Hold the wrapping paper! Most of that gift-wrap is not eco-friendly nor recyclable

It is that time of year again—no matter what holiday you celebrate, or what religion you subscribe to, it is difficult to be unaffected by the enthusiasm of the season of giving and reflection. It is predicted that the average American will spend $942 on holiday gifts this year. It is no secret that as consumerism spreads, landfills also fill up, and the Earth suffers.   According to Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. And most of that holiday wrap is not eco-friendly or recyclable.

A whopping 40% of the world’s industrial logging goes into making paper, and approximately half of our paper use goes to one-time use wrapping and decorating! The reason most of it is one-time use is because the shiny, bright, colorful wrapping paper and gift bags we have all become accustomed to seeing are lined or manufactured with plastic. Recyclers have a difficult time separating the fibers from this paper-plastic composite, and it is doomed for the landfill. The same goes for the shiny bows and stick-on ribbons, and the metallic holiday wrapping, which are manufactured with aluminum or foil or metal particulates. Perhaps most harmful of all, are the wrappings with glitter on them. Glitter is made of many pieces of microplastic, which eventually make their way into our oceans and waterways when washed out from our clothing, hair, dishes, etc. Glitter has the real potential to harm aquatic species, marine mammals, fish, and birds when ingested. 

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

Photo: Becky Luigart Stayner

All hope is not lost. There are certainly ways to reduce, reuse and recycleeven in the season of giving. If you want to give back to our planet this year, one of the best things you can do is to shop consciously and forego all that flashy gift-wrapping, opting instead for more sustainable and eco-friendly gift wrapping methods or options.  

For starters, the best way to reduce consumption is to not consume at all. A great way to honor someone this holiday is by making a donation in their name to their favorite charity, advocacy organization, or animal shelter. Alternatively, purchasing an experience for them such as a gym membership or a massage is a great way to help the local economy without adding more products into the waste stream. Additionally, shopping in a second-hand or thrift shop is a good way to re-use items that other consumers have forgone. 

For gifts that do require some wrapping, here are some sustainable, eco-friendly ways to do so: 

  • Work with what you already have. You can reuse wrapping or bags that have been given to you in the past seasons, or cut up old colorful fabric or clothing to make cloth wrapping.
  • Use tea towels that can be re-used by the recipient.
  • Reuse paper bags or brown bags from the grocery store, and dress the package up with a piece of recycled twine, and a sprig of rosemary, cinnamon, or pine, for a rustic look. Alternatively, brown or single-color craft paper also works, and it is easier to recycle. 
  • Reuse cookie tins or glass jars, and dress them up with a piece of twine and a flower. 
  • Shop for recycled holiday cards.
  • Shop for wrapping paper or bags that are straight paper products that do not have that thick, plastic sheen, metallic dressings, or glitter on them.   
  • Shop for biodegradable gift wrap.

Thank you for taking care of the environment while showing your love to your family and friends.

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