How To Cut Back On Holiday Waste And Still Give Beautifully Wrapped Gifts

sustainable holiday tips

It’s no secret that the holidays result in excess waste, but it might surprise you just how much. Between gift wrapping, decor, and other materials purchased for the holidays, it all adds up pretty quick, causing a huge burden on the environment. According to the Center for Disease Control, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas accounts for a 25 percent increase in trash, or 25 million pounds of waste in the form of packaging, paper, bows, and unused gifts sent to landfills. Yikes.

Even more shocking? About 35 percent of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closets. Aside from physical waste, Americans also use a lot more electricity due to holiday lights and decor, as well as produce more air pollutants through frequent car trips for shopping, road trips to visit family, and grocery store runs for hosting dinners.

So how can we reduce our carbon footprint during the season of all things festive? It’s not as difficult as you may think. The CDC estimates that if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Companies like Love Beauty and Planet are taking this advice to heart and offering consumers real solutions to the holiday waste problem. This Sunday, December 8, the eco-conscious personal care brand will transform a New York Times centerspread ad with planet-friendly wrapping paper created in partnership with illustrator Leah Duncan. The idea is to urge gift-givers to rethink their holiday waste this season.

“By transforming the centerspread ad into wrapping paper that readers can reuse, Love Beauty and Planet is giving the paper a second life,” the company said in a statement. “In fact, if every American household upcycled this page as gift wrap instead of buying new gift wrap, we would save enough paper to cover NYC’s Central Park 15 times.”

Love Beauty and Planet
Love Beauty and Planet

If you can’t get your hands on a newspaper this weekend, there are plenty of other ways to be more sustainable during the season of gift giving. DIY wrapping expert Kara Whitten suggests using old cereal boxes to wrap your presents. “Just turn the box inside out so the brown shows and add a few paint brushstrokes for a reusable and eco-friendly wrapping,” she says.

As for bows and tags? “There is no need for fancy wrapping techniques,” Whitten assures us, adding that the key is a little creativity. “Cut out stars or other shapes from old cardboard boxes, glue the printed sides together, decorate each side, and then poke a hole and use them as gift tags.” As an added bonus, this makes for a fun and festive family activity.

But for those overwhelmed by the idea of DIY, Whitten says other items like reusable cotton tote bags work, too, encouraging you to look around the house for things that can be reused before buying anything new. You can also forgo the wrapping altogether and simply top your gifts with fabric ribbons that can be used again and again.

If you do insist on seeing beautifully wrapped presents tucked under the tree, look for wrapping paper made from recycled paper materials or biodegradable wrap made from materials such as bamboo and hemp. Each come in a variety of holiday colors, patterns, and designs, and can be recycled once unwrapped. We like the artsy prints from Wrappily, which are made from uncoated newsprint and soy-based inks, and the traditional look of Paper Source’s wrapping paper made from eco-friendly stone (yes, stone!).

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