Green Holiday Tip #8: Think Outside the Box

The Environmental Center

My husbands grandparents have a Christmas tradition that I discovered the first one I spent with them.  Upon tearing into the wrapping paper of my present it was like the music stopped and everyone looked at me.  What no one told me was that they have been reusing wrapping paper for years, some of it pretty vintage at this point, and I needed to wait for my turn to open the gift carefully with a knife so as not to rip the paper that would be used again next year.  It’s a tradition that is funny and quirky but also has roots in the depression era mindset about being resourceful and not wasteful.

Considering these figures I gleaned from the Rubbish Renewed Eco Fashion Show website, it might be wise to take some tips from the elders around the holidays.  “From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons – it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (EPA and Use Less Stuff).  In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. (Use Less Stuff).”

So unless you share a similar tradition of hoarding vintage wrapping paper, here’s some ideas to enjoy the gift giving exchange while keeping the earth in mind.

Alternative Gift Wrapping Ideas

How you wrap the gift can be just as fun as giving it.  Here are some ideas gleaned from the web:

  • Reusable Gift Bags – these can be holiday themed, cheap, and will last many years.  Our family has fun adding names year after year to the gift tags that come on most bags.  I’ve also received gifts inside of cute reusable shopping bags so they served as both gift bag and gift!
  • Metal Tins – Any thrift store has a bunch of cookie tins that are already holiday themed around this time of year.  If those are a bit too kitschy the extra crafty DIY person can spray paint the cans and then again spray paint snowflake stencils.
  • Funky Paper – Maps, newsprint, sewing patterns, sheet music, vintage ledger paper all look cool, especially when adorned with some additional funky garnish.
  • Ribbons and Bows – These don’t even have to be intentionally reusable to be reused.
  • Funky Garnish – Snowflakes stamped on paper bags, berries and pine needles tucked into ribbon, threaded buttons wrapped around a package, small paper snowflakes, garlands of punched paint samples, bows made from vintage maps…time to get crafty.
  • Fabric – bags, t-shirts, scraps, bows, etc!


Set up a Zero Waste Station Before the Unwrapping Frenzy

Yes, most wrapping paper is recyclable, but in all the hubbub of Christmas morning or that staff white elephant party, oftentimes everything gets put in a big black garbage bag that winds up in the landfill.  Avoid all that waste with just a few minutes of preparation.

  • Reusables – For those reusables that the gift recipient isn’t planning to keep, like ribbons, gift bags, tissue paper, and gift boxes, be sure to have a spot so those don’t get tossed with the trash.  A simple cardboard box or plastic tub work great for this.
  • Recyclables – Clear bags or any kind of open container works best here.  A big black garbage bag is probably the worst thing to use as we associate that with garbage you can’t see what winds up in there.  Really use whatever you have so long as everyone knows what goes in there – paper wrapping paper, paperboard and cardboard you won’t be reusing.
  • Garbage – This is where the black garbage bag fits in.  Common things that go in here would be tissue paper that’s not going to be reused, plastic blister packaging, plastic disposable ribbons and bows that won’t be reused, foil wrapping and plastic film wrap.


What do you do to have a zero-waste holiday?


No Comments

  1. Linda on December 19, 2018 at 7:32 am

    I had no idea tissue paper isn’t recyclable! Thanks for that tip!

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