Holiday tips for sustainable celebrations

By Caitlin Marsh | Office of Sustainability Initiatives | Dec. 11, 2013

This holiday season, help support the world we share. Though this is a busy time of year for many, simple choices can help the environment without adding to the holiday workload.  Knowing that you made a difference for the greater community as well as your loved ones will make this holiday season that much brighter.

Gifts

When planning holiday giving, consider a gift of your time or talents. Handmade items have less environmental impact than manufactured goods, and they're more personal as well. If you don't feel your own skills are up to the challenge, consider buying handmade goods from local artisans, which helps support the local economy.

Another option is to give gifts of experiences instead of materials.  This is an especially good option for the person on your list who just has everything; concert or sporting event tickets promise a special experience without putting extra demands on the environment. 

For environmentally friendly gifting, consider purchasing lightly used or refurbished items rather than brand new. Local consignment and thrift stores have many options, and for items that are harder to find, try websites like Craigslist.

Events

If you're planning a holiday get-together, this is a great opportunity to think green. Plan your menus using local, seasonal items to make your meals more sustainable. Explore the seasonal food guide to determine what fruits and vegetables are in season in Georgia this time of year. Using reusable or recyclable serving ware can cut down on waste.

If you plan on decorating a live Christmas tree, why not get a potted tree that can be planted after the holidays?  If your live tree can't be replanted, it can be mulched instead of sent to the landfill.  Find local tree recycling information at Earth911.

If you're hosting an event at Emory, fill out the Green Events Checklist to be recognized for your efforts and don't forget to place a work order for recycling and composting bins if your event location doesn't already have bins.

If you're using floral arrangements, consider reusable options, or, if you prefer live arrangements, try using found items like greenery from your yard, or buying local or sustainably grown flowers.  Many cut flowers have massive carbon footprints due to the distance they travel. 

Travel

Putting just a little extra planning into your holiday travels can have big environmental benefits. If you're driving, make sure your vehicle is properly winterized to ensure safety and efficiency. Well-tuned cars have smaller carbon footprints and better fuel efficiency.

Another way to promote environmentally friendly travel is through carpooling and ride-sharing services, like ZimRide, or using public transportation where possible.

If you'll be away from your home, take the opportunity to cut back on energy use by unplugging items that won't be used and turning down the heat.

You can save energy in your office as well by shutting down or unplugging electronics as policy permits.  Check with supervisors in your area to see how you can help cut back on energy use even while you're enjoying your holiday vacation.