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Happy Sustainable Holidays!

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It’s the holiday season – the time of pretty lights, gift-giving and family feasts. While we truly love it, we also know that it’s the time when we tend to consume excessively, creating waste and using greater quantities of energy. Remember, the greenest thing you can do is consume less!

From gift wrapping to meatless meals and to Christmas trees, we’ve compiled a list of tips and resources to help you make the right decisions for your holidays. A combination of creativity, sustainability and money savings… It’s our Christmas gift to you!

Gift Wrapping and Holiday Cards

Did you know that if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields (Source: USGBC)? Take up the challenge and contribute to save million tons of paper by trying some of these gift wrap tips…

Instead of buying a gift wrapping rolls, use what you already have at home! Old newspaper, holiday catalogs, magazines and brown bags from the grocery store make for creative wrapping. You can even repurpose cloth or fabric scraps!

Skip the tape! Try to tie it up with a ribbon or raffia instead of taping everything together. A lot of tape brands are petroleum-based and are not recyclable. Crafting fabric bows or reusable gift tags can also be a great pre-Christmas activity! (Note: while tape is not recyclable, you do not need to remove it from paper before putting it in the recycling – it will be removed through the recycling process.)

Check out this article for many more illustrated tips of greener gift wrapping!

If you send holiday cards, buy recycled-content cards and envelopes. Or make your own cards or gift tags out of last year’s cards and the wrapping paper you saved. Cards that are FSC certified ensure that the products are sourced from responsible managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

Even better, send your holiday greetings in electronic form! E-cards can be enhanced with sound and animation, and they create no physical waste.

Overall, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year (Source: Vanderbilt University). With your local curbside or drop off program and other recycling resources, you can make the holiday season the season of recycling: recycle gift boxes, Christmas trees, wrapping paper, cards, junk mail, magazines, catalogs, plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers, and more!

Christmas Trees and Light Decorations

We admit, Christmas isn’t really Christmas without the Christmas trees. While it is revolting to know that most trees are only displayed for a few weeks before ending up in the trash, there are many alternatives to keep this Christmas centerpiece, sustainably.

The most zero-tree-waste option would be to decorate a tree in your yard or your indoor tropical plant! You can also purchase a potted Christmas tree so once the holiday season comes to a close, you can replant it, allowing it to reestablish its roots in the wild, and grow once more.

For those who are still hesitating between a real chopped tree and the plastic variety, the New York Times has recently investigated which is better for the environment, finding that the real tree was the green way to go!

For string light decorations, make sure to pick the LED kind. Some even come with an integrated timer that will take the stress out of having to turn them off every night. Choose soy or beeswax candles – they don’t contain paraffin, a petroleum-based ingredient that the EPA says can negatively affect your indoor air quality.

After the glow of Christmas is gone and the decorations have been taken off the tree, be sure to responsibly dispose of your Christmas tree waste. The trees can be mulched locally and lights can be recycled on campus until January 31!

Delicious Low Carbon Holiday Meals

The Green Dining Alliance, a local restaurant sustainability certification program, has recently published a great article to help us host meat-free holiday meals. After reminding us of the reasons why we should reduce our meat consumption, this resource compiles a long list of enticing plant-based meals, with links to the recipes!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic-Sage Brown Butter, Baked Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries, Curry Grilled Vegetables with Chickpeas and Hearty Polenta… If that doesn’t make your mouth water, what does?!

Read the full article here.

Further Reading