green tips wrapping gifts

It’s crunch time!  The countdown to get all of those presents wrapped, ribboned and ready to be placed under the tree has begun!  As you prepare to whip out that wrapping paper, consider these stats:

  • From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!
  • Much of the wrapping paper can’t be recycled at all due to dye, laminate, or non-paper additives (i.e. foil) it contains.
  • If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
  • If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Now I’m not suggesting you do away with wrapping gifts – my kids would be so disappointed – but I am suggesting you take a moment to think before you wrap!

Wrap Right

If you’re like me you have a stash of holiday wrapping paper left over from last year.  Ideally all of the paper would be made from recycled paper but chances are you don’t have a clue about whether it is or not.  That’s okay use it anyway!  (We’ll get to what to do with it after all the gifts have been torn open in a minute!)

If your stash is running low or you are totally out, look for wrapping paper made only from recycled paper. And no, that doesn’t mean that all of your presents will be wrapped in brown paper wrapping!  On a recent trip to the Container Store I saw lots of really cute recycled wrapping paper so there are cute, festive options out there.

Another great place to get eco-friendly wrapping paper (for all occasions not just the holidays!) is Wrappily.  Their paper is 100% recyclable, compostable, and printed with soy-based inks.  And because it’s printed on newsprint it can be recycled up to 7 times!  Looks like they are having a sale on holiday paper right now – time to stock up for next year!!

Ribbon Right

Unfortunately I have some bad news about that curling ribbon that’s so fun to use and you have a ton of – it’s made of plastic and is un-recyclable (it can jam the recycling machinery)!  🙁

However, if you have a ton of that curling ribbon I say use it instead of just trashing it.  It’s going to end up in a landfill anyway so you might as well use it, right?  And, it’s pretty durable so save it for reuse later on!

There are recyclable ribbon options that look just as festive.  Paper raffia ribbon is 100% recyclable and reusable.  I found this paper raffia ribbon on Amazon and another great option on Wrappily.  If you are into something a little fancier I found this easy tutorial on YouTube for making bows out of paper raffia ribbon.

If traditional bows are more your thing, I have some more bad news… they aren’t recyclable either.  However, just like the curling ribbon you can reuse the heck out of those things!  Just throw another piece of tape on the back and stick it on the gift! Voila!

If you’re crafty (and have a little free time – ha!) you can actually make your own bows out of any type of paper you want – festive scrap book paper, a magazine, construction paper scraps, etc.  That would cover all three R’s – reducing waste by reusing paper that can be recycled if you don’t reuse them – but why wouldn’t you reuse them, especially after you put all that hard work into making them!  Here’s an easy to follow YouTube How-To video.

Clean Up!

If you have a family full of kids they are likely to create quite a mess Christmas morning with wrapping paper, ribbons and packaging all over the floor.  Once the unwrapping frenzy has subsided – or while it’s still in full swing – start sorting!

We (okay, me the recycling police!) like to set up some bags in advance to sort all of the wrapping and gift debris into as we go – or at least after we take the annual shot of the kids sitting among the enormous piles of paper!  You are probably good with a bag for paper, a bag for trash (aka landfill) and a bag for reusable paper (yes, you can reuse wrapping paper!), ribbons and bows.

You are probably also going to have some packaging trash from gifts as well.  I could write (and maybe I will!) an entire post about sorting and recycling packaging so all I will say here is do your best to pull apart packaging into pieces that can be sorted and recycled!

As a general rule (and according to my local solid waste contact), wrapping paper can be recycled unless it is foil- or plastic-coated.  This is also true for gift bags but those seem to be plastic-coated more often than not.  Tissue paper can also be recycled – if you choose not to reuse it.  And, as mentioned before, curling ribbon and bows can’t be recycled.  So, throw those into your reuse bag for next year!

Here’s to happy wrapping and happy holidays!




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