I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

In the interests of treading (and blogging) a little lighter this week, a couple of ECE writers polled ourselves for eco-friendly holidays traditions to share. Think of these as a present to the planet, and who knows, maybe someday they won’t be “eco-friendly traditions” anymore, but just “traditions”!

** A lot of them also aren’t bad gift ideas for that impossible-to-shop-for person, and recession friendly as well. So happy last-minute hunting – and safe travels!

Vegetables: It's what's for (Christmas) dinner! Photo: K. Pete

Vegetables: It’s what’s for (Christmas) dinner! Photo by K. Pete

Eat lower on the food chain: (Lauren) “I married into a largely vegetarian family a few years ago, and thought the holidays might be a challenge. But not only is it pretty easy to come up with alternatives, it’s less expensive and also lightens the environmental account (see Bill Smith’s post on biofuel production)”

Buy local: (Lindsay) ”Already very popular in the enviro movement, keeping your dollars in your city limits is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Even if you are eventually spending some carbon to send the gift elsewhere, it still saves fossil fuels to have the gift originate in your home town instead of in a factory overseas. Many cities have websites advertising local businesses and locally-made products, you’ll be surprised what you can find! Adding a “from my home town” quality to your gift also makes it more special.”

(Recycled) brown paper packages tied up with string...Photo by Chiot's Run

(Recycled) brown paper packages tied up with string…Photo by Chiot’s Run

Wrap presents in alternative wrapping paper: (Lindsay) “Don’t you hate the pile of wrapping paper after present-opening has happened? Get creative this year to reduce all that paper waste! You could re-use saved paper from last year or wrap with a canvas tote bag that becomes part of the present. I’ve also been known to use brown paper grocery bags from the pile in our kitchen. You can turn them inside out, wrap, and then spice it up rubber stamps or something else festive!”

LED holiday lights: (Lindsay)These tend to be expensive, but they can save a ton of energy and money in your electric bill, too! I have some friends who are buying one new strand each year and slowly replacing all of their old, energy-sucking lights.”

Think outside of the box - or bin...for a grand gesture, how about a rain barrel? Photo by Elaine Faith.

Think outside of the box (or bin). For a grand gesture, how about a rain barrel? Photo by Elaine Faith.

Function over form: (Lauren)”My parents don’t need anything from me – really! But every Christmas I try and find them a new eco-friendly product that they might like to try and start using. It’s completely dorky, but I’ve actually introduced them to biodegradable dog waste bags and LED lights for their home.This year it’s a compost bin for their countertop…”


Give an experience (Kristen): “Want to give a present without adding to someone’s ever-growing pile of stuff? Give a service or an experience that they’ll cherish. How about tickets to a concert, movie passes, a nice dinner, a ski tune, or reservations for a weekend away? My all-time favorite gifts have been a massage, yoga passes, an annual state park pass that helped keep me outside all year long.”

Edible presents (Lindsay): “Think about gifting some tasty treats this year. These can be homemade or store bought creations that nourish and won’t eventually take up space in a landfill. There are a lot of small businesses that make delicious products with locally-grown produce, so you could even double up and combine “buy local” with “edible presents!” (Lauren) “In case you need ideas: local wine or chocolate are often easy to find.

Organic, fair-trade chocolate....'nuff said.

Organic, fair-trade chocolate….’nuff said.

And organic and fair-trade coffee and tea are easy ways to splurge a little for the person that you don’t know what to get.”

Girls on Ice 2013 Applications*

Happy holidays, ECE readers!

Although we’re supposed to be doing the whole holiday thing – eggnog, ugly sweaters, holiday songs, Charlie Brown specials, and…not blogging – I’ve been lurking the ol’ email and would like to share something from across the wire.

This evening, the one and only Erin Pettit, sent along great news: the 2013 Girls on Ice applications are open! If you’re unacquainted, Girls on Ice is a National Science Foundation funded, science education, mountaineering and leadership experience that is offered to young women each year through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The program finds exceptional individuals, from diverse economic backgrounds and geographic areas, and provides them an equally exceptional experience in Alaska or Washington State’s North Cascades. Being married to a 2001 program alum/former GOI employee, I personally know someone who can vouch for the value and life-changing potential of this program. But don’t take my word for it, check out what Erin sent along:

Glaciers on Mt. Rainier through a variable retention harvest in Washington State, USA

Glaciers on Mt. Rainier through a variable retention harvest in Washington State, USA

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Closed for the Holidays (yep, we’re taking a break from blogging)!

By Jorge Cham, PhD Comics.

By Jorge Cham, PhD Comics.

After an incredibly busy year of researching, analyzing, writing, teaching, and blogging (Phew!), the Early Career Ecologist Team is taking a much needed break. We will, of course, continue to write over this holiday season, but a posting break is in order (you wouldn’t be reading it anyway, would ya? Admit it.). Look for a rejuvenated series of posts starting just after the New Year. See you then!

Taking time to learn

Growing exotic and native riparian trees

By Lindsay Reynolds, PhD

Blogging is a powerful avenue our society has developed as a way to communicate ideas, but 15 years ago the word didn’t even exist. And now, some people are already asking, has blogging hit its peak? The first Blackberry smartphone was introduced in 2002, and for a long time the only people I knew with smartphones were my friends in med school. Then, the iPhone emerged in 2007, and now smartphones are ubiquitous. None of us need to be reminded how much technology has changed our world and the breathtaking pace at which it continues to change. Not only is it changing our social world and the way we communicate, but it has changed how we do science. How do we keep up as scientists and how do we figure out when and where to allocate time to learning new tools?

This is a question every scientist has to ask themselves. Its not a new problem, either. It’s as old as science itself. In the end, it is an issue that is less to do with learning the shiniest new technology and more to do with maintaining a mindset as a constant learner in your career. Continue reading