Tips for greening your holiday season

Want to reduce your impact this holiday season? Here are a few tips from SustainVU’s Holiday Greening Guide to make your holiday a little greener this year.

Office/residence hall/home energy use

Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff who are going to be away from their residence halls, offices, classrooms or homes over the holidays should remember to shut off lights and appliances, unplug electronics, and lower thermostats before leaving. Doing so is a great way to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact.

Food and entertaining

Reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact by serving food that is locally and sustainably grown. Visit your local farmer’s market to get fresh meat, produce and breads for your holiday feast (and support local farmers). Make sure to plan the right amount of food for your holiday gathering. Think about using reusable plates, napkins, and utensils for your holiday feast. If you must use plastic wares, make sure to recycle them.


The average American household generates 25 percent more trash during the holiday season. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet! Remember to recycle cans, bottles, cardboard and other packaging that comes along with your gifts or food this holiday season. Don’t forget to plan appropriate portions of food and send leftovers home with guests to reduce food waste as well.


Remember to recycle your tree into mulch after the holidays. Many counties, including Davidson County, have tree recycling programs. If you can, purchase a live tree with a rootball and replant it when you take it down. Decorate your home using items you already have or that can be reused after your event, such as whole fruit, small plants, herbs and pinecones. Consider decorating with fewer lights this year—there are many festive alternatives, like popcorn strings, to adorn your tree or home. If you do use lights, put them on a timer, and when buying lights choose LEDs, which use less energy.


To reduce gas consumption, carpool and consolidate trips to stores or the mall to purchase your gifts. When possible, buy locally produced gifts—they have a much lower carbon footprint than goods manufactured overseas (and it supports your local economy). Don’t forget your reusable bag when you go to the store. Consider enclosing gifts in packaging that can be reused, such as baskets or fabric, or choose recycled wrapping like newspaper or last year’s gift bags or wrapping paper with recycled content.


The average holiday long-distance trip is 275 miles long. Carpool to holiday events, encourage guests to carpool, use rideshare, and offset the carbon footprint of any air travel at or For more green travel tips, check out the “Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Green” guide.

For more holiday greening tips, visit our Sustainable Holiday Greening Guide, or contact the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) at or 615-322-9022.