Promoting sustainability during the Christmas holidays is probably one of the most grim things I have to do each year. Don't get me wrong, I think that there are a tonne of really important things that should be done during the holidays; it's just that often doing the right thing for the environment seems like a real drag on the spirit of the season.
Well, I don't think that you have to be a killjoy while doing things for the holidays. I think that there can be a balance between easy, fun, and right for the planet. Here is a list of the things that you can do on campus and at home to make it a green Christmas (other than by global warming of course).
Before you leave the campus:
1. SHUT IT ALL DOWN
I know this must seem like the most obvious thing, but it is really important. And if you want to have the biggest impact possible, just unplug everything from the wall. This guarantees no power loss to phantom loads. Some items are much worse in terms of being energy vampires (computers, televisions, etc) vs other benign items (lamps and fans), but why take the risk, just unplug it.
2. FILL YOUR FRIDGE
Refrigerators and freezers use the least amount of energy when they are full. So before you leave for the holidays, fill up some jugs with water and put them in your refrigerator. This will have the added bonus of fresh cold water when you return. You could also go ahead and unplug your fridge if you completely empty it out, but make sure to leave the door open after you've unplugged it to prevent mold from building up.
*Pro-tip - Take a look at the food you have and if it won't make it through the holidays, donate it to the Food Bank or St. Joe's.
3. CLOSE THE CURTAINS
Yeah seriously, close them. Making sure your curtains are closed will block light from getting in but it will also make sure that heat doesn't escape. Just make sure that if you have plants, they are still getting some sunlight.
And when you are at home:
4. WRAP WITH NEWSPAPER
I don't even want to guess how many trees have to die because of wrapping paper. So if you want to make a statement, wrap it with newspaper. Sure it isn't traditional, but it is super practical and you know it is recyclable. If newspaper isn't your fancy, you can use other forms of paper (such as re-purposed wallpaper, old posters, etc).
Yeah this is sometimes looked down upon, but forget that. If you get a gift that you don't like and you know someone else who might like it, re-gift it to them! The alternative is that it sits in your closet unused. And besides, reuse is one of the best things you can do for the planet.
*Pro-tip - If you have a casual acquaintance, a second cousin or an uncle that you have to buy for but don't want to spend a tonne of cash, head on over to the Free Store and give them something second hand.
6. LIVE FOR THE MOMENT
Forget physical gifts, give experiences instead. Gifts that are an experience are way better than physical things anyways. Think concerts, hockey games, or even a coffee date. Doing this will likely leave a much smaller footprint.
*Pro-tip - Focus on local experiences to help out your community.
Well that's it. I am sure that there is a bunch of stuff here that you already knew.... so if that's the case maybe this is the year to give some of them a try.
~ jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo