Campus Goes 'Green' For The Holidays

Latest `Green Devil Challenge' encouraged sustainable action over the holidays

Duke community members helped create a more sustainable holiday season by making pledges to keep the environment and sustainability in mind during the holiday season.

About 600 Duke community members took the November/December Green Devil Challenge, which encouraged them to rethink their wishlist, give meaningful gifts and minimize waste. The Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans generate 5 million extra tons of waste annually between November and December.

"With all the excitement that can happen between Thanksgiving and New Year's, it's easier to lose focus on all the small things we can do to keep our holidays more environmentally-friendly," said Casey Roe, outreach coordinator for Sustainable Duke. "Most Americans believe the holidays should be more about family and caring for others - not giving and receiving gifts - which offer thoughtful ways to stay sustainable."

As part of the Challenge, students, faculty and staff made commitments to make donations to charities, volunteer time to help others and donate or regift items they didn't want. Participants were also encouraged to review information on ways to simplify the holidays with tips on how to relieve holiday stress, set a budget, create gifts and make a holiday more meaningful.

Duke community members who took part in the Green Devil Challenge were also entered into a raffle for sustainable prizes. Kyle Mansfield, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was randomly selected from entrants to receive a prize of a reusable shopping bag filled with an aluminum water bottles and a set of fabric gift bags to reduce paper waste next holiday season. A donation was also made in his name to Heifer International, which provides a family with training in bee keeping and plus a box and hive of bees.

Mansfield said the Challenge fit in well with behaviors from past holiday seasons, when he and his wife, Joan, would reuse leftovers from gift baskets to make new gifts for others.

"We've done it in the past with candles and other little things, so we thought we'd do it again this year with extra fruit, crackers and cookies we received," Mansfield said. "We usually get a lot of gift baskets, so we feel guilty just throwing our unused items away when there's other people who would gladly enjoy them."

Students, faculty and staff can currently sign up to take the January Green Devil Challenge, which asks Duke community members to share their own sustainability beliefs and consider participating in Duke's new "I Believe" series. More than 60 responses have already been logged at Duke's sustainability website.