Reduce Holiday Gift Waste
Dec 17, 2013

The holiday season is already upon us and if you’re someone as busy as I am, you might not have gotten around to wrapping any presents yet. But don’t despair. It might actually be a good thing! You see, wrapping paper and shopping bags contribute about 4 million tons of waste to landfills each year. This is especially troubling since wrapping paper is seldom used more than once. But don’t despair! We’ve uncovered some unique ways to conceal your gifts beautifully, while reducing or eliminating this excessive and unnecessary waste.

9 easy tips to keep your gift-giving as green as possible

Tip #1: Re-usable Shopping Bags

Don’t forget to take your re-usable shopping bags with you to the store. Decline bags at the checkout counter. Some stores will simply place a sticker on the box, indicating that the item has been purchased. Use blankets to hide your gifts in when they’re in the car.

Tip #2: Use Fabric Instead of Wrapping Paper

One of my least favorite activities after unwrapping presents has always been cleaning up all the scraps of wrapping paper left behind. Well, you can eliminate this chore by using fabric to wrap gifts instead. Fabric is beautiful, durable and best of all – reusable. Choose fabric made from recycled materials. Your local fabric store or thrift store are both great places to look. Simply wrap the fabric around your gifts and tie them with a pretty string or ribbon (which you can also re-use!) You won’t have to struggle with trying to measure, or cut and fold flimsy wrapping paper. You won’t have to mess around with masking tape. Your recipients will complement and appreciate your unique and beautiful choice of gift wrap!

Tip #3: Send Fewer Greeting Cards

How many greeting cards are sold every year in the U.S.? About 2.6 billion! And what happens to most of them? Yep. They maybe get displayed for a couple of weeks and then are just thrown away. Lots of cards can’t be recycled. For a waste-free option, send electronic holiday greeting cards instead. There are a lot of no-cost online options to choose from. But, if you absolutely MUST send a paper greeting card, be sure it’s made of recycled materials from a sustainable source and is at least recyclable itself.

Tip #4: Use Re-usable Gift Bags

Re-usable paper gift bags are great. They’re durable enough to last for many years. Be sure to save and reuse any tissue paper, too. Some of the reusable gift bags in my own home have been re-used for over ten years already. Again, always look for bags made from sustainable materials.

Tip #5: Give the Gift of Rechargeable Batteries

Lots of gifts require batteries, especially gifts for children. Try and include rechargeable batteries and battery chargers as gifts. Batteries that are discarded usually end up in landfills. Over time, they leak chemicals which become part of landfill leachate, the toxic chemical soup that eventually accumulates and leaks through the landfill liner. The leachate has the potential to contaminate groundwater sources. Rechargeable batteries can reduce the amount of harmful materials sent to landfills. Learn where to recycle used batteries near you.

Tip #6: Recycle Your Old Electronics

Chances are you’re going to give or receive a new piece of electronics that might replace an older model. What are you going to do with your old television, computer, smartphone or video game console? Whatever you do, make sure you avoid sending it to the landfill. If the used device can be sold and used by someone else, that’s certainly the best option. Recycling is the next best thing to do if it’s truly useless. However, electronic waste is becoming so prevalent that recycling efforts aren’t always sufficient to handle the massive e-waste stream.  Visit the National Center for Electronics Recycling.

Tip #7: Choose Gifts That Use Responsible Packaging

Allow me to rant for a moment… Any parent knows that if their local bank was secured half as well as the packaging used in a lot of children’s toys, there would be far fewer robberies. Why does it take a box cutter, a small Philips-head screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters just to get the darn toy fire truck out of its box? Oh, and the box is made of a combination of glossy cardboard and plastic, much of which can’t be recycled or reused. There are metal screws and wires securing the toy to the box, and thick packaging tape keeping it closed. To free the toy from its packaging, the package itself must be mutilated. Sadly, a lot of stuff comes packaged like this. Look for options that require as little packaging as is necessary. And if it is packaged, be sure it can be reused or at least recycled.

Tip #8: Shipping

If you’re an online shopper, try and arrange to have all your gift items shipped as a single shipment, if possible. Along with all those incoming shipments, chances are you’ll get a fair share of those nasty plastic/Styrofoam packing peanuts, as well. Check to see if they are accepted by your local shipping stores for reuse, or offer them free on Craigslist or You could even bid them away on ebay!  You can also visit the Plastic Loose Fill Council website and contact the Peanut Hotline, America’s most successful packaging reuse program.

Tip #9: Other Gift Wrap Options

Did you know most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable? With so many other options to wrap presents, buying rolls and reams of paper gift-wrap should be an absolute last resort. But if you absolutely must use paper gift-wrap, make sure it’s at least made from recycled materials and can be reused or recycled. Try and save the paper used to wrap larger presents if you can. Keep in mind that old newspapers, paper bags, maps and calendars can also be used as gift-wrap, too.

Do you have any other thoughts or ideas about reducing or eliminating holiday gift waste? Let us know! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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