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15 Tips for Sustainable Holidays

SDSU experts discuss ways to reduce energy consumption, waste and pollution during the holiday season.
LED lights are used prominently in this holiday lighting display in London, England. Photo by David Iliff.
LED lights are used prominently in this holiday lighting display in London, England. Photo by David Iliff.

Wrapping paper, Christmas lights, long car rides — the holidays are a huge contributor to energy consumption, waste and pollution.

This holiday season, do your part for the environment by following these tips from SDSU experts. 

Holiday travel

  • Choose hotels committed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Hotels approaching CSR are integrating environmental, social and economic responsibility within their entire management and operational system.

  • On vacation, choose sites and activities within walking distance. Visit destinations that are accessible without using a car. This not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also reduces the amount of money that you spend on gas.

  • Take it slow. The more places you want to see within a short period of time, the more you rely on faster, less environmentally efficient modes of transportation.


Recycling

  • Alkaline batteries. Many local governments sponsor alkaline battery recycling programs that will dispose of your batteries, often free of charge.

  • Old electronics. Electronic waste can be damaging and toxic to the environment. Most Best Buy stores will recycle old TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, audio and video cables, and cell phones.

  • Paper. Keep a paper recycling bin near the trash for holiday newsletters and big Sunday papers. Or, better yet, consider using the Sunday comics as fun and eco-friendly wrapping paper for gifts.

Saving energy

  • Do the math. The key factor to consider when choosing any electronic appliance or lights is how much energy it uses. This can be figured out by the following equation:

    Energy (kilowatt-hours) = [Power (watts) x Time (hours it will run)] divided by [1000 watts/kilowatt].

    The smaller the number, the less energy will be used. Electric bills often tell people how many kilowatt-hours they use in a month, and new digital meters show easy-to-read reports.  

  • Switch old bulbs for LED lights. Take advantage of lighting exchanges to swap older Christmas lights for newer, energy-saving LED lights. Although the initial investment is higher, LED lights are the cheapest to run in terms of energy and cost.

  • Cut back on large displays. Try to avoid large, energy-dependent displays (e.g. blow-up snowmen, reindeer displays, hanging lights), which require a fair amount of energy over several hours for the motor of the pump and the lighting. If you do use decorations that consume energy, try to limit the amount of time you use them.


Holiday meals

  • Plan the menu around organic seasonal availability. In the general San Diego region, this would include pomegranates, squash, tomatoes, avocados, apples, pears, persimmons, guava, nuts, radishes, field greens, green beans and fresh citrus.   

  • Eat more plants. Increase the percentage volume of plant type foods on the menu and decrease the amount of animal foods.  

  • Reduce food waste. After the meal, compost any leftover food scraps.

Giving back

  • Volunteer. Vacations are full of free time; try to find a volunteering opportunity in the local community.

  • Charitable gifts. Contribute to a charity that promotes social justice, protects the environment or supports community gardens as an alternative gift.

  • The ultimate gift. Consider giving less gifts and more love this season.

The holiday tips were provided by the following SDSU experts:

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