete with reusable bottles, utensils, bags, and more.
  • Make your own holiday decorations out of old newspaper, fabric, and whatever other materials you have lying around.

Green gifts don’t have to be just eCards or made out of reused materials. There are lots of ways to purchase creative gifts that also have positive environmental impact. They may not be the most obvious choices, but these gifts are memorable and more sustainable than your average holiday purchase:

  • Purchase gifts from Fair Trade certified.
  • Support local businesses to reduce emissions from shipping and to make your gifts more one-of-a-kind.
  • Find gifts at thrift stores! They will be less expensive, more unique, and of course more sustainable than mass produced gifts.
  • You can also make a positive environmental impact with traditional gifts. Companies like PatagoniaThe North Face, and Keen all donate a portion of their proceeds to environmental charities, so it is easier than ever to make your purchases reflect your values.
  • Finally, don’t forget to bring a reusable bag with you when you shop!

Get creative—the planet will thank you, and your friends and family will be impressed by your thoughtful gifts.

If you or a family member is planning to travel soon, consider investing in a carbon offset, a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide made in order to compensate for the emissions caused by travelling. If you are you leaving the University for the holidays, please use these simple measures to conserve energy in your office or dorm room before taking off:

  • 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!

We thank you for taking a few minutes to reduce your energy consumption at the University before you take off for your festivities. Happy holidays to all!


Written by Isabel Lieberman, Class of 2021

 


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