Dashing through the holidays sustainably

As we enter December and the start of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in Dubai, November’s release of a sweeping scientific report is still top of mind. The Fifth National Climate Assessment, released by the White House and co-authored by three UCLA professors, covers our changing climate and response strategies. What is indisputable is the human influence — compelling evidence that Earth’s citizens, and we Bruins, need to make better, more sustainable choices. Starting now, we can develop more planet-positive habits heading into the holiday season and the new year.

While humans are driving climate change, we can change that trajectory by taking individual actions to reduce planet-heating emissions. It is possible to be merry and eco-friendly! You can replace harmful holiday behavior with these low-carbon holiday hacks to make new sustainable traditions.

Deck the halls with Mother Earth in mind
Get creative and DIY and upcycle decor. Use household items and utilize nature by incorporating fallen leaves, pinecones, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, etc., to jazz up your space.

Switch to energy efficient holiday lights
Use ENERGY STAR certified lights. They are 90% more efficient than conventional incandescent and last longer.

Green shopping and sustainable gifts
There are ways to reduce your consumption impact when buying and giving presents.

Support local businesses and for your shopping trips, try carpooling, taking the bus, or walking or riding a bike to your destination.

Get crafty! Go with homemade gifts, like ornaments, cookies, or picture frames. Or gift an experience, like a museum membership, class, concert ticket, or spa day — the options are endless, and the recipient will be so grateful for the personal touch! Thrift and head to secondhand stores, too. You can also choose gifts that help people live more sustainably, like a quality reusable water bottle. Charitable donations, like to an environmental organization, are a nice idea as well.

Cut the excess wrapping
Earth911 estimates that approximately 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year, and that about 2.3 million pounds—about half of it—ends up in landfills.

Wrap with materials you already have, like newspaper, comics, old maps, or paper shopping bags. You can also use fabric or cloth, like scarves, or dish towels for a reusable wrapping.

Host an eco-friendly feast
Buy locally grown food if possible, and serve with reusable cups, plates, silverware, and utensils. Plant-based meals are also much better for the planet. If you must serve meat, source products locally and organically. Tell guests to come with containers for leftovers too! And don’t forget to compost.

Lastly, on the sustainability of an artificial vs. live Christmas tree, the greenest option is a potted one that you plant after the holiday season.