Plan a Sustainable (And Hopeful) Holiday Season

Green Tips | November 22, 2023

By Peter Aronson

This year’s story about holiday green shopping tips comes with an extra jolt of spicy, delicious eggnog.

The eggnog jolt (even if you don’t like the real stuff) comes in the form of an essay by Dr. Kate Marvel in The New York Times on November 18, in which she replaced the typical environmental doom and gloom with a strong glimmer of hope.

A climate scientist, she was a lead author on Congress’ recent Fifth National Climate Assessment, the most important U.S. climate report written every four years.

“In the last decade, the cost of wind energy has declined by 70 percent and solar has declined 90 percent. Renewables now make up 80 percent of new electricity generation capacity,” she wrote, saying for once she was seeing positive results. “Our country’s greenhouse gas emissions are falling, even as our G.D.P. and population grow.”

She notes that the world is racing to keep the global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels to no more than a 2 degree Celsius increase. This is needed to avoid an increase in the environmental catastrophes the U.S. and the world already has experienced. 

“… [O]ur findings also offered a glimmer of hope,” she wrote. “If emissions fall dramatically, as the report suggested they could, we may never reach 2 degrees Celsius at all.”

If that happens, she said, the world has a “once-in-human-history chance, not only to prevent the worst effects but to make the world better right now.” 

So with that positive thought in mind, with the realization that there is hope if governments in the U.S. and worldwide take the necessary environmental steps, if businesses and individuals curtail their emissions, if renewables replace oil, gas and coal on a global and permanent scale, and the realization that every little bit helps, let’s set some positive goals for this holiday season.

Let’s all try to reduce our carbon footprint to our smallest level yet, and carry it through into 2024 and beyond.

  1. Instead of buying something new, offer your services as a present. ie, snow shoveling, baby or dog sitting, a home-cooked dinner. Not only will they appreciate you, you don’t come with extra packaging! 
  2. If you have to buy anything, buy only local, sustainable goods.
  3. Or buy gently used items at your local, second-hand store.
  4. For your holiday dinner, buy only local food.
  5. Make a gift out of unwanted things you find in your house. 
  6. Only buy what you truly need. Skip the wrapping paper. Use old magazines, newspapers, or nothing at all. And do you really need to buy a new outfit for the holiday party?

This list could go on and on. The key thing is to think before you shop. Think where it’s coming from and what it took to make it. Think about the carbon footprint created to bring that item to your doorstep. The more we all collectively think about that question, the greater chance we have of realizing Dr. Marvel’s optimism.

The transportation sector is a huge emitter of greenhouse gasses. In New York state, it is number two, accounting for almost 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The less we rely on anything that needs to be shipped into the state, the less greenhouse gas emissions there will be. 

Here are some additional holiday shopping tips offered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and from the New York League of Conservation Voters in 2022.  

We hope these suggestions help. We wish everyone a peaceful, healthy and wonderfully sustainable and carbon-free holiday season!

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