By Bianca Greeff, graduate assistant, Sustainability Office

During the holiday season, many people enjoy watching as the leaves change color and a fresh blanket of snow covers the valley. In this celebration of colors, why don’t we work together to add some green to the mix? Check out these 10 ways to make the holiday season more sustainable.



There are many ways to help your community this holiday season by giving back. Check out these easy ways to get involved:
  • Donate your time, money or things to community groups around the city that need help. This is a great time of year to support your favorite organizations.
  • Check out volunteer opportunities from the Bennion Center.
  • Give to the on-campus Feed U food pantry. You can donate non-perishable and non-expired individually labeled food.
The Feed U Pantry.

The Feed U Pantry.


The holidays are often filled with travel. Commuting to and from events, the grocery store, the mall, for leisure activities and short or long trips all contribute to the carbon dioxide released during the season. Travel smarter with these tips:
  • Combine your trips to reduce the number of times you have to run errands.
  • Try taking the bus or other public transportation to one event during the holidays.
  • Carpool on your trips, giving you more time to spend with friends and family.




For those who don’t have a collection of holiday decorations started, think longevity when shopping. Here are some tips for green decorating:
  • Buy products that will last multiple holiday seasons.
  • Make your own out of products you already have, like making snowflakes out of scrap paper.
  • Buy a potted tree so that you can plant it after the season is over.

Living succulent wreath.

PHOTO CREDIT: Maegan Tintari CC 2.0

Living succulent wreath.



The holiday season is a time of abundance. Lessen food waste and improve your food’s carbon footprint with these easy steps:
  • Compost non-edible table scraps like corn husks, potato peelings, pumpkin and squash rinds. These scraps can all go into a brown compost bin.
  • Freeze dishes so they will stay fresh longer—even doughnuts and latkes can be frozen.
  • Have guests bring Tupperware and distribute leftovers at the end of the meal.
  • Turn leftovers into new dishes (not just sandwiches!) like cranberry carrot muffins, extra-veggie frittata, stuffing stuffed mushrooms, or even a dip to spice things up.
  • Choose locally sourced, free-range meats or go meatless to reduce the carbon footprint of your food.

Pacman pumpkin pie.

PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Catt, CC 2.0

Pacman pumpkin pie.



Last year I gave an experience of attending a lantern festival. The memories we made will last much longer than a gift.

Americans spend hundreds of billions of dollars during the holiday season. Buying local, pre-loved or homemade gifts (like shopping at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts Holiday Market) can be more economical and ecologically sound. Here are some creative holiday gift ideas:

  • Keep an eye out for gifts made from reusable materials like recycled paper, cloth, reclaimed wood or even sports items like skis or bike chains.
  • Give the gift of an experience, such as tickets to a concert or sporting event, gift certificates to book stores or restaurants or a membership to community attractions or state parks. Experiences last for much longer than the holiday season and allow for the recipient to use them after the festivities have faded.

Last year I gave an experience of attending a lantern festival. The memories we made will last much longer than a gift.



Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season. That is an extra 1 million tons per week. Here are some ways to reduce waste:
  • Avoid using disposable cutlery, napkins and pans. By using cloth napkins, ceramic dishes and your own pots and pans, you can greatly reduce the amount of trash that is produced during the holiday season. If you don’t have enough reusable supplies for everyone, ask guests to bring extra plates, cups or cutlery.
  • Buy recycled or compostable items if you can’t avoid using some disposable items.
  • Place your recycling bin right next to your trash to encourage recycling.

Special use compostable spoon, Microsoft, Issaquah, Washington, USA. Wonderland, CC 2.0

PHOTO CREDIT: Wonderland, CC 2.0

Special use compostable spoon, Microsoft, Issaquah, Washington, USA. Wonderland, CC 2.0



If every American family wrapped three presents in reused material, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Although you can recycle wrapping paper, there is still a carbon cost for producing, transporting and recycling it. Challenge yourself to wrap creatively with these ideas:
  • Use newspaper and twine. Check out the books I wraped for a gift to my mom.
  • Repurpose a brown paper bag and reusable ribbons. You can also add paint to make your own pattern.
  • Try your hand at collaging photos and magazines to make your wrapping colorful, or make your wrapping part of the gift by using a scarf or pretty piece of cloth.




The holidays go hand-in-hand in increased electricity use. With time off from work or school, we are in our homes more, cooking, hanging lights, using powertools and attending gatherings that go well into the night. While there will be inevitable increases, there are ways in which you can lower your use:
  • Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees while you are awake, and lower it while you are sleeping or out of the house is to save energy. Every degree you lower the tempature, the higher the percent of electicity you will save. (Plus, it gives you another chance to wear your favorite festive sweater.)
  • Unplug any unnecessary electronics if you are leaving town. Although your device might be off or in standby mode, it still consumes energy as long as it is plugged in. By unplugging these items when not in use, you can save up to 10 percent of your electricity use.
  • String popcorn and cranberries instead of lights to keep things festive while reducing energy use.

The @nest thermostat.

PHOTO CREDIT: Grant Sewell CC 2.0

The @nest thermostat.



We all love seeing neighborhoods lit with holiday lights. Check out these tips to make your holiday lighting both festive and green:
  • Use LED lights and turn them off when you go to bed. LED lights use about 2/3 less energy than traditional holiday bulbs.
  • Turn off the lights and burn candles. Candles can create a beautiful ambiance and help save electricity. Be sure to burn soy, natural beeswax or vegetable oil-based candles, which are less polluting options. Avoid candles made from petroleum-derived paraffin.

Tea candle in the dark.

PHOTO CREDIT: Markus Grossalber, CC by 2.0

Tea candle in the dark.



The holiday season is so often filled with stress and anxiety rushing from event to event while simultaneously planning for tomorrow. This year, slow down. The holidays are about you, too. Light your favorite candle, cook your favorite dish, get some fresh air, get a good night’s sleep, drink some water and don’t forget to breathe.
Sustainabilty Ambassadors taking a moment out of the day to refresh and renew.

Sustainabilty Ambassadors taking a moment out of the day to refresh and renew.