Witnessing the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in the NY tri-state area two years ago, was a sobering reminder that climate change is here to stay. Luckily, my New York home was not damaged. We just lost power for a week. Low-lying coastal neighbors weren’t so lucky. Sandy cost billions of dollars in damage and over 160 lives were lost. There are still families in NY and NJ living in temporary homes. But if there is a silver lining to Sandy, it is that it made people realize that climate change is real. Then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said climate change should, “compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.” Along with making conservation a way of life, it’s now our job to hold our politicians to the task.
Since the winter holiday season came right after Hurricane Sandy, the holidays make me think of ways my family can minimize our holiday footprint and not contribute more carbon into the atmosphere. In addition to buying greener gifts from local shops and ecommerce sites, here are 8 tips for a climate-friendly and healthy holiday season:
- Clean green – When cleaning your home to prep for guests, make sure to use non-toxic cleaners that will not cause indoor pollution. Vinegar, baking soda and Castile soap are safe alternatives to toxic cleaners.
- Eat less meat, more plants – This graph by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows the carbon footprint of all types of food. If you eat meat, consider eating pastured, grass-fed, organic, and humanely-raised meats from local farms. Grass-fed cows require less energy to raise than grain-fed cows from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Also, grass-fed meats are more nutritious and less prone to disease.
- Cook cleaner – Regardless of whether you are baking cookies or frying up potatoes, particulate matter is emitted during the cooking process. Use stove vents to suck out smoke before it pollutes indoor air. Electric stoves create less particulates and no carbon monoxide.
- Eat organic and avoid GMO’s – When buying conventional foods, refer to this food list from EWG. This guide lists foods to avoid and provides clean conventional foods that are safer to eat.
- Avoid canned foods with BPA – Use fresh ingredients and stay away from canned foods that might be contaminated with BPA, which is linked to reproductive disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, “BPA-free” does not necessarily mean it’s safer. If fresh ingredients are unavailable, use frozen ingredients, like corn and peas, which are better than canned.
- Support local farms – Reducing the distance your food travels cuts down on diesel truck emissions. Check LocalHarvest for the list of farms near you when shopping for food. I buy fresh free-roaming turkey from my local farm and they never disappoint. My guests rave about my turkey and I feel good knowing the farm raises their livestock humanely.
- Ditch Disposables – Using plastic disposable utensils and paper goods, no matter how convenient and pretty they might be, is wasteful. Reusable utensils, plates and cups make holiday dinner table settings sparkle ‘fancy’ without adding to landfill waste. When it’s time for washing, to reduce energy and water consumption, use the dishwasher with non-toxic dishwasher detergent.
- No leftovers – Americans throw out about 40% of food we produce. Be mindful of how much food you need to feed your guests. If you must store leftover food, use glass containers.
Check out these popular holiday foods that are threatened by climate change. Oh no, not chocolate! And please consider whipping up a recipe or DIY holiday gift from my book, How to Make Easy Handmade Gifts for the Holiday. Happy Clean and Healthy Holidays to All!