A Sustainable Holiday Season and an Eco Friendly New Year

by Laurent Troland, Career Services

*this post is the first in a monthly series from the BSU Student Affairs division’s Sustainability Committee. We look forward to future posts! *

As the holiday season approaches, we all get wrapped up in the fun and joy of the season and whatever celebrations we take part in.  One thing tends to be in common for all this time of year is excess.  According to information from a variety of sources including earth911.com, most Americans contribute an extra 25% of waste during the holiday season adding around 25 million extra tons of waste.  This does not even include usage of electricity for some holiday displays!

In a season that is full of finals, last minute shopping trips, travel and full of family many wonder what can I do?  Isn’t it hard to have a sustainable holiday?  The answer is that it is relatively simple and could end up helping you save money this season (and who couldn’t use a few extra dollars nowadays?)

Here are some tips to help you lead a sustainable holiday season and New Year (from www.earth911.com): 

  1. When buying presents, keep an eye out for those with minimal packaging, or items packed in recycled or recyclable materials (e.g. cardboard).
  2. Don’t throw your wrapping paper in the garbage or fireplace. More than 8,000 ton of wrapping paper will be used on presents, using the equivalent of 50,000 trees. Reuse or recycle!
  3. Buy recycled wrapping paper and holiday cards. Around 744 million holiday cards are sent each holiday season. If all these were made from recycled paper, it would help to save the equivalent of 248,000 trees.
  4. Buy cards made from paper (not plastic) and without lots of added decorations, as these cards cannot be recycled.
  5. Send an e-card instead! There are lots of sites offering free holiday e-card services.
  6. Save and reuse cards that you receive as gift tags for next year.
  7. If you are buying toys or electrical goods that need batteries, buy rechargeable ones, then add a battery charger to your shopping list. Make sure to recycle those old batteries instead of tossing them. Battery Solutions is a great service for this.
  8. Most people buy too much food at for holiday gatherings, much of which goes to waste. This year, try to plan your meals and only buy what you need. Alternatively, put a compost bin on your shopping list, significantly reducing the trash going to landfill.
  9. When buying your food, buy local, organic or fair-trade. A traditional dinner that uses local seasonal produce and food from a local market or grocer helps reduce “food miles” (the distance food travels to reach your plate).
  10. Buy loose rather than pre-packed vegetables – it will help cut down on packaging that gets thrown away.
  11. Recycle your beverage containers, including bottles from wine and plastic egg nog containers.
  12. When you have finished eating all your chocolates and biscuits, keep the tins and reuse them as storage containers.
  13. If you receive electric goods this season, don’t throw your old ones away. Recycle or donate them using Earth911′s recycling locator.
  14. If you decorate with a tree, buy a locally grown Christmas tree and remember to recycle it after the holidays are over.
  15. Take public transportation to go Christmas shopping. If using the car, try to make only one, big trip, cutting down on gas consumption and time.
  16. Around 125,000 tons of plastic packaging is thrown away over the holiday season. Take your own reusable shopping bags when you do your shopping.
  17. Make your own food-based gifts such as homemade chutneys, cakes or chocolate truffles. You could also make your own flavored organic olive oil, adding dried chilies, garlic or herbs.
  18. If you’re having a party, avoid serving food and drinks on disposable plates and cups. If you don’t have enough reusable plates, have everyone bring their own!
  19. Take any unwanted gifts to a Goodwill location or list them on sites like eBay or Craigslist. A Goodwill close to you can be found using Earth911′s recycling locator.

20. Wrap gifts in fabric, comics or your own decorated, reused paper.

21. Create special cloth gift bags or decorated boxes that can be reused and traded among family members each year.

22. Loosen Your Drawers.  Clear out ill-fitting, outdated and otherwise unwanted clothing and donate to Goodwill or a charity of choice.     

23. Swap Your Stuff.  Have a re-gifting party instead of an ugly sweater party (where you end up buying sweaters that you will never wear again).  Bring reusable items to share (portable items only) or simply bring a tote bag or two to take home things you can put to reuse. 

24. Turn your holiday tree into mulch.  Some cities and towns do this already, or find a family member/neighbor with a wood chipper and get free mulch for your yard!

Make your New Year’s resolution to live more sustainably in 2012!

Some other great tips and ideas can be found here and here.  Using even one or two of these simple ideas will make a huge impact on the environment but also hopefully on your wallet (in a good way). 

What ideas will you try this holiday season?

What are your new tips/ideas that others can use?

What will be your sustainable New Year’s Resolution this year?

Have a happy and healthy holiday season everyone!

~The Student Affairs Sustainability Committee~

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About cindykane

Director of @BSUInvolved and interested in leadership and professional development strategies. Mom, scholar-practitioner, looking to make an impact! http://www.linkedin.com/in/CindyWKane
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