Your 101 guide to responsibly celebrating the winter holidays at home
Posted by AMH Team
6m read time
Dec 19, 2022
‘Tis the season of plenty! But what if celebrating the holidays at home this year meant more joy and well-being, instead of more waste and excess? Check out our winter checklist of environmental and wellness tips to make this your most sustainable holiday season yet.
Take steps to winterize your home
Winter home maintenance is a critical annual tradition. Getting the house ready for winter weather saves money on utility bills, which in turn is better for the environment. You’ll also avoid long-term damage and keep pests away. Some of the easiest things you can do:
Schedule an HVAC winter maintenance appointment.
Switch off exterior faucets to protect your pipes from freezing.
Turn down your water heater temperature by a couple degrees to cut on utility costs.
Change the ceiling fans to run in a clockwise rotation to unburden your heating system.
You don’t want an emergency ruining your holiday celebration. Preparing now can save you frustration in the future.
Organize your spaces
When you host a gathering, accidents are bound to happen. The list of innocuous-seeming hazards within a home is extensive, so do your part to keep your space—and your loved ones—safe.
Pick up clutter and make a clear walkway to create a consistent traffic flow, limiting the likelihood of people bumping into each other with a plate full of food. Maximize your home by using nooks for storage, and limit access to certain rooms. There’s no need for guests to wander into bedrooms or office spaces.
Be mindful of the neighbors
If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA), you may have specific community rules to follow. There could be limitations around decorations, or you may be required to keep a clean sidewalk or walkway to your house.
Following HOA rules is good practice for being a better neighbor. In general: Treat your neighbors the way you’d want to be treated. Don’t let your pets run rampant through their yard. Ensure any festive décor stays on your property. If you borrow anything from a neighbor (say, a snow shovel or a sled), return it promptly and in the same condition as when you borrowed it.
Use sustainable cookware, cutlery, and food storage containers
It’s easy to grab a pack of plastic cups and cutlery for guests, but it’s also quite wasteful. Choose reusable bottles, mugs, and straws for a more sustainable option.
Glass pans and compostable serving trays are better choices than plastic or paper plates, and more cookware companies are creating pots and pans made from recycled aluminum and copper. These recycled materials cut down on carbon emissions. When packagingleftovers, beeswax food wraps and glass storage containers are more durable than plastic alternatives, have antimicrobial properties, and may use fewer chemicals.
Learning the basics of recycling at home is also a good idea. That can help you know what to do with any gift boxes you receive. Packaging like Styrofoam isn’t recyclable, and bubble wrap requires additional steps to recycle properly.
Start a compost bin for leftovers
If you make it through the holidays without any leftovers, congratulations — you’ve just accomplished something no one has ever done before.
Chances are you’ll have plenty of food remaining, either from meal prep or after eating. In both cases, there’s likely quite a bit you can compost. Home composting has numerous benefits, like reducing the trash that goes into landfills and promoting healthier plant growth for your indoor garden.
Fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, paper, cardboard, and straw are all everyday items that can go into your compost bin. If your food is in bigger chunks, tearing them into smaller pieces helps them break down faster.
Level up your cleaning
It’s hard to have a holiday party without a holiday mess. But that doesn’t mean you need to let that mess linger like a house guest who’s had one too many spiked ciders.
While it’s tempting to leave a stack of plates and silverware in the sink or glasses strewn about the house until morning, that’s a great way to invite ants, bacteria, and other pests into your home.
Instead, grab a laundry basket and carry it to each room, picking up loose items to return to the dishwasher. Use a dishwasher-safe mesh bag for smaller objects, such as measuring cups, bottle tops and caps, or baby cups. The dishwasher will still clean all the items while freeing up more room, making your dishwasher loads more efficient.
For surfaces and floors, forget about paper towels and disposable cleaning wipes and opt for more sustainable cleaning products, such as reusable microfiber cloths and washable mopheads. Mix soap tablets and water in a glass bottle, saving you multiple trips to the store for additional disposable soap bottles.
Evaluate your electricity usage
The average American spends just over $121 per month on electricity, per the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That adds up to more than $1,452 for the year. If you lit up your house like the Griswolds in Christmas Vacation, you’d tack on an extra $1,620 to your electricity bill within 45 days of holiday cheer.
But perhaps lights are a key part of your winter celebration. There are several other ways to reduce your electricity bill, which also helps the environment.
One of the simplest tips is to switch from incandescent or LED lights to energy-saving alternative bulbs, such as compact fluorescent bulbs. Making that change could save you nearly $30 in energy costs per bulb.
Get into the habit of unplugging unused electronics and powering down your computer and game systems at the end of each night instead of putting them into sleep mode. And reducing your shower time by just one minute saves you an average of 756 gallons of water per year.
Finally, use heat-generating appliances at night or in the early morning. Because those hours are off-peak, many energy companies charge less for consumption. Similarly, running your dishwasher or doing laundry when grid demand is lower is more cost-efficient. As always, be sure you’re doing full loads with both the dishwasher and washer to maximize your energy and water usage.
Learn about other traditions
The holidays are often a time to celebrate traditions and styles, some that may be passed down from generation to generation. Learn about the culture of a friend or a neighbor, or discover an exciting new recipe, song, or work of art.
Even if you’re all spread out across the country, you can have a fun virtual celebration with friends. Everyone can share a tradition from their family or culture while enjoying a favorite holiday treat or beverage.
If you’d prefer a more laid-back celebration, documentaries and podcasts are fantastic ways to learn about other traditions in a comfortable setting.
Don’t forget the self-care
Whether you’re spending the holidays with family, friends, or yourself, it’s easy to put your attention toward other people. We’re already at a higher risk of flu and other illnesses during this time of year, and neglecting your own health only heightens that risk.
Remember to practice some self-care this holiday season. Maybe that looks like going for a walk with your pets. Perhaps it’s creating a meditation area in your home. You can turn your bathroom into a spa, incorporating aromatherapy, live plants, and soothing music into the space. Or you could be more mindful of how you use light in each room, which can positively impact your mental well-being.
Whatever you choose is great, just as long as you focus on your own health and wellness. You deserve some celebrating, too.
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