By EcoFellow Sonja Favaloro

As you prepare to gather with family and friends this holiday season, remember that celebrating does not have to mean wasting copious amounts of food and using excess energy! With a little planning ahead there are many easy ways to conserve energy and reduce waste, even with a house full of people.

 

IN THE KITCHEN

When preparing your holiday meals, you can avoid wasting energy by using your appliances efficiently. Some easy ways to save energy include:

-even though you may have lots of food to keep cold, a second refrigerator is often a waste of money and energy. If you are using a second fridge that is old and energy inefficient, you could be spending an extra $150 per year to run it. Consider donating your old, inefficient fridge so that it’s not hogging energy and the parts can be reused. You could compromise by having a second small fridge, or investing in a second fridge that is also energy efficient.

-If you are using your oven to warm up dishes, try to warm up multiple dishes at the same time as opposed to heating the oven to warm only one dish. If you are warming up a smaller quantity of food, you could also use a microwave or crock pot instead.

-Use lids when boiling water or heating food on the stove.

-When washing a large batch of dishes, using a dishwasher is more efficient than hand-washing, as long as you don’t use the drying function! You can let dishes air dry or dry them with a dishcloth to reduce energy consumption.

-Don’t make your fridge work too hard to keep food cold during your holiday meal! Storing drinks in an ice bucket keeps guests from needing to constantly open and close the door. Also, be sure to let your leftovers cool on the counter before storing them in the refrigerator.

 

THE HOLIDAY MEAL

When considering what to serve your guests, remember that where your food comes from makes a huge difference in terms of environmental impact.

-Food from major supermarkets often travels over 1000 miles to reach your table. However, buying local, seasonal food supports local farmers and reduces your carbon footprint. It’s also likely to be more fresh and delicious!

-Buying organic food is also a great green option because using less pesticides and hormones means a healthier environment and healthier food for you to eat.

-Another easy way to go green while shopping is to bring your reusable bags to the store or farmers market so you can tote home all your delicious ingredients without wasting plastic.

 

MINIMIZING YOUR HOLIDAY WASTE

-It’s great to use plates and glasses if possible to avoid waste, but if you feel it’s too much of a hassle to clean the dishes, choose disposable plates and utensils that are biodegradable or compostable.

-When choosing decorations to complete the lovely atmosphere of your meal, remember you can make beautiful decorations from natural materials like leaves, cranberry chains and pinecones, and not have to bother with plastic items that will end up in the trash.

-Speaking of decorations, if you plan to brighten up your home with holiday lights, choose an LED set to reduce your energy use by 75%!

-If you already have a home compost system, set up a separate bin where your guests can dump their food scraps. Or if you don’t compost at home, consider collecting the food scraps anyway and bringing them to your local transfer station. Many accept compost for a small fee. If you’re interested in starting a home compost system, check out CET’s Home Composting Tips!

-You can compost your paper products like napkins and paper towels along with your food waste.

-Invite your guests to bring Tupperware containers to bring leftovers home with them. You can also store your own leftovers in Tupperware and keep enjoying them for days! Or if you have too many leftovers to handle right away, you can freeze extra food.

-Another great way to get rid of leftover food is to donate it to a local food bank or soup kitchen.

-Don’t use wrapping paper that will end up in the trash! Instead, use cloth or reusable gift bags as wrapping. You can even make your own bows and wrapping papers as a fun craft project.

-Can’t think of a good gift for a family member? Instead of buying unnecessary material gifts this holiday season, you can make your gift meaningful by Giving the Gift of Wind Power with New England Wind Fund. This program allows you to purchase wind power on behalf of someone else, and helps support green energy in your community!

According to the EPA, household waste in the United States increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, creating about one million extra tons of trash. If your household implements even a few of these changes, you can do your part to reduce these numbers and make the holidays more sustainable!