By Amanda Clement
Christmas morning with my family always begins with the traditional gift exchange. Each package tucked under the tree is labeled, wrapped in shiny paper, sealed with tape, and topped with a bow. Over the course of an hour or so, we take turns gleefully tearing paper and tossing it aside. We’re so wrapped up in the presents and feelings of the season, we don’t usually think about trash we’ve created, but it adds up. The EPA estimates that Americans create 25 percent more waste from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of the year. That amounts to an extra million tons of garbage each week!1
Wrapping paper contributes greatly towards holiday waste. According to a consumer report by Sundale Research, Americans spent $9.6 billion on gift wrap in 2010.2 If you estimate that most rolls of wrapping paper cost between $2 and $10, that’s a lot of paper. Most of it ends up in the landfill and unfortunately, overall, that’s where some (but not all) of it belongs. Plain wrapping paper is fine to re-use or recycle, but shiny or glittery wrap is trash once you’re done with it (the very properties that make it sparkle also make it non-recyclable).
You can start by reusing as much wrapping paper as possible. Each holiday season I hear the same story of my great-grandmother who made everyone unwrap their gifts very carefully so the paper could be used again and again; in my family this is unusual behavior, but now I emulate her and hope to be as thrifty and environmentally sustainable.
By thinking outside of the box and spending a little extra time planning you can find all sorts of wrapping materials you may already have. Here are some ideas to help get you started:
Of course, the most sustainable gift-wrapping option is no gift wrap at all, which may feel strange, but it is an option.
But you will be wrapping gifts this year try to reuse what you have and supplement those materials with items purchased second-hand. This way your gift doesn’t generate new waste. It is also important to remember that plastic bows, tape, and ribbon also cannot be recycled, look for a post on alternative decoration in the next few weeks. With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, we can all reduce our holiday waste this year.
Amanda Clement is serving as an ECO AmeriCorps member at the CVSWMD this year. Amanda is a life-long Vermonter who grew up in Fair Haven, VT. She has a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Castleton University, and enjoys learning new things about the planet every day. When the world allows it, she enjoys travelling and has been to seven countries including New Zealand, Iceland, and Japan. Currently Amanda resides in Barre, and when she’s not serving, spends time hiking the local trails and trying to kill her many plants.
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