Sustainable tips for the holidays

Via the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 24, 2021

As the holidays approach, there are many ways to prevent waste and remain sustainable when it comes to gift giving this season.

According to Stanford University waste increases in the United States by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This totals to nearly 25 million additional tons of garbage a year. Waste can be reduced significantly by reusing gift wrap, like ribbons and twine, as well as using old magazines, newspapers, or maps as wrapping paper. Holiday cards can be sent on recycled paper or via email to reduce waste as well.

Stanford also suggests buying recyclable wrapping paper and actually recycling it. Paper can also be reused for more than one wrap if it isn’t destroyed in the process of opening.

The University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability also came out with a list of local, sustainable gift giving options from Iowa City businesses. From cafes and restaurants to local shops, the list has options for all ages this holiday season and throughout the year. The list also encourages people to buy last minute gifts from sustainable, local businesses instead of large shopping malls.

As the New Year approaches, making Green Resolutions can improve one’s interactions with their environment. Whether it’s focusing on recycling or reducing your carbon footprint by carpooling or taking public transportation more often, Green resolutions can help people live more sustainably.

On the Radio: New app helps find sustainable groceries

Items from a typical produce aisle ( katiescrapbooklady / Flickr)
Items from a typical produce aisle ( katiescrapbooklady / Flickr)

December 22, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new app that looks to help consumers identify healthy and sustainable foods in the grocery aisle. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

A new mobile app aims to help consumers find the healthiest and most sustainably-grown foods at the grocery store.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In October, the Environmental Working Group – a non-profit that advocates for environmental and public health issues – launched “Food Scores,” a food ratings database and mobile app. The database has rated more than 80,000 products using three criteria: nutrition such as caloric and fat content, ingredient concerns like hormones and antibiotics, and processing which includes the amount of artificial ingredients a product contains.

With the most emphasis placed on the food’s nutritional content and the least on processing, the app compiles these factors, then gives each product a rating between 1 and 10, with 1 being the healthiest and 10 the least nutritional foods.

The Environmental Working Group is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has a regional office in Ames, Iowa.

For more information about the mobile app and a link to the database, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerrry Schnoor.


On the Radio: Fairfield – a sustainable community

Tower of Fairfield - credit: Will Merydith, Flickr

Listen to this week’s radio clip about Fairfield’s green efforts.

What makes for healthy living?

To find out, head over to Fairfield, Iowa where the economy and environment are thriving.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus on sustainable communities.

In 2009, named Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy one of the 15 greenest mayors in the country and it’s not surprising.

In 2008, he formed a committee to write a green strategic plan which included all sectors of the community.

Now, in this small southeastern Iowa town, you’ll find, among other green feats: more solar-powered homes and buildings with green features than anywhere else in the state, a hundred acres of greenhouses powered by wind and solar energy for the year-round production of organic food, a 15-acre Ecovillage where families conserve energy and water and preserve the landscape, and more than one fourth of all food is grown locally.

All the while, Fairfield’s small business driven economy is booming.

So congratulations to Fairfield for trailblazing the way to a greener Iowa.

For more information, visit

I’m Jerry Schnoor, from the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you.

Check out these other resources about Fairfield’s green focus: