To be sure, the holidays are a time to fret about overindulging and overspending. But…
The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year…or so we are told. What songwriters don’t mention, however, is that the holidays are also some of the most stressful, expensive and exhausting times of the year.
They don’t have to be that way, says Bob Brinkmann, dean of the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who is the author of “Practical Sustainability: A Guide to a More Sustainable Life,” who is presenting a holiday-themed 30-Day Sustainability Challenge via YouTube.
“This is the time of year when we all go crazy being unsustainable – too much eating, too much shopping and all of that. So, I am going to try to help people develop a sustainability mindset to help guide them through the holidays,” Brinkmann says. “I hope to show people how to focus more on fun and family.”
Among the topics Brinkmann’s challenge will address:
- Managing gift purchases
- Making holiday travel greener
- Incorporating sustainability into party planning and holiday meals
- Managing stress and maintaining your health through the holidays
No single change will have a huge impact, Brinkmann acknowledges, but cumulatively they can make a difference. “I am a big believer in the notion that if you change yourself, you change the world,” he says.
Brinkmann became interested in sustainability early in his career as a professional geologist traveling the world looking for promising areas to find diamonds and other materials. He saw that no matter where he went mankind had dramatically impacted the land. “I realized that we were changing the earth so much that we were ruining it,” he says.
This troubled Brinkmann, who grew up in rural Wisconsin as part of a family who lived a sustainable lifestyle long before anyone came up with that label. “We grew a lot of our own food; we hunted and foraged; we even built our own house,” Brinkmann says. As he contemplated how far most people’s lives had moved away from that lifestyle – and the resulting harm to the environment – he pursued a new career, studying and teaching about sustainability.
He eventually rose to the position of Professor of Sustainability at Hofstra University but became frustrated that the public-at-large had little access to information on the topic. Out of that frustration was born his blog, “On the Brink,” which has become one of the most popular sustainability blogs on the internet. He uses the blog to write about a wide range of topics related to sustainability, and it was there that he eventually launched his 30-day challenges.
Previous challenges have focused on the topic of sustainability in general, with segments devoted to topics such as reducing energy consumption, calculating your greenhouse emissions and reducing your individual impact on local water systems. This is the first time the challenge has revolved around a theme.
“I created this challenge because so many of us get stuck in the expectations of the holidays,” Brinkmann says. “I thought it would be useful to help people reframe the holidays in a way that makes sense for their sustainability goals.”
Media Contact: Joe King
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.