holiday season

I’m Dreaming of Green Holidays

By Stephanie Businelli

Greeting cards have all been sent, the holiday rush is through. Not quite? With the beginning of the holiday season comes the beginning of the holiday stress. And, if you’re like me and want to have a green holiday season, that adds to the challenges.

But, our Greening Your Holidays Pinterest board has great ideas to help. With suggestions on how to reduce holiday food and paper waste, as well as green decoration ideas, you’ll be able to relax and roast chestnuts on an open fire in no time. Check out the tips on DIY wreaths, new uses for old holiday cards, gift wrapping gone green, and more.

May your days be merry and bright and may all your holidays be green!DIY

About the Author: Stephanie Businelli is a Biological Basis of Behavior major and Environmental Studies minor at the University of Pennsylvania. She interned on the Communications Services Staff in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She loves the most wonderful time of the year and wishes you and yours a very merry (green) holiday season.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reduce Food Waste to Make a Difference This Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost here—a time to share gifts, food, and happiness with friends and family. It’s also a time to remember those struggling to make ends meet. This holiday season, consumers and businesses can make a difference by reducing food waste, which helps save money, feed the hungry, and protect the environment.

The facts are striking: Americans throw out a third of all the food we grow, harvest, and buy, costing the average family of four $1,600 every year. Not only do 25% of our nation’s freshwater supplies go toward growing food that never gets eaten; food waste also creates 13% of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to reduce the food waste that’s costing our families, depleting our natural resources, and contributing to climate change.

Plan ahead—before meals, especially large meals at the holidays, plan out how much food you and your guests need and stock up accordingly. EPA’s Food: Too Good to Waste program offers families toolkits to reduce food waste and save time and money at the check-out line.

Store safely—properly storing leftovers keeps them safe to eat longer. Using individually sized containers makes them easy to grab for another meal later.

Donate excess—According to the USDA, 1 out of 6 Americans struggle to put food on the table. By donating excess canned and dried foods to food banks and shelters, we can help those in need while protecting the environment.

Compost food scraps— make waste work for you. Instead of throwing out scraps, composting keeps food out of landfills and provides valuable nutrients for your garden.

And before food ever leaves the shelves, businesses can play a vital role by joining over 785 organizations taking part in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. By keeping better track of food inventories and setting food waste prevention goals, businesses can lower purchase and waste disposal costs, avoid wasted employee time, and improve bottom lines.

Major organizations are leading in this area. Disneyland, MGM Resorts International, Nestle USA, and all the teams in the National Hockey League are just some of the participants in our Food Recovery Challenge. I look forward to seeing continued success as we follow through on our obligation to protect the environment and our fellow citizens.

This holiday season, let’s commit to reducing food waste so we can help feed the hungry, fight climate change, and save money. When businesses and consumers work together, we all win.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Green Your Holidays with Our Pinterest Tips Board

By Ellie Kanipe

The holiday season is upon us and to help you be green through the hustle and bustle of the season, we’ve launched a Greening Your Holidays Pinterest board.  See tips on how to reduce holiday food and paper waste, and how to recycle electronic gadgets.  The board also has cool winter-inspired DIY projects that you and your whole family can enjoy together. You’ll find inspiring green ideas for this holiday season with pins like Gift Wrapping Gone Green; Reuse and Be Crafty – Holiday Cards get a Fresh Look; O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Can I Make You More Green; and Reduce Food Waste with a Splash.

Help us reduce our numbers: Americans threw away 250 million tons of trash in 2011, and 134 million tons of that ended up in landfills and incinerators. We can all make a difference this holiday season by reducing our waste, so check out our Greening Your Holidays Pinterest board.

About the author:  Ellie Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery on communications. She loves using Pinterest to find cool DIY green projects.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s Not Always About You – or – Environmental Gratitude in my Work and Life

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Eric P. Nelson

Having recently emerged from the holiday season that now runs from the day my Jack-O-Lantern takes up its position on the compost pile to the day my Christmas tree gets tossed onto the grim-faced Jack-O-Lantern, I feel rather drained from all the sentiments of gratitude and goodwill that I have both expressed and received during this extended season. They’re genuine, mostly, and seem appropriate at the time, but I’ve now shifted into New England-style winter survival mode, and quite prefer it after a long season of excess.

Recently, I read an article about “environmental gratitude.” The term was new to me, but after I read the article I realized I had discovered what motivates and guides me at work, and in many aspects of my life. Environmental gratitude was defined as, “a finely tuned propensity to notice and feel grateful for one’s surroundings on a regular basis, which generates pervasive attitudes of concern for planetary welfare and commitment to contribute ecological benefits to the extent of one’s ability.” It’s a bit dense to digest, but the article goes on to describe the phrase in simpler terms.

Unlike the gratitude one may feel during the holidays, environmental gratitude is not beholden to particular benefactors, does not require mutual intentionality (Thank you for that 2,000-calorie holiday meal!). Instead, simply recognizing and appreciating the very existence of the natural world and your connection to it can instill a sense of gratitude that can, in turn, influence your general attitude about protecting nature and motivate you to take action.

This has happened to me over the course of my life, and it’s how I approach my work at EPA, at least most days. No thanks sought, or needed, from those living things in the watery world that hopefully benefit from my actions. In truth, though, I do get thanked through my interactions with the natural world. And while I’ve seen nature in some of its most impressive forms, I’m just as enchanted by brief encounters close to home: a passing glimpse of a hawk flying through Boston Common; a hummingbird pausing on a branch above my shed; crows calling, winter quiet in snowy woods; a pungent whiff of exposed mudflat on a lonely beach; the jewel-like stars overhead at my bus stop on a clear, dark winter morning; the iridescent beetle that landed oh so briefly on the back of my wife’s neck. Such encounters are everywhere for all those who care to take notice. And to me, they matter.

The article, “Environmental Gratitude and Ecological Action,” by Richard Matthews, was featured on the website.

About the author: Eric Nelson works in the Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit of EPA New England in Boston, but prefers being underwater with the fishes. He lives in a cape on Cape Cod with his wife and two daughters, and likes pesto on anything.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Winter Tips: Make Your Home Warm and Green

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By Lina Younes

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. As we create a welcoming environment to entertain family and friends during the holidays, let’s think of some tips that will warm up our home while saving us energy and money, too.

  • First, in order to maximize the efficiency of your heating system, you should clean the air filters regularly.
  • Secondly, seal air leaks throughout the home to stop drafts. By sealing and insulating properly your outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors, you will improve the energy efficiency and comfort in your home. You can actually save up to 20% on heating costs on your annual energy bill if you follow this tip.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to automate your heating and cooling system and avoid wasting energy unnecessarily when there is no one at home.
  • Use Energy Star appliances and electronics to save money and use energy more efficiently.
  • Are you installing decorative lights at home to get the family in the holiday spirit? Consider LED decorative light strings. Did you know that for every three Energy Star qualified decorative light strings purchased, you could save $30 over the lifetime of the lights?
  • And, don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room to save energy! I know that is something that I have to remind my youngest all too often.
  • Are you in the mood to sit around the chimney this evening? Remember to burn wisely! For example, choose the right firewood. Keep your chimney clean. And use the right type of wood-burning appliance. By following these simple tips, you can protect your health, reduce air pollution and save money.

So, do you have any special plans for the holidays? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greener Holidays

By Lina Younes

Doesn’t it seem that stores are trying to get consumers in the holiday spending spirit earlier than ever? It’s not just the fact that holiday decorations are go up months before Thanksgiving, but now we’re seeing the big store chains promoting super deals even before Black Friday, the unofficial beginning of the holiday season.

Even my youngest daughter is jumping on the bandwagon and she’s trying to convince me to take her to the mall on this maddening day. She claims that she wants to buy gifts for the family and her friends, but I know she’s really lobbying for a few gifts for herself in the electronics department and clothes, of course. At least at this age, I still can influence some of her purchasing decisions. I’m glad that I’ve made her more environmentally conscious about green shopping and avoiding those trinkets that might contain lead and other toxic chemicals.  I’m also happy to see that she still prefers a good book over a meaningless toy.

Nonetheless, before we embark on a shopping spree, let’s try to think of the real significance of what we are supposed to be celebrating. As the holiday season begins, let’s give thanks for our family and friends, our health and our environment. We can all do our part to make a difference to make this world a happier and better place. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hey Kids…Think Green For The Holidays!

By Wendy Dew

It’s about that time of year again when we are all making our wish lists for holiday presents. What if this year instead of wishing for things that are just for us…we wished for things that help the world around be a little bit greener? Imagine the difference we could make if we all greened up our holiday season. Here are some green tips for kids and families:

  • give a gift that is made of recycled or reused materials
  • decorate with recycled or reused materials
  • volunteer during the holidays
  • make home cooked meals and invite friends and neighbors over as a holiday gift
  • combine your holiday shopping trips to save on gas
  • wrap gifts in recycled or reused paper
  • send recycled-content greeting cards
  • buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays

This is my favorite time of year. Not because of gift giving, but because we get to slow down a little and spend time with friends and family (and eat yummy food!). Let’s all enjoy the holiday season in a simpler, greener fashion this year.

For more green holiday tips

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.