Ask Eartha: Suggestions for keeping it green during the holidays
Special to the Free Press
Every year when I wrap my Christmas gifts, I cringe about how much paper I’m wasting. Do you have any creative suggestions for gift wrapping supplies that are more eco-friendly?
— Leslie, Breckenridge
Great question, Leslie. The holidays are a time of togetherness, traditions and festivities — but, sadly, this leads to a lot of waste. Did you know that the household waste per family increases by more than 25 percent from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day? Consider this: In the U.S. alone, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons! In fact, Americans discard 38,000 miles of ribbon annually. That’s enough to wrap a bow around the entire Earth! When you consider that wrapping paper and ribbon are typically used only once, that is a lot of trash! So what can you do to minimize the impact the holidays have on the environment? It’s not just about the wrapping paper, though that is great place to start. Here are some suggestions for greening your gift wrapping:
1. Reuse old wrapping paper: If the wrapping, bows, ribbons and bags are not in bad shape, save them again for next year or other gift-giving occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries. This means, of course, buying wrapping paper you can use on various occasions.
2. Recycle that gift wrap: Most wrapping paper is recyclable. Foil-backed paper, tissue paper and ribbons are not recyclable, so reuse them!
3. Get creative: Use other supplies instead of buying gift wrap. Think about using newspaper, paper grocery bags, baskets or boxes for wrapping gifts. Try using old road maps. Another option is reusable cloth bags, or give a gift in a gift by wrapping that pair of earrings in a hand-made scarf.
4. Buy recycled: If you do buy gift wrap, it should have recycled content or post-consumer recycled content. It may be more expensive but you will be doing the environment a favor by supporting manufacturers who are eco-conscious.
There are other ways you can lessen your impact on the environment this holiday season by shopping green, gifting responsibly and reducing waste. First, when decorating for the holidays, consider using what you have available in your household instead of buying new manufactured items. Tree ornaments and garlands can be made simply by using dried apple and orange slices, popcorn and repurposed wine corks. Wreaths can be made out of recycled cardboard and cinnamon sticks or twigs and pinecones from your yard. Pinterest has some great ideas!
For holiday lighting, consider using strands that have LED bulbs or are solar powered to be as energy efficient as possible. Artificial trees are typically made in China and shipped overseas. Try going with a live tree in a pot or a pre-cut tree, as these can either be planted or made into mulch or compost. If you will be disposing of your Christmas tree, please take it to your town’s drop-off site.
For those of you still doing your Christmas shopping, try shopping local. Mesa County has a lot of great boutiques and shops that are owned and operated locally. When you shop locally, you are directly supporting the community. Look at where the items you purchase are manufactured and try buying items that are made in the valley, in the state of Colorado or in the United States. When you are making a purchase, think about how that company treats its employees. Are employees paid a fair living wage? Do they receive health benefits? Are they required to work on holidays? You would be surprised how many companies have really poor track records in how they treat their employees.
Instead of buying your friends and family more stuff, consider buying them a gift experience instead. Some examples include a nice dinner, theater or concert tickets, or a one-day cross-country ski pass. Another gift-giving option that is increasing in popularity is giving a charitable gift in your loved one’s name. You can “give where you live” by donating to a Colorado charity through Coloradogives.org. Through Heifer International you can give a gift that helps struggling people lift themselves out of poverty by purchasing heifers, goats, sheep and honeybees for families in developing countries. Another option is adopting an endangered animal through the World Wildlife Fund. Would your friend or loved one be interested in turning their food scraps into compost? If so, sign them up for HC3’s food scrap program by going to HC3’s Food Recycling webpage. This year, instead of doing our normal gift exchange, my family will be pooling our money to donate to the Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome foundation in honor of my nephew, who has the illness. The options are endless! Greening your holidays this season will add a little extra jubilee to your festivities.
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