Go Green for the Season

By Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant. Originally posted on December 12, 2016.

During the holiday season, many people love watching the leaves change color and a fresh blanket of snow cover the valley. In this celebration of colors, why don’t we work together to add some green to the mix? Check out these ten ways to make your holiday season more sustainable.

The Feed U Pantry.

The Feed U Pantry.

  1. Give back.

There are many ways you can help your community this holiday season by giving back. Check out these easy ways to get involved:

  • Donate your time, money, or things to community groups around the city that need help. This is a great time of year to support your favorite organizations.
  • Check out volunteer opportunities from the Bennion Center.
  • Give to our on-campus Feed U food pantry. You can donate non-perishable and non-expired, individually-labeled food like extra-canned and dried food.

  1. Utilize better transit.

The holidays are often filled with travel. Commuting to and from events, the grocery store, the mall, for leisure activities, and short or long stay trips all contribute to the CO2 released during the season. This season, travel smarter with these tips:

  • Combine your trips to reduce the number of times you have to run errands.
  • Try taking the bus or other public transportation to one event during the holidays.
  • Carpool on your trips, giving you more time to spend with friends and family.
Living Succulent Wreath. Maegan Tintari CC by 2.0.

Living Succulent Wreath. Maegan Tintari, CC by 2.0.

  1. Reconsider your decorations.

Many might already have boxes of decorations that they reuse each year, and that is great! For those who don’t have a collection started, when buying holiday decorations, think longevity. Here are some tips for green decorating:

  • Buy products that will last you multiple holiday seasons.
  • Make your own out of products you already have, like making snowflakes out of scrap paper.
  • Buy a potted tree so that you can plant it after the season is over.
Pacman Pumpkin Pie. Daniel Catt, CC by 2.0.

Pacman Pumpkin Pie. Daniel Catt, CC by 2.0.

  1. Improve your food impact.

The holiday season is a season of abundance. Lessen food waste and improve your food’s carbon footprint with these easy steps:

  • Compost non-edible table scraps like corn husks, potato peelings, pumpkin and squash rinds. These scraps can all go into your brown compost bin.
  • Freeze dishes so that they will stay fresh longer – even doughnuts and latkes can be frozen.
  • Have your guests bring Tupperware and distribute leftovers at the end of your meal.
  • Turn your leftovers into new dishes (not just sandwiches!) like cranberry carrot muffins, extra-veggie frittata, stuffing stuffed mushrooms, or even a dip to spice things up.
  • Choose locally sourced, free-range meats or go meatless to reduce the carbon footprint of your food. 

    Last year I gave an experience of attending a lantern festival. The memories we made will last much longer than a gift.

  1. Spread joy through gifts.

Americans spend hundreds of billions of dollars during the holiday season. Buying local, pre-loved, or homemade gifts can be more economical and ecologically sound. Here are some creative holiday gift ideas:

  • Keep an eye out for gifts made from reusable materials like recycled paper, cloth, reclaimed wood, or even sports items like skis or bike chains.
  • Give the gift of an experience such as tickets to a concert or sporting event, gift certificates to book stores or restaurants, or a membership to a community attractions or State Parks. Experiences last for much longer than the holiday season, and allow for the recipient to use them after the festivities have faded.

    Special use compostable spoon, Microsoft, Issaquah, Washington, USA. Wonderland, CC by 2.0.

    Special use compostable spoon, Microsoft, Issaquah, Washington, USA. Wonderland, CC by 2.0.

  1. Reduce your waste.

Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season. That is an extra 1 million tons per week! Here are some ways to reduce your waste:

  • Avoid using disposable cutlery, napkins, and pans. By using cloth napkins, ceramic dishes, and your own pots and pans, you can greatly reduce the amount of trash that is produced during the holiday season. And if you don’t have enough reusable supplies for everyone, ask your guests to bring extra plates, cups, or cutlery.
  • Buy recycled or compostable items, if you can’t avoid using some disposable items.
  • Place your recycling bin right next to your trash to encourage recycling.


  1. Try a new wrapping paper.

If every American family wrapped three presents in re-used material, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Although you can recycle wrapping paper, there is still a carbon cost for producing, transporting, and recycling it. Challenge yourself to wrap creatively with these ideas:

  • Use newspaper and twine. Check out the books I wrapped for a gift to my mom.
  • Repurpose a brown paper bag and re-usable ribbons. You can also add paint to make your own pattern.
  • Try your hand at collaging photos and magazines to make your wrapping colorful, or make your wrapping part of the gift by using a scarf or pretty piece of cloth.
The @nest thermostat. Grant Sewell CC by 2.0.

The @nest thermostat. Grant Sewell CC by 2.0.

  1. Improve your energy use.

The holidays go hand-in-hand in increased electricity use. With time off from work or school, we are in our homes more, cooking, hanging lights, using power tools, and attending gatherings that go well into the night. While there will still be inevitable increases, there are ways in which you can lower your use: 

  • Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees while you are awake, and lower it while you are sleeping or out of the house is to save energy. Every degree you lower the temperature, the higher the percent of electricity you will save. (Plus, it gives you another chance to wear your favorite festive sweater.)
  • Unplug any unnecessary electronics, if you are leaving town. Although your device might be off, or in standby mode, it is still consuming energy as long as it is plugged in. By unplugging these items when not in use, you can save up to 10% of your electricity use.
  • String popcorn and cranberries instead of lights to keep things festive while reducing energy use.

    Tea Candle in the Dark by Markus Grossalber, CC by 2.0.

    Tea Candle in the Dark by Markus Grossalber, CC by 2.0.

  1. Change up your lighting.

We all love seeing neighborhoods lit with holiday lights. Check out these tips to make your holiday lighting both festive and green:

  • Use LED lights and turn them off when you go to bed. LED lights use about 2/3 less energy than your traditional holiday bulbs.
  • Turn off the lights and burn candles. Candles can create  beautiful, holiday season ambiance and help you to save some electricity. Be sure to burn soy, natural beeswax, or vegetable oil based candles, which are less polluting options for holiday traditions. Avoid candles made from petroleum-derived paraffin.
Sustainabilty Ambassadors taking a moment out of the day to refresh and renew.

Sustainability Ambassadors taking a moment out of the day to refresh and renew.

  1. Make time for yourself.

The holiday season is so often filled with stress and anxiety rushing from event to event while simultaneously planning for tomorrow. This year, slow down. The holidays are about you, too. Light your favorite candle, cook your favorite dish, get some fresh air, get a good night’s sleep, drink some water, and don’t forget to breathe. Remember the true meaning of the holidays – be it a spiritual time, family time, or a time to relax. In whichever way makes you feel the best, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Happy Holidays!


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