The best part of Christmas and Hanukkah, after spending time with loved ones, is giving gifts (and maybe receiving a few).
But did you know that household waste in the U.S. goes up 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — and that much of that is from Christmas cards, gift wrap and wrapping supplies?
There are a few steps you can take to wrap responsibly this year, so you can spread the holiday spirit to your friends and family guilt-free.
When it comes to cards, here are a few tips for reducing waste:
- A lot of companies have begun taking steps to make greener greeting cards, such as using vegetable-based ink, recycled papers, less bleach, and no non-recyclable materials like glitter or foil. Look for cards labeled “eco-friendly,” or even for unlabeled cards that follow those standards. They can be easily recycled.
- Instead of throwing away a Christmas card, cut off the back half and recycle it. Save the front for next year, to use in DIY decor projects, to make your own cards or postcards, to turn into gift tags, or to donate to schools for art projects.
- Look for plantable greeting cards, such as the ones made by Botanical Paperworks.
- If you have friends who wouldn’t mind not receiving a physical Christmas or Hanukkah card, send an ecard.
If you prefer traditionally wrapped gifts:
- Like with cards, avoid metallic or laminated wrapping paper, or gift wrap with caked on glitter or loads of dye. That kind of paper can’t be recycled in most places, and the manufacturing process isn’t as “green.” Plus, these types of paper often have carcinogenic chemicals in them that are released into the air if you burn them in your fireplace.
- Look for unbleached wrapping paper, or gift wrap made from recycled paper.
- Use paper bows or fabric ribbon instead of metallic or plastic types.
- Don’t overdo it with the tape — it has to be removed before the paper can be recycled.
- When possible, save gift wrap to use next year.
- Like with cards, some biodegradable wrapping paper has seeds embedded in it, and can be planted in a flower bed after the gift is unwrapped. This is a great addition to a gift for a gardener. Just make sure they know the paper is for their yard and not the trash!
If you want to get a little creative, here are some ideas for wrapping a gift without buying gift wrap:
- Take brown paper shopping bags or newspaper, and use biodegradable paint and stencils to turn them into handmade gift wrap. If you have children with artistic inclinations, this can be a fun family project on a snow or fog day. On a sunny weekend day, head to the local park to find interesting twigs, leaves, and berries to add to plain packages and dress them up.
- Use scarves, bandannas, shawls, pillowcases or even blankets to wrap a gift — it’s two gifts in one! Fabric is another good wrapping material, especially for someone who loves to sew or craft.
- You can find holiday-themed, reusable gift boxes and bags just about anywhere. Tissue paper can be recycled or saved for future gifts as well.
- For kids, instead of wrapping all of their gifts, hide some of them around the house. Then give the giftees a treasure map or scavenger hunt clues and turn finding them into a game.
- Put gifts into fabric tote bags. Your loved one can use the bags for shopping trips all year, and you can purchase one from your favorite charitable organization. (And one for yourself to use while shopping for last minute presents or holiday snacks.)
Have a merry and eco-friendly Christmas! (And happy Hanukkah, too!)