Trees are green, lights are green, wreaths and garlands and holiday-themed wrapping paper are green – but they aren’t always green in the sense of sustainability. The winter holidays tend to promote traditions like abundant feasts, elaborate decor, and gratuitous indulgences. All of these things tend to not be environmentally-friendly, though that’s not to say that they can’t be. Last year, we focused on how to avoid waste during the winter holidays, so this year we wanted to focus on other things that can save your money, save your time, and save our environment!
When decorating this season, rethink your lights. There’s nothing quite like seeing all of the houses lit up and twinkling during the winter holidays, but then again, there isn’t much like the accompanying electricity bill either. Use more LED and other energy efficient lighting when decking your doorstep. They require 1/50th of the electricity required by conventional lights, and last for decades to come (if you can get them untangled year after year!). You can also lessen your footprint by putting your lights on a timer or turning them off when no one is home.
For those of you who celebrate Christmas, consider using a real tree! Plastic trees can be reused from year to year, but they’re often made from non-renewable resources, and they also find their way into a landfill after a few years (where they’ll live for many centuries to come). Living trees are a renewable resource that not only support our nation’s farms and economy, but also improve our air quality. Not to mention live trees can be broken down into mulch, or even replanted if you get a potted tree.
The holidays are about family and friends, which translates into a lot of travelling, gift giving, and feasting. There are ways to engage in these traditions without breaking the bank or filling the landfills with trash and un-re-gift-able presents. When gift-giving this season, consider giving things like experiences (tickets to an event or a place that they love), your time (babysitting, cooking, helping out), or a charitable donation. When visiting your friends and family, avoid the traffic by using more sustainable forms of transit, like public transportation, carpooling, and simply lessening your time behind the wheel and clearing unnecessary traffic. Remember, 50 people in 50 cars takes up a lot more road than 50 people on a bus, walking or riding bikes, or carpooling together!
Winter holidays are full of warm traditions, nostalgia, and gratefulness. Incorporating more sustainable practices into your traditions will ensure that we’ll have this great earth to share with our future generations for years to come.
Happy holidays to you and yours,
UT Knoxville’s Office of Sustainability
PS: If you haven’t already, you can download December’s Make Orange Green Calendar (pictured above) for your phone or your computer here!