Sustainable Holiday Traditions From Our Big Green Families to Yours


When it comes to the holiday season, Dartmouth once again earns its Big Green nickname. Faculty, staff, students and alumni of Dartmouth College are rich with sustainable holiday traditions, keeping their holidays low impact and environmentally friendly. We compiled a collection of sustainable holiday traditions shared from Dartmouth friends and colleagues in the hopes of inspiring you to add a bit of sustainable cheer to your holiday proceedings!  Have a sustainable practice in your holiday celebrations? Let us know in the comments or post it on our Facebook page at Dartmouth Sustainability!

From Dr. Anne Kapuscinski, Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Sustainability Studies

“My husband and I beg our immediate family members to NOT buy us a material object for a holiday gift; and instead, to make a contribution to an NGO or charity in our name. For our gift giving, we contribute to NGOs or charities for adults in the family and/or we pay for a desired experience (such as massage therapy for an elderly relative); and for children/teenagers, we pay for a desired experience (such as a gift card for seeing movies at a local, independent theater.) We find it hard to get everyone to go along with this approach because material gifts are so embedded in our culture; and we sometimes succumb ourselves to buy a thing (but usually something really needed) for a family member.”

From Amy Newcomb, Student Program Office at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding

“One small thing I do at my house is turn the peels from the citrus we eat this time of year into beautiful garland that hangs in our windows. I keep a small star and small snowflake cookie cutter on the counter near the clementine oranges, etc..  as we peel and eat these, I cut out shapes from the peels. They are beautiful strung up with thread and a few cranberries.”

From Gerben Scherpbier, Dartmouth ‘14

“I don't know that my family has any great sustainable holiday traditions, but recently we have been doing a lot more backcountry skiing. I think this is less a function of our desire to be more sustainable, and more because we genuinely prefer the solitude of being in the backcountry. There is also something very rewarding about working really hard to get to the top and then having a blast on the way down. Every year we try to learn more about backcountry skiing-- one year my dad and I took an Avalanche 1 course and this year my family will be doing a multi-day trip, staying at one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts (unfortunately I will not be joining this year because I broke my foot). I think that backcountry skiing is more sustainable than skiing at many resorts (no lifts to run, less concentrated impact on the ecosystem, no snowmaking equipment, etc.), but it still has an impact (travel via car or sometimes plane, less regulated impact and use of the environment, etc.). While this tradition isn't something we started to become more sustainable, I think the greater connection with and appreciation for the outdoors does inspire us to want to protect and conserve wild spaces.”

From Molly Smith, Sustainability Fellow

“On the winter Solstice, my family has several traditions steeped in sustainability. We forego electric lights all day, so we use only the sun for illumination, drawing attention to how much energy we consume during the dark winter months and how valuable the sun is for a source of light. Once evening draws in, we use candles and enjoy a slow cooked meal by candlelight. For the weeks leading up to the Solstice, we save all expired or food that has gone bad, and then on the Solstice, we choose a tree out in the woods and decorate it with all the food for all the wild animals of the forest.  During the day, we go out in the forest and prune the spruce and pine trees near paths and roads, taking the cuttings into the house and using them to make sprays and wreathes. The Solstice is a particularly beautiful time to enjoy the majesty of the winter season, drawing appreciation from the sun’s light and attention to the energy that is consumed to keep us warm and illuminated.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Name: *

Email: *


Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: