With more than 300 million Americans celebrating holidays this month, the environmental impact on the planet is staggering. The College of New Jersey has pulled together environmentally savvy suggestions that can lessen the impact of year-end merrymaking.
Instead of material gifts that clutter, consider gifts that teach a skill or are relaxing: gift cards for cooking and yoga classes, bookstores, tickets for performances.
How about a share in a Community Supported Agriculture program? CSA works on a prepaid system: Buy a share of a local farm’s harvest in advance, then receive produce weekly. Mercer County has the largest number of CSAs in the state to choose from.
Give the gift of time. Gift parents with babysitting, or help someone with a task that will be more pleasant done together (e.g., organizing photos, closets, garage, etc.).
Be a sweetie, give local honey. There’s quite a bit of it in New Jersey and everybody loves it. Try Herbertsville Honey or Tassot Apiaries.
Learn something. Take the time to read a book as a family on an environmental topic. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (2014) by Ben Montgomery is a good choice.
Recycle gifts. It’s the smooth way of saying re-gift.
Give a gift in someone’s name to Sustainable Jersey through the Jersey Give-Back Guide. If Sustainable Jersey raises at least $1,000, the Dodge Foundation will match it.
Find green decorating ideas by searching Pinterest for “upcycled” or “recycled,” together with “Hanukkah,” “Christmas,” or “Kwanzaa.”
Use newspaper as wrapping paper. If hipsters do it, why can’t we?
Most wrapping paper is not recyclable, but some is, so look for it and, of course, recycle. Standard bows and ribbons can jam recycling machinery. Check your town’s policy on recycling Styrofoam, either molded or in peanuts. It can vary.
Consider a live potted tree. You can plant the tree in your own yard (best if you dug a hole before the ground froze). Lobby local parks to accept donated trees—or follow the lead of California entrepreneurs and start a tree rental business here in Jersey.
Unless you absolutely need the real thing (I do), buy a pre-lit LED tree. LED lights use about 99 percent less energy than conventional bulbs. The U.S. government compares costs down to the penny.
Turn your discarded tree into mulch. Find out if your town has a program or if a neighbor has a chipper you can borrow.
Resolutions for 2015
Ask if your town has a Sustainable Jersey Green Team and get involved. Green Teams lead the implementation of Sustainable Jersey actions in participating towns.
Turn your green resolution into an art project. Litterati asks people across the planet to Instagram litter they find lying around, then dispose of it.
Pledge to stop wasting energy in your house by using inexpensive tools like the Kill-A-Watt electricity monitor for appliances and devices.
Support the creation of a proposed 2.5 mile bike lane linking TNCJ to the Delaware-Raritan Canal Bike Path by attending the public meetings of Ewing’s Green Team. This would increase opportunities for TCNJers to commute by bike.
Plant a wall of evergreens next to your home as a windbreak to reduce heating costs—and give yourself a new place to hang LED lights next year.
DIANE BATES, professor of sociology and coordinator, environmental studies
SANDY GIBSON, assistant professor of education
LAUREN MADDEN, assistant professor of education and coordinator of the School of Education’s Environmental Sustainability Initiative
NATE MAGEE, associate professor of physics and faculty member, environmental studies
MICHAEL NORDQUIST, community engaged learning coordinator for environment and community development division Community Development Division
JEFF PASSE, dean, School of Education
LAUREN SKOWRONSKI, program director for community engagement, Sustainable Jersey
TCNJ NET IMPACT, student group devoted to socially and environmentally conscious business practices
WATERWATCH, student environmental group
LORI WINYARD, director of energy and central utilities