Natural Times, November/December 2008
By Crystal Wakoa
Gift giving is an integral party of the holiday season. No matter how loud the complaints of shallow materialism, most people cherish the spirit and act of giving gifts to loved ones in celebration of Christmas, Kwanza, and Hanukkah.
But all that giving is hard on the Earth. Our household garbage grows by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As we stuff ourselves at holiday parties, our landfills choke on the millions of tons of additional packaging and pretty paper that becomes trash the moment the presents are opened.
It is entirely possible to wrap presents in creative and Earth-friendly ways. Doing so can make your gifts more special, while simultaneously reducing your environmental footprint. The following are a few ideas to consider for this holiday season.
Wrap your gifts in fabric. Most thrift stores carry some inexpensive cloth, or check the discount bins in fabric stores. You can make gift bags out of the fabric or simply wrap with it as you would paper, tying the gift with a contrasting ribbon, yarn or colored string. The fabric can be stored with your ornaments and reused the following year.
Last year’s calendar, old maps, even the comics section of the newspaper can be reinvented into festive gift wrap.
Save and re-use last year’s wrapping paper—ditto for last year’s tissue paper and store-bought gift bags.
Children’s artwork makes great gift wrap that relatives love.
Newsprint roll-ends are usually picked up for recycling, but the Tallahassee Democrat gives them away. Even a thin roll-end will usually have lots of paper left on the roll for you and your kids to decorate with crayons or felt markers.
A plain, recycled brown or white paper bag makes a simple and lovely gift bag, when tied with jute, raffia or colored ribbon.
Wrap a kitchen gift in a kitchen towel, a bath or toiletries gift in a bathroom towel, or use re-usable tins for home-baked goodies.
If you prefer store-bought holiday paper with traditional designs, purchase hemp wrapping paper on-line.
If you can’t be bothered with any of this, look for traditional wrapping paper with recycled content—avoid the metallic colors.
Applying the “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” principal to holiday gift wrapping not only makes your gift more unique and spares some of the Earth’s resources, it saves you money, too. Happy Holidays!