Have you ever considered the environmental impact of all that wrapping paper and ribbon? Ever thought about its impact on your carbon footprint?
Think about when you were little, and ripping open gift after gift left a sea of shiny laminated paper all around you. Even for those of us celebrating Hanukkah, it can get a bit crazy. At least when I was little, Hanukkah was a BIG deal. Three kids x eight nights = a heck of a lot of paper waste.
The exact amount of paper we use is relative, depending on gift and family size, but according to an article on the guardian.co.uk, the UK alone consumes 8,000 tons of wrapping paper a year. That’s the equivalent of 50,000 trees. To convert that into U.S. consumption, we can probably multiple that by five, given that the U.S. population is five times larger than that of the UK.
Really, people? Our use of wrapping paper – a completely unnecessary, purely aesthetic waste of paper – equates to the loss of 100,000 trees every year – trees that would be better left to absorb carbon dioxide and offset our carbon footprints.
Am I the only one that thinks this waste is crazy?
Even worse, holiday wrapping paper is not considered a recyclable good. Most papers are dyed and laminated, and the extra-special ones are often glittered and bedazzled. Almost no opportunity for environmental redemption there.
So this year, if you want to make your winter holiday a little greener, start shrinking your carbon footprint by reducing, maybe even eliminating, wrapping paper. Here are some great alternatives:
- Alternative Wrapping Options – Reuse newspaper comics, ad inserts, mail-order catalogues, colorful ads or pictures from any magazine. If you have a young girl, reuse one of her old Tiger Beat magazines. I guarantee she’d rather have her gift wrapped in Justin Bieber than Frosty the Snowman.
- Reusable Gift Boxes and Bags – Try using reusable gift boxes and bags, or tap into your inner child and decorate an old shoebox. A glue stick, some macaroni shaped to spell MERRY CHRISTMAS, a little glitter and you’ve got yourself a kitschy box perfect for any friend with a sense of humor. According to the Stanford Recycling Program, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
- Bow Alternatives – As for those big bushy bows with a useful life of about 10 minutes, try going for a festive natural product like an acorn, or a sprig of holly or evergreen. Or at least save and reuse the bows.
- Reuse Ribbon – Roll it up and save it for the next birthday or holiday – just like our grandparents and great-grandparents did (my grandmother very delicately opened and saved the wrapping paper, too). According to the Stanford Recycling Program, if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
Two great sites with more suggestions: Use-Less-Stuff.com – 42 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Wasteline, and Stanford Recycling – Holiday Waste Prevention. If you do end up with a sea of paper strewn across your floor after the gift-opening flurry, don’t ball up the waste and toss it into your fireplace. Papers and ribbons are laden with all sorts of chemicals that may release toxins into your home environment.
Happy Greener Holidays, New Year’s and Valentine’s Days!
Be sure to read these other Green Blizzard articles that you might enjoy reading. Carbon Impact of Meats, Aquaculture:Causing Carbon Ripples, Going Green Never Tasted So Good, The Dirty Dozen , Are Biodegradable Utensils and Plates a Good Environmental Buy, The Coolest Kid at the Lunch Table, or Green Cleaning Products.