Have a Less Wasteful Holiday
From greeting cards to wrapping paper, we offer tips to recycle and re-use them
During the holidays, the amount of trash Americans throw away snowballs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we toss out 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve than during the rest of the year. Given that gift bags, wrapping paper and greeting cards are likely responsible for a major portion of the pile-up, you may want to do all you can to be less wasteful.
Wrap smarter. Start by looking for paper that can be recycled. Not all gift wrap falls into this category; most has synthetic components. The CDC recommends using alternatives to wrapping paper and boxes, such as scarves, newspaper, old maps, sheet music or tin cans. If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields, says the CDC.
Save wrapping paper. When you receive a gift, unwrap it carefully and try to keep the paper in one piece. Without crumpling it up, set it aside. But first, "check to be sure no important parts of your gift are still in the paper," advises John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL. "Also, be sure not to throw away instruction books or safety information with the wrapping paper." Don't worry about wrinkles or folds in used wrapping paper. If they bother you, you can smooth them out with an iron on a low setting and a piece of fabric. Learn how at Care2.
Repurpose gift wrap. Here are two ways to use wrapping paper you've saved.
- Make bows. All you need is a paper cutter, glue dots and wrapping paper scraps. Cut paper into 9 3/4" strips and connect the ends with the glue dots. You can find detailed instructions at My Scrappy Life.
- Shred it to use as packing material. Shred leftover gift wrap and use it to pack fragile ornaments and holiday decorations, suggests Martha Stewart.
Can the cards. An estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States. That's enough to fill a football field 10 stories high, says the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecyle). Instead of mailing paper cards, send electronic greetings to friends and family. If you really prefer cards, look for ones made from recycled materials (see back of card for the symbol) and printed with non-toxic inks, says the CDC.
Get crafty with cards. As for the cards you receive in the mail, you certainly can put them in your recycling bin. Better yet, donate them to a nursery or daycare center for craft projects, suggests CalRecycle. You also can cut them up to make them gift tags, suggests the CDC. This template will make it easy.
Save packing materials. Did your online orders come nestled in packing peanuts? Save them for future mailings or search The Plastic Loose Fill Council's site for a place to drop them off nearby.
Related: Plastics: Can I Recycle That?
Got gift bags? Stuff them again when a family member or friend's birthday comes up. If bags pile up, see if a school, church or thrift store will take them: They can come in handy for donations or gifts, says Buzzle.
Say no ribbons. If every family reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency suggests trying the Furoshiki wrapping method instead. Instead of paper, you use eco-friendly cloth, wrapping it around the gift so you end up with enough fabric to tie into a bow. Learn some creative ways to wrap with cloth here.
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