Living Sustainably: Make your holidays a little greener

By Marissa Ruehl, Hope College Green Team Intern

It’s easy to make the holidays a little more green by taking some simple steps toward sustainability.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. The holidays are quickly approaching, and we often overlook the environmental impact of these events. Below are a few easy suggestions to help make the most wonderful time of the year a little more green.
The Feast: Holidays bring big meals and family get-togethers for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Use real dishes and silverware whenever possible; they make for longer cleanup but a happier trash bag.
Single-use items are costly to the environment, but if you must use them, purchase recyclable versions and keep them out of the landfill. When shopping for meals, keep it local and use seasonal foods: squash, apples, cranberries, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and chestnuts.
Shopping: As the shoppers rush home with their treasures, every store will offer bags. This excessive use of plastic is not good. Instead, bring a few reusable bags and kindly ask the cashier if you can use your own.

Donated items are accepted and repurposed at Ditto, a Holland resale store. Volunteers sort clothing at Ditto, where donated clothing is repurposed, supporting sustainability in Holland.

Sharing: Remember those who are less fortunate, and take time to help out in Holland and around the world. You can make donations to charities, participate in an “adopt a child/family” gift program, or volunteer with a local organization. Spread the love during the holidays.
Purchases: Shop local, buy local, and give gifts made from sustainable practices. Think renewables, recycled content, fair trade. Try making your own gifts, like candles, soaps, treats, clothing, or jewelry. Websites like Pinterest have many fun ideas. You could even opt to give gifts of your time; instead of purchasing more stuff, treat your loved ones to a happy feeling. Spend time together with a sporting event, trip, or babysitting coupons.
Wrapping: While an iconic holiday activity is wrapping presents, we don’t want all that paper ending up in a landfill. This year, be trendy and opt for easily recyclable materials such as brown paper, newspaper, and reusable bags or boxes. Deck the halls (and your gifts) with boughs of holly. Or, if you must buy some Rudolph-printed paper, look for recyclable wrapping paper, which is increasingly available.
Clean-Up: Make sure materials like plastic and cardboard get into the recycling bin. And with an influx of new items, now is a great time to go through old clothes and household items and donate them to a local collection center.
Small changes to your holiday routine can have a big effect. Once you see how easy these are, you can make them your New Year’s Resolution and have a Green 2018!
■ Marissa Ruehl is a 2017-2018 student intern with the Hope College Sustainability Green Team.  She is majoring in Spanish with minors in mathematics and political science.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our city planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future state.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.