It’s a wrap–or not

It’s mid-December, but I can’t wait until Christmas Eve. That’s when the Man and I play Santa (we actually put on hats) and bring all the hidden loot out of the garage and closets, making green, red, and gold mountains under the tree. It’s so magical: the low lights, the contrasting colors, and the excitement and anticipation wrapped up in each package.

A little less exciting, though, is the thought of what happens on December 26: all that festive beauty means a whole lot of paper and plastic heading to the landfill the following week. Here are some tips for minimizing the waste without cramping your holiday style:


Using Santa-emblazoned rolls of paper to wrap your gifts may be traditional, but it’s easy to find unique, innovative substitutes. Teach the kids a lesson in eco-friendliness and let them use Christmas stamps and ink to make colorful patterns on paper bags from the grocery store. They’ll feel proud to be able to say they made the wrapping paper themselves (but might get a little fussy if someone tries to rip the package open too fast!).

Packing presents in a cute, reusable grocery bag and tying it with a bow is double the gift–and it’s planet-friendly, too. Patterned scarves and festive tea towels make pretty, fun wrappers. You can get really creative: an inexpensive coin purse holds games, electronics, or jewelry, and kitchen utensils can be wrapped in an apron and tied with a bright red ribbon.

For large gifts, don’t roll out reams of wrap: instead, do a treasure hunt that leads kids to the new dollhouse or skateboard. Even teens will get into the spirit for this one.

Creative juices aren’t flowing–or you’re short on time? Do what you can. A little goes a long way, as the Sierra Club points out: if every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. 


Attempting to salvage old wrapping paper by ironing it flat is an exercise in frustration (not to mention a fire hazard!). However, it’s easy to find creative ways to reuse paper and wrapping you already have around the house. There’s no shame in reusing gift bags you received from others; just be sure not to write on the tag, so that your recipient can reuse them, too.

Out of bags? Consider turning the comics page of the Sunday newspaper–or the ads and catalogs you got in the mail– into a colorful and clever patterned wrapping paper. Magazines and kids’ artwork from the school year are also great picks. Kids love these!

If you want to be really innovative, look around the house: for example, baby food containers hold smaller gifts (and are super-cute with a festive bow and label).


If you’ve been ahead of the curve this Christmas and have finished wrapping, don’t worry–you can still keep that paper out of the landfill. It’s convenient to dump all the paper, clamshell packaging, and other Christmas morning debris into a black trash bag and put it out by the curb, but having a box handy for recyclable materials, like wrapping paper and cardboard, doesn’t take much effort–and the payoff is big. If you don’t have curbside pickup, visit Earth 911 to find a recycling area near you.

Bing Crosby dreamed of a white Christmas. Maybe that’s highly unlikely down here, but Christmas doesn’t have to be brown, either. Bringing a little “green” to the holidays gives a great example to kids–and is a gift for the future, a gift that will last long after the LeapPad breaks or the play kitchen’s outgrown.


*Photo credit courtesy of



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