Green Corner: Ringing in the green holidays

October, November and December are some of the busiest months of the year. In such a short amount of time, Americans celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, this year’s presidential election and everything in between.

As a student, I know I start saving up money in early August to buy presents, make costumes and eat food for the holidays. Many of us look forward to these three months all year because we associate them with various pies and family get togethers. However, have you ever stopped to consider the stress we are putting on the environment during these months?

In October, people begin to plan their Halloween costumes; We buy fabric from China, glitter from India, makeup from Thailand and dye from Indonesia. In November, we make turkey cutouts from construction paper and paper plates. We consume mass amounts of food as Americans and then we go shopping for Black Friday. We get a few plastic bags from every store we visit and end up with dozens. Instead, you can make your own pumpkin pie using pumpkins from local farmers, make your Thanksgiving meal out of local and seasonal foods and bring your own bags to shop with on Black Friday.

Finally, it’s December — time for gift-wrapping and more shopping.  A sweater for Mom, an iPhone for Dad, shoes and jewelry for brothers and sisters; and everything must be brand-new and gift wrapped. We put up our Christmas trees and decorate them with lights that remain plugged in for weeks. You get the point: It is difficult to celebrate the holidays and keep up our usual sustainable habits. While it may seem that way, it is not impossible.

This holiday season, challenge yourself by trying to stay sustainable. There are a number of ways to go about this. Start by buying less. Homemade gifts are always a great way to make things more personal and meaningful, and they allow you to give more and spend less at the same time. Unwrapped presents may not be as aesthetically pleasing as wrapped presents,  but there is a way to do so in a sustainable way. Wrap your presents with newspaper and decorate it with stamps, paint or use the shiny side of an empty chip bag.

A simple search of “sustainable holidays” on the Internet will yield thousands of eco-friendly tips. Take a little bit of time and set a goal for yourself this year. What changes are you willing to make? How much of your carbon footprint can you reduce during this season? While you are doing so, encourage your friends and family to join you. Preserving our planet begins with making little changes in our daily lives.

Jocelyn Su

Westminster Eco-Rep

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