Practicing Sustainability During the Holidays

Practicing Sustainability During the Holidays

During the holiday season, many people are tempted to lay ease on their sustainable practices and environmental concerns due to the cultural traditions. Whether it be through gift-giving, holiday decor, or even just large feasts for your family, many find it nearly impossible to make these activities eco-friendly. Our friends at RIT Sustainability have some tips to share to help make the holidays greener this year!

Green Gift Ideas

Although the most sustainable gift is no gift at all, many would not find this to be in the spirit of the holidays. Plus, this year we could all benefit from exchanging thoughtful gifts with loved ones. Here are some sustainable options for gift giving this season:

Do-It-Yourself! Whether it be baked goods, crafts, plants, or experiences, your loved ones will appreciate the thought and time spent creating the gifts for them.

Shop Local: If you choose to purchase a brand new gift, try to acquire them from local small businesses or second-hand shops. Not only will this support your local economy and cut out some layers of product distribution, many places tend to carry more artisan and homemade goods to appear more personal to the recipient.

Know Their Taste: Keep in mind the use value for the gift recipient, and if the item does not seem likely to be used often, consider a different gift option.

“Green” gift wrapping:  Most traditional gift wraps are made from non-recyclable materials, such as wrapping paper, gift bags, and tissue paper. If you must wrap the gift, consider reusing other materials such as newspaper and old wrapping paper. Alternatively, the gift can be wrapped in a cloth (such as a scarf!) and tied off with twine.

Sustainable Food Choices

The holiday season is characterized by specialized baked goods and large meals with family and friends. With many leftovers often going directly into the trash year after year, food waste is an ever present issue within the nation. Here are some food-related tips:

Reduce Food Waste: To reduce such waste, consider preparing food in smaller batches, rather than sticking to recipes which call for large servings.  This will have your family focus on consuming and enjoying the food already prepared, and if hunger persists, you can always cook more food later on!

Properly Store and Reuse Leftovers: If you plan to cook large batches for leftovers, be sure to properly store the food and set a schedule to consume the food in a way which minimizes waste. Consider recipes that can repurpose leftovers – such as making arancini balls with leftover risotto!

Plant Based Options: Consider reducing dishes which revolve around meat. With animal products being a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, even replacing one dish with a plant-based one will reduce your family’s carbon footprint. If you don’t feel like replacing your family recipes, consider substituting individual items – such as using flax seeds in place of eggs, vegan “butter”, and non-dairy “milk”.

Buy Local! Consider shopping at the Rochester Public Market or your local farmer’s market this season. Not only will this support your local economy, you’ll also get fresher produce at a reasonable price, and reduce food transportation-related carbon emissions!

Holiday Decor

When it comes to decorating for the holidays, less is often more, despite what the large displays you may see in your neighbor’s yard convey.  

Energy-Saving Lights: If you pride on your lights displays, consider switching to either solar-powered or LED lights in place of battery-powered lights.  LEDs typically are more efficient by up to 90% and tend to last much longer than other lights.  Additionally, consider only having such displays on for only a few hours per day and save on energy bills!

Looking for indoor decor? Try your local thrift store for their holiday decorations sections. Not only will these save you money, the reused items will also prevent them from being landfilled. Given that DIY items are more sustainable, try to make these into a family activity. Whether it be looking for natural ornaments such as pine cones or acorns, or making paper snowflakes and popcorn and cranberry strings, the homely originality is sure to bring together the holiday spirit.

Candles:  For those who choose to purchase candles during the holidays, be sure the item does not contain paraffin, which is a petroleum based ingredient which degrades indoor air quality. Most soy and beeswax candles do not contain this ingredient, so try to purchase these whenever possible. You can also make your own!

Don’t forget to share your ideas with us!

Happy Holidays from RIT Staff Council!