Climate for Action: Going Green for the Holidays

About the author: Ashley Sims, a senior at Indiana University, is a fall intern with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education through the Washington Leadership Program.

The holiday season is the most exciting time of the year. I love to try to figure out which gifts to give to my loved ones back at home. Perhaps some cute earrings for mom or a hand-made scarf for one of my girlfriends could work for presents this year. And holiday sales can be a sweet treat too. As you shop for holiday gifts, try to keep in mind the most exciting gift of them all – a healthy planet. There are many actions we can take to reduce waste and save energy during the holidays. Here’s a look to what we can do.

You can reduce waste during the holidays. Thousands of shopping bags and Christmas trees end up in landfills each year. A way to reduce paper and plastic shopping bags from filling up our landfills is to simply ask store cashiers to not bag your small or oversized purchases or carry a reusable shopping bag with you. If you celebrate the holidays with a tree, get your parents to find a local solid waste department and see if they collect trees after the holiday. Some communities offer curbside pickup for trees. This is much better than sending it to the landfill.

When shopping, try to get your parents to buy home or office electronics that have the ENERGY STAR label on them. We learned that some electronics still use electricity when turned off. By replacing old items with ones that are energy efficient we can save over 25 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions which is good for the planet and our health too.

And lastly, cleaning up after the holidays can be a huge responsibility if not prepared. My family holiday meals require much more water than ordinary meals. While preparing food and washing dishes, we tend to run the water a lot. For every minute water runs, more than two gallons of water is used. However, this year we’ve came up with a way to reduce our water and energy usage. Take a look-

  • Instead of using water to rinse dishes before you put them in the dishwasher, scrape them clean.
  • If washing dishes by hand, fill the sink with a few gallons of soapy wash water, clean the dishes, and put them aside. Then rinse them all together afterward.

Sounds like a plan to me. Either of these practices can save up to 10 gallons of water.

Enjoy this holiday with the ones you love and don’t forget to do your part to help protect our environment. For additional information about winter tips to reduce waste and save energy, check out