IU Health & Vitality: Sustainable gifts and holiday practices

Nov. 22, 2013


The November issue of IU Health & Vitality has a holiday theme, with expert tips for incorporating sustainability into holiday practices and staying energized:

The 2013 holiday gift guide: Think 'triple bottom line'
The most precious gift: A sustainable future
A nutrition strategy to avoid that sluggish feeling over the holidays

Gift guide with a triple bottom line: Socially responsible, environmentally sound, economically smart
Krista Bailey

Krista Bailey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As the holidays approach, sustainability experts at Indiana University South Bend encourage shoppers to "extend the spirit of generosity across the 'triple bottom line.'"

"Oftentimes when we give, we take away valuable gifts from the environment, from people and from our local economies," said Krista Bailey, assistant director of the Center for a Sustainable Future at IU South Bend. "During this season of giving, let's gift ourselves and others a sustainable future. This season, instead of giving by taking, give and be socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically smart."

Conserve resources and give the world

Instead of buying some thing for a gift, invest in an excursion or experience. Possibilities include passes or memberships to museums, parks, zoos, aquariums, gyms, pools, rec centers, climbing gyms, spas, hot springs or campgrounds; or entries in running or bike races. Don't forget season tickets to the civic theater.

"These fun experiences keep your loved ones active, healthy and thinking of you with each experience they have throughout the year," Bailey said. "In addition, these activities connect them to where they live so they can explore, learn and discover their community."

Give the gift of giving to others

A donation in a loved one's name is often accompanied by a card or picture that explains the gift made for them. Bailey and Mike Keen, director of the center, suggest considering what has had an impact on or touched the lives of friends or family, and then giving so that others may receive. After making a donation, contact the agency to see about a group volunteer opportunity to make the donation more concrete and double its impact, and to extend the time you get to spend with friends and family building memories and making an impact.

"If you feel you must offer an item, consider fair trade items and extend the joy," Keen said. "These companies support workers at home and abroad, and allow you to provide the gift of giving others a meaningful and valuable job in a safe and secure environment."

Or, give of your own talents.

"Give a handmade or homegrown gift like a recipe book, baked goods, homemade meals, or homemade jams or pickles, or give your talents to teach or coach," Keen said.

Invest in a better world

"Select locally crafted items from locally run shops and bazaars featuring local artists and crafters and know that your locally spent dollar will continue supporting the local economy," Bailey said. "Invest in College Choice 529 Savings Plans to help a young friend or relative build a better future. Have fun exploring local wineries or bakeries or farm markets so you can assemble custom gift basket of beverages, baked goods, soaps, candles, handcrafted ornaments or honey for a taste of your region and to support small business and a thriving local marketplace."

Bailey and Keen said finding or creating gifts that will add joy to celebrations while being socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically smart will create lasting memories and a meaningful impact on the lives of loved ones and on the planet.

Suggestions from the IU Bloomington Office of Sustainability

  • Something that grows. Purchase gifts such as trees, house plants or bulbs that will keep growing and giving over time. Bonus: Buy these from local shops
  • Shop local. Buying from local artisans and local businesses supports our community. Get gifts that are handmade. Buy gift certificates from local businesses such as massage therapists, restaurants or book stores.
  • Give memberships. A community sustainable agriculture membership is a great gift that provides seasonal vegetables each week.
  • Lessen your burden. Buy rain barrels or compost bins to encourage sustainable behaviors and reduce the amount we waste.

Suggestions from the Student Sustainability Council at IUPUI

  • Hydration. Aluminum water bottle; try Liberty Bottles, with 100 percent recycled aluminum.
  • Sweet! Stuff stockings with Endangered Species Chocolate; 10 percent of net profits go to support species habitat.
  • Food. Membership to a local food co-op or Green Bean Delivery for a regular supply of local organic vegetables.
  • Comfortable commute. Anything that helps your bicycle-riding friends endure these long winters. Under-helmet ear-warmers, face masks, riding pants, shoe covers, etc., would be greatly appreciated.
  • Comfort at home. Cozy slippers, robes, blankets and anything that will help friends turn down the thermostat, saving them money and keeping harmful pollutants out of the atmosphere.

Bailey can be reached at 574-520-4429 or kob@iusb.edu. Top

The most precious gift: A sustainable future

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Mike Keen and Krista Bailey, director and assistant director of the Center for a Sustainable Future at Indiana University South Bend, said it is possible to enjoy the holiday festivities without all the frenzy.  They offer 12 tips for sustainability-themed holiday practices that can make the season more meaningful and fulfilling while helping the planet, as well.

  • Reduce your carbon footprint by giving the taste of local flavor in the form of unique foods, beverages, arts and crafts that are locally produced, not shipped from across the country or halfway around the world.
  • Reuse your holiday ornaments and decorations by choosing them thoughtfully or making them carefully so they become old friends to be brought out and cherished year after year and passed down from one generation to the next.
  • Recycle any materials you cannot reuse when the holiday is over.
  • Rethink what the holidays are all about.
  • Resist all the hype and advertising telling you that the only way to have a happy holiday is to purchase it through the latest gadget or fad.
  • Reignite your creativity by giving a unique gift that only you can give: something you made yourself, or a special promise in the form of a customized gift certificate redeemable for a priceless bit of your undivided time and attention for an experience only you can provide.
  • Reconnect to your cultural heritage by spending an evening recollecting the stories and celebrating the richness of the cultural traditions you grew up with, such as Kwanzaa, Christmas or Hanukkah.
  • Re-energize the holiday by creating your own new traditions and memories to share with family and friends and pass on from one generation to the next.
  • Reaffirm yours, and your friends' and family’s, commitment to and connection with the well-being of others by giving the gift of philanthropy in the form of a donation to a local, national or international charity in their honor.
  • Restore your faith in the common good of humanity by joining family and friends in volunteering for a local charity or service project.
  • Rekindle the joy and wonder you felt as a child anticipating the holidays by planning excursions and gatherings with friends and family of all ages to give you that sense of eager anticipation of the coming celebration.
  • Rejoice in the spirit of the season and the contributions you have made to a sustainable future.

For more ideas, visit the Center for a Sustainable Future’s website or join conversations on Facebook.

Oh, and Keen recommends rethinking the stigma against regifting. Regifting, he says, is sustainability in action.

Keen can be reached at 574-520-4185 or mkeen@iusb.eduTop

Nutritional strategies for energy this holiday season

INDIANAPOLIS -- Many people feel sluggish during the holiday season. Workouts often take a backseat to holiday events, planning and shopping. Because it gets darker earlier, motivation to accomplish exercise goals in the evening can take a hit.

"The lack of exercise contributes to a sluggish feeling, which can lead to the urge to eat unhealthy foods," said Kara Egan, clinical assistant professor in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "Unfortunately, these sugar- and fat-laden foods seem to be everywhere: in the office, arriving in the mail, at holiday socials."

These fatty foods may create a sense of comfort. Unlike a balanced meal, comfort foods are likely to cause tiredness and lower energy levels later on.

"Paying attention to how food consumed correlates to how your body feels is great motivation to make healthy choices," Egan said.

Everyday healthy eating at home:

  • Eat breakfast if you are hungry. Entrees can include scrambled eggs loaded with fresh veggies, frozen fruit smoothies with milk and spinach or kale, or whole-grain cereal with fruit, nuts and milk.
  • Eat clean, vegetarian until dinner. Five or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables with breakfast and lunch along with some whole grains or eggs for breakfast will give you some room to eat unhealthier during evening events. If you follow those two steps, "Nearly any choice at evening socials, as long as it is portion controlled, will fit into a balanced diet," Egan said.
  • Control your portions. "Put all of the food you plan to consume on your plate and take a look. When you want to go back for more, think back to the amount of food you just ate," Egan said.
  • Eat only when you are hungry. "Wake up full from a big dinner the night before? Don’t eat breakfast right away just because it’s breakfast time; pack a light morning snack and eat when you get hungry,” Egan said.

"It is not too difficult for many Americans to consume 1,000 to 2,500 calories above their typical intake on Thanksgiving Day. These extra calories can be balanced by consuming 500 fewer calories both two days before and two days after Thanksgiving, or 250 calories each of the four days while adding a two-mile walk each day."Kara Egan, School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at IUPUI

During travels:

  • Taking a road trip? "Planning ahead and preparing for a trip can help save your wallet and your waist line,” Egan said. She suggests packing snacks that include whole grains, nuts and fruits, such as homemade granola bars, and 100 percent juices. "Plan restaurants along your route, and look at the nutritional information, and make nutritious, balanced choices before you enter the restaurant."
  • Be selective of hotel fare. If eating breakfast at a hotel, avoid the sugary versions of oatmeals and cereals and stick to low-sugar options. Likewise, avoid heavy calorie-laden options such as bagels, breads, pastries and fatty meats.
  • Ask about the food prep. "When eating out, avoid cream- or cheese-based soups and sauces, ask for vegetables steamed, not sautéed, and request that bread or toast, potatoes and vegetables not have butter added," Egan said.
  • Pitch in. If staying with family members, offer to make some meals, pairing salads with many dinner entrees, and avoiding eating multiple foods within one group, such as two carbohydrates, like bread and pasta, or two proteins, like steak and chicken; and try to eat a little bit of every food group. "If you must have both, make sure to take appropriate portion sizes of each," Egan said.

Holiday parties:

  • Keep track of foods consumed around the holiday. "It is not too difficult for many Americans to consume 1,000 to 2,500 calories above their typical intake on Thanksgiving Day. These extra calories can be balanced by consuming 500 fewer calories both two days before and two days after Thanksgiving, or 250 calories each of the four days while adding a two-mile walk each day," Egan said.
  • Skimping can be good. Take steps during food preparation to make holiday dishes healthier. Egan said that taking out about a third of sugar in traditional desserts will help and "you won't notice it missing."
  • Nibble, nibble. Limit rich desserts to just three bites. This might help to balance the caloric intake of sweets at parties, where it can be challenging to try just one treat.
  • Don’t overeat. "Slow down. Way down. Eating slowly can help you realize when you are full and ensure you stop eating before you become uncomfortably stuffed," Egan said.

Egan does not suggest making substitutions in every holiday recipe in an effort to make meals healthier. "Low-fat products often replace the fat with added sugar, resulting in only a slim calorie reduction. Artificial sweeteners just don’t taste as good; even if you don’t mind them, chances are your guests might." After all, "It is a celebration; you want to enjoy the food. Enjoy your food the way you like it, just eat less," Egan said. 

Egan can be reached at 317-274-0175 or karaegan@iupui.edu. Top

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