Eco Tip: This Year, Try to Give Minus the Wrapping

Marsha Low, Weavers Way Environment Committee

It’s December, and that means holiday cheer. Whether it be Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, Americans like to celebrate with gift giving. With that comes gift wrap, which includes wrapping paper, tissue paper, and gift bags—most of which is not recycled, or can’t be, and ends up in landfills. Approximately 4.6 million lbs of wrapping paper is produced annually in the United States, and about half of it ends up in landfills.

A lot of the paper you think might be recyclable isn’t, because it’s lined with plastic. Paper with glitter is particularly harmful for the environment and wildlife, because glitter is made from small particles of plastic that ultimately end up in the oceans, harming marine animals that ingest these small specks. Over time, the buildup of these specks in the animal can be fatal.

Even paper without plastic is not an ideal item to recycle, because it’s thin and often full of ink, which makes it difficult to extract fibers from it during recycling. This creates extra sludge when the paper is processed.

Giving up gift wrap can be a financial boon as well, because Americans spend over $12 billion dollars on it every year. That’s a lot of money for something that’s designed to be torn off a present and tossed away in less than a minute!

For those of us who just can’t give up the idea of wrapping gifts, consider using brown paper saved from packaging. If you like decorations on your gifts, you can decorate with a sprig or two of rosemary or evergreen, or a stick of cinnamon. And we can all consider giving gifts that aren’t things, but experiences, such as tickets to concerts or plays, spa packages that include massages or facials, or coupons to restaurants. No gift wrapping required, and gifts of experiences are often more enjoyable than physical objects.

Happy (and hopefully giftwrap-free) Holidays!