Christmas Week: Using the Greenest Wrapping

We generate 25 percent more trash during the holidays, and a large part of that can be attributed to the gifts we buy and ostentatiously wrap up before giving them away. Once given, you know how it usually goes: there’s the “Oh, what could it be?” stage followed by a moment of admiration and then the paper is shredded and the gift uncovered, the pretty paper that adorned the gift now a mangled afterthought, to be (hopefully) recycled or (probably) thrown away. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Going with non-disposable wrapping is the greenest way to go. By cutting wrapping paper out of the equation all together, you don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s recycled, or recyclable, because the answer is automatically (and emphatically) “Yes!” For example, if it’s a small kitchen gift, wrap it up in a kitchen towel that your giftee can use every day for years to come; for a larger gift, a reusable canvas bag, for groceries and the like, is a great way to wrap with function in mind. And, with people like Anya Hindmarch [] creating designer bags that equally consider fashion and the environment, it’s a social statement instead of an ugly afterthought.

If reusable items and bags are not an option, using recycled paper (like the Sunday comics, even), or a tree-friendly paper alternative like hemp and flax [], is a good way to go. If it’s recycled, it’s already been through a produce lifecycle and the waste stream once, making its footprint much lighter than it would be if virgin materials were at the top of the list. In many cases, these recycled papers are also further recyclable, once you’re done with them; lots of wrapping paper, though made from paper, is sadly not recyclable. Generally, if it’s shiny or sparkly, it can’t be recycled — all that glitters is not gold, you know — so stay away from the really eye-catching stuff if you want your wrapping to be green.

Every year, 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold in the United States. If you’re buying, choose cards made from recycled paper and avoid the shiny non-recyclable kind. Sending e-cards is a good alternative, if you aren’t absolutely wedded to tradition, and be sure to recycle those non-shiny cards you get.

For more on this, check in with this designer option [], peruse the many offerings of Pap Organics [] and find any color in the rainbow [] if you still need some. The Green Guide [] has a thorough treatment of the subject as well. Happy wrapping!