How to have a sustainable holiday season

Media Credit: Anthony Peltier | Staff Photographer

Catch an Amtrak out of Union Station, equpped with WiFi and a quiet car.

With loads of holiday food, festivities and travel often comes enormous waste, but don’t neglect the environment this holiday season.

Whether you’re repurposing leftovers, shopping sustainably or being mindful of your carbon footprint, there are many ways to keep the environment in mind this year. Make this your most sustainable holiday season yet with these tips.

Travel:
Before you book a flight to visit loved ones, check to see if a train or carpool could get you from point A to point B. Catch a train out of Union Station, and though it may take a little longer than a flight, sit back and enjoy the ride with your favorite book or movie.

If you and some friends are heading back to the same destination, think about carpooling together. It’s a more sustainable alternative than flying, and you can enjoy each other’s company while playing road trip games or jamming to music before saying goodbye for winter break.

Residents 21 and older can rent a car in D.C. at Reagan or Dulles Airport for as little as $25.94 per day and return it at the nearest car rental to their hometown.

Leftovers:
Holiday meals certainly are delicious, but leftovers sometimes even better. Most holiday dishes, like gravy, casseroles and cheesecake, can be stored and frozen to save for a later date, so long as they don’t sit out too long.

Store extras in a reusable container, putting some in the refrigerator to enjoy in the coming week, and some in the freezer to save for up to a month. Combine leftover desserts like pie, cookies or brownies with your choice of milk and ice cream and blending, topping with some whipped cream for a delicious milkshake.

Make soup out of leftover vegetables, turkey meat and turkey bone or opt for a classic leftover sandwich. To elevate your sandwich game, spread cranberry sauce on one slice of thick sourdough bread and dijon mustard on the other, layering turkey and stuffing between, and finish it by dipping in gravy.

Gift giving:
Find ways to show your love during the holidays without contributing to consumer culture. Shopping for items that will never be used just for the sake of giving gifts negatively impacts the environment.

Shopping second hand is always a mindful way to reduce your negative environmental impact. And while you have some free time at home, think about going through your old things and donating to your local Goodwill or thrift store.

For those participating in Secret Santa this year, instead of buying a new gift, bring something you already own that you don’t use often and you know your recipient will love. Rather than buying from Amazon, Target or Apple, look to shop from the family-owned small businesses in your area.

Gift wrapping:
Gifts wrapped in holiday wrapping paper and tied with a bow certainly look pretty, but the material will inevitably be torn up and discarded. Use low waste alternatives this season like gift bags, a more environmentally friendly alternative to gift wrap, as they have the benefit of being repurposed. Save the bags from this year’s gifts and use them again next year.

Wrap your gifts in old newspapers for a stylish option to reuse paper that was on its way to the recycling bin. In lieu of a bow or fancy wrapping paper, spice up your gift wrapping job with decorations you already have laying around like hair ribbons, or head outside and collect some pine tree sprigs to tie with twine to the top of your gift. Writing a small message to your recipient with a colorful pen is also a fun way to add a pop of color.

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