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Greening up Christmas: Paper Waste

Christmas Recycle

Paper waste is abundant at Christmas time, from holiday cards to wrapping paper.  In the United States an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays.

Just think of how much waste is produced by the Christmas Card alone.  Not only are you producing the paper waste of the card itself, but the fuel to send it where it needs to go.  In the UK, over 1 billion Christmas Cards end up in landfills, and 1.9 billion by Americans.   One tree is needed to make up 3,000 cards.  That’s a ton of waste!

Wrapping paper is probably one of the most wasteful things we use during the holidays.  A glorified decorative piece of paper with its inks and dyes, wrapped around a gift for only a few days before being torn off and thrown away.  The paper itself doesn’t burn well because of the inks and dyes, and the burning of those inks and dyes releases harmful chemicals anyway. 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags are thrown away each holiday season.

How can we reduce our paper waste during the holidays?

Gift Paper:

  • A few times I used newspaper we had lying around the house, generally for everyday gifts.
  • I’ve wrapped gifts in a nice piece of fabric I had lying around, tyed with a nice piece of string or bow that I also had.  If the receiver does not wish to keep the fabric, I ask for it back to be used again.
  • I’ve wrapped gifts in paper bags from the grocery store, which are a perfect canvas for my own custom decorations should I choose to.  An example could be taking a piece of apple or a leaf and painting one side to create your own rustic stamp on the paper.  Personally I think the paper bags look nice and traditional, especially when wrapped with bailing twine.
  • Buy recycled wrapping paper with eco-friendly ink.

Greeting Cards:

Soy Ink

  • Obviously sending no card at all is the best way to reduce waste, but is a hard and undesirable step for some.
  • Some like to make their own cards from materials around their house, which is a lovely way to send a custom greeting to a loved one.
  • You can also recycle old cards, or cards you have received by cutting off the front and attaching it to another piece of (recycled) paper to resend.  But some view this method as tacky.
  • Send an e-greeting to family and friends.  Most people have access to the internet these days, which means most people will have an email account.  Send them an e-greeting instead where you can personalize a message within the card.  Not only does it help save the environment, it saves your wallet too, since these are generally free.
  • Buy recycled gift cards with eco-friendly ink.  If you’re going to waste money on cards anyway, may as well put forth the money for nice recycled ones.

Recycling Holiday Waste:

  • As mentioned above, you could reuse your own cards to send out each year.
  • St. Jude’s Ranch for Children is a nonprofit that uses donated greeting cards to create new card sets.  The proceeds from this go to help abused children.  What a great way to recycle your old greeting cards.
  • Be careful when opening gifts wrapped in paper, and see if you can’t reuse that paper again in the future.
  • Save the holiday bag you receive and reuse them to gift next year.
  • Reuse wrapping paper, envelopes, and/or cards to create your own gift tags.  I’ve used old wrapping paper for gift tags for years.  Simply cut a rectangle and fold it in half.  Write your gift tag in the center and tape to your gift 🙂

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