Thursday, October 15, 2009

You Can be Sustainable This Holiday Season

Being sustainable means that we all do our part to reuse our natural resources such as light, water, wind and trees, by making sure we consider the impact of not turning off the lights when we leave a room, or of not running the water while we brush our teeth. It’s even more important that we remind ourselves and our families to practice sustainability during the holidays, since this is the time more trash is generated, more food is cooked and we’ll host house guests, who will consume more energy than we’re used to.

Steps to Save Energy around the Home

With the holidays, come the holiday guests. You don’t want to inconvenience your guests by setting the thermostat too low or too high, or by telling them to take three-minute showers, but you should have a family conference to make sure everyone knows that you believe in leaving a small carbon footprint.

• Set your thermostat for 68 degrees for the day, but at night, turn it down to 60 degrees. Use a radiator in your bedroom.
• Replace all of your air filters to maximize efficiency.
• Turn off your lights when you’re away from your room and replace your light bulbs with fluorescents.
• Try to flush one less time a day and turn off the water while soaping hands and while brushing teeth.
• Disconnect the phone charger when you’re done charging your cell phone and disconnect the power strip when it’s not in use. If your out-of-town guests use your computer, remind them about turning everything off and unplugging protocols.
• After dinner, fill up the dishwasher and run it using cold water. Also use cold water for your clothes washing as much as possible, too.
• Open and close the refrigerator minimally. Your fridge is your kitchen’s biggest energy hog. Use the right size pan for the stove burner and use the toaster oven instead of turning on the regular oven.
• Encourage your guests to carpool, to take public transportation or to walk or cycle! Convince them that giving up your car for a day is a great way to see your town.
• If you’re leaving on a holiday vacation, be sure to turn all of your appliances off, stop the paper and the mail (you’ll save on the mail carrier or your friend from making an extra trip).
• Commute to work with well-inflated tires and pack a lunch with a reusable lunch and drink container.

Keep Your Holiday Food Sustainable

• When cooking and baking, measure carefully to avoid food waste and use perishable foods before they spoil.
• For those big holiday meals, buy bread that’s fresh from the bakery and not packaged in double plastic wrapping. Be sure to recycle the paper wrapping that it comes in.
• For grocery shopping, take your own bags instead of using the store’s plastic ones.
• Buy the largest can pumpkin filling you can for your pies; same goes for your cranberries, corn and peas. Buying the larger canned item will not only save you money than buying two smaller cans, but will save energy and resources.
• Buy coffee for your guests that’s organic or Fair Trade. Doing so will help sustainable agriculture and will protect the rain forests. Also, don’t use stirrers for your morning coffee; place your milk and sugar in the mug first and then pour your coffee.
• Buy one gallon jugs of milk instead of three separate milk cartons. Take a poll of what milk variety everyone likes and go with the majority or compromise (two people want skim and two people want whole – so buy 1% milk).

Tips on Holiday Giving and Traditions

• Make it easy on yourself and save the environment by giving gift cards, restaurant/concert/theater certificates, movie passes, services like for spa treatments, or a class. You’ll have your giftee deal with less packaging and you’ll buy just what they want.
• Buy toys that aren’t made with plastic, which are petroleum-based and contain toxins. Instead, buy wooden toys that can be passed down to younger siblings. Also don’t buy toys that have a lot of packaging.
• Use real china or porcelain plates at meal times, along with cloth napkins, instead of paper products.
• Use and/or give soy or beeswax candles instead of paraffin wax candles, which are made from petroleum and damage your indoor air quality.
• Buy a living Christmas tree instead of an artificial one. You can recycle the living instead of having the artificial one emit trace amounts of lead into the environment
• Recycle gift bags, ribbons, bows and wrap when possible. Use the Sunday comics for gift wrapping, or better yet, place your gifts in reusable baskets or bags. If you must wrap, find a brand that uses recycled paper. And instead of using new ribbons or bows, use a scarf, dried flowers or natural-fiber raffia.
• Decorate using reused, borrowed, or vintage-shop items. Keep your d├ęcor natural, so that it doesn’t involve a lot of paper and waste.
• Buy greeting cards made from recycled or tree-free materials.
• When using holiday lights, opt for the LED (light-emitting diode) lights.
• Entertain the family with DVDs that were swapped using DVD Swap ( Membership is free and all members pay for is postage.
• Instead of buying that new holiday album, download it. If you throw away a CD, it will end up in a landfill. Or better yet, you can swap your CD using CD Swap (
• When dining out, choose tap water instead of bottled water.
• Buy rechargeable batteries for toys and personal electronics.
• Buy a GPS so you know where you’re going and you’re not wasting fuel going in the wrong direction.

Any one of these tips can be tweaked into your life and pretty soon you’ll have formed a sustainable habit that will take you successfully into the New Year!

Tell me your energy saving tips that you use with your families!

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