Six Ways to Green-ify Your Holiday

Tips and tricks to practice sustainability throughout the holiday season

Heading home for the holidays means eating several oversized meals at family and friend gatherings adorned with holiday cheer. But when you step back and consider the environmental impact of all the glistening string lights, torn-up wrapping paper, wasted leftovers, and steep utility bills, the holiday season might not seem like something to celebrate.

With that in mind, iSEE Communications Intern Molly Gates lists off some of her favorite ways to act sustainably this Winter Break so you can be festive without the guilty feeling.

6. Give a Green Gift

Give that special someone a present he or she will never throw away: a stainless steel straw. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. Don’t let your loved ones use a plastic straw just to toss it after one use. Instead, give them the gift that keeps on giving.

Always get a toothbrush in your stocking? This year, try the bamboo variety. Most manufacturers recommend replacing your toothbrush every three months. Keep those plastic toothbrushes out of the landfill (and the oceans), and opt for a brush with a biodegradable handle instead.

5. Ditch the Ham

It’s no secret that the animal agriculture industry does no favors for our planet — yet Americans still purchase an estimated 318 million pounds of ham around the holidays. Avoid the meat products this year and try out some vegetarian recipes. The whole family can enjoy plenty of filling and tasty meals without the added ecological footprint, like these vegetarian holiday dishes. Plus, a vegetarian diet reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases like obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Chew on that.

4. Lift the LED Lights

Cut back on your energy usage this season and upgrade your string lights to LEDs. LED lights use up to 33% less energy than the dated, electricity-guzzling incandescents, which means a smaller electric bill for you. Not only that, but LEDs don’t have filaments, so they won’t heat up and burn out. They’ll use less energy, last longer, and save you money in the long term. Why haven’t you made the switch yet?

3. Leave with Leftovers

The holidays are a time for eating to your heart’s content, leaving us over-carbed and uninterested in polishing off the leftovers. According to the Worldwatch Institute, Americans generate three times as much food waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day compared to other times of the year. This holiday season, don’t let your guests leave empty-handed. Share the love and send them home with reusable containers filled with leftovers.

2. Whip out the Ugly Sweater

Big party plans? Encourage guests to bundle up and wear their favorite old holiday sweaters. It will give you the chance to turn that thermostat down and let the body heat work its holiday magic. But make sure you keep your temperature consistent — completely turning your heat off and on will overwork your heating unit and use up a lot of energy.

1. Unplug and Unwind

Most importantly, Winter Break is a time to relax and enjoy your time off from school. But it may be difficult to fully unwind if you’re constantly thinking about that appliance you forgot to unplug back on campus. Whenever you leave a device plugged into a wall socket, it continues to draw a small amount of energy, without cease. This is referred to as “phantom energy,” and it can really add up on your electric bill. So before you leave campus, be sure to unplug your appliances to cut down on your phantom energy usage.