Santa says: Don’t be naughty, think green and stay on the nice list.
Last week, I shared ideas for environment-friendly gift giving. This week, let’s wrap those green gifts. Research suggests that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we generate 25 percent more trash than usual.
Just like our waistlines benefiting from paying attention to what we put in our mouths during the holidays, our environment will benefit from what we avoid stuffing in our trash bins. That 25 percent more trash is around an extra million tons of waste each week, according to EPA estimates. The Clean Air Council estimates that 4 million tons of this seasonal waste is wrapping paper and shopping bags.
That paper, ribbon, bows, cards and envelopes can add up. If every family reused just 2 feet of ribbon each year, we could take that 38,000 miles of ribbon and tie a holiday bow around the Earth.
The goal is to create a great gift-giving experience while eliminating waste. Most mass-produced wrapping paper is not made from recycled paper, and if it has metal fibers or foil, it can’t be recycled. If you do buy wrapping paper, make sure it’s recycled and recyclable.
Reduce the amount of wrapping, or wrap responsibly. Try to avoid buying plastic coated paper and foils.
There are wrapping alternatives. Some still require paper products, but they may be used multiple times, some for years.
One beautiful and sustainable alternative is to use fabric, which is affordable and reusable for years. Just pick a fabric and make sure to cut a piece large enough to wrap the gift. Fabric-wrapped presents look beautiful.
Consider using newspaper. The obvious choice is the comics, but consider matching the wrap with the interests of the recipient — the sports section for your son’s new football or the travel section for a globetrotting uncle. Give your gift an exotic appeal with foreign newspapers. A movie poster would also be great for movie tickets or DVDs. And grandparents will cherish artwork from your kids.
Consider a T-shirt to wrap an additional gift. Other ideas include hiding small gifts inside socks or using belts, ties or shoelaces as ribbon and bows. A jar or jewelry box could also “wrap” a gift.
You could also try wallpaper scraps or samples, old calendars, scrap paper, brown paper bags or other products that would otherwise be thrown out. The ideas and ways to decorate are endless. Check on Pinterest for more inspiration.
Finish off presents with sprigs of berries or pretty leaves instead of ribbon. Make gift tags from last year’s cards.
Use boxes, bags, baskets and other containers that can be reused for other gifts or other purposes.
What about cards? Christmas cards can be rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a lot of resources for throw-away items. The amount of cards sold in the United States during the holidays would fill a football field 10 stories high and requires the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees. Homemade cards may not be as professional, but they are just as appreciated. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family. Or you can send e-Christmas cards from sites like Blue Mountain. Even the most technologically challenged person can use this site. You can save cash on stamps by doing this, too.
Gift wrap and card ideas are endless. Just remember to keep things eco-friendly and fun! For more information about living green, contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880-4888 or www.keeplibertybeautiful.org.
Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.