Our environment needs gift wrapping creativity

Posted 12/21/23

Give a gift to the environment by taking a low-waste approach to the holiday season. 

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Our environment needs gift wrapping creativity


Give a gift to the environment by taking a low-waste approach to the holiday season. 

Did you know that one of the largest sources of non-recyclable waste during the holidays is gift wrapping papers and ribbons? Wrapping papers may contain glitter, metallic materials, lamination, tape, plastic, dyes, gold or silver coloring. Ribbons, even those made with non-synthetic materials, get tangled in machinery and may also be rejected. 

Here’s a challenge: rethink gift wrapping! Get creative and instead think reuse, repurpose, recycle.  Make every wrap count as a step toward a cleaner, healthier environment for everyone.  

Reducing waste locally is the theme of Philly Talks Trash, a quarterly newsletter produced by a local team from the Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks Environment Action Committee and the Plastic Reduction Task Force of Weavers Way. The most recent edition provides ideas on how to have a low-waste, environmentally conscious gift-giving holiday season. 

There are many options for gift wrapping without waste. With this approach, the joy of presenting family and friends with gifts will not be accompanied by avoidable eco-guilt because you will have chosen to not send single-use non-recyclable wrapping paper and ribbons to a pollution-generating landfill or incinerator this holiday season. 

Swap single-use paper for fabrics – old clothing or fabric scraps, scarves, bandannas, pretty dish towels or pillow covers.  Known as the “Furoshiki” method in Japan, according to Emily Rodia of Good Buy Supply Co., a new linen tea towel or maybe an apron can become part of the gift, making it two gifts in one.

Swap conventional gift wrap for recyclable paper - deconstruct a paper bag you already have or buy natural kraft paper.  Think of your brown paper as a blank canvas that you can decorate any way you want. In addition, magazine pages and newspapers, such as The Chestnut Hill Local, also work well as wrapping — after reading! —  and can certainly be recycled. 

If you receive a gift with conventional wrapping, reuse it. Decorative gift bag? Reuse it.

Instead of adding ribbons to the landfill, save and reuse them. Buy ribbons and bows that you plan to use year after year. Once in a while, the handles of some shopping bags are made of ribbon, another source. Once you have removed the ribbon you can then deconstruct the bag and use it as a paper wrapping. 

Make your own gift boxes by decoratively wrapping the top and bottom elements of a paper box so that the lid can be removed with no tearing. The gift box can be used year after year.  Another option is to package gifts in reusable decorative tins and baskets - another opportunity to give two gifts in one! Check out your local reuse centers or thrift stores for low-cost tins, baskets or boxes before you buy new ones.

Teach children to remove wrappings carefully and fold them to be used again. Have a container for everyone to put their wrappings in. Use the container year-round as gifts are given and received. Make a game with children to come up with fun wrapping ideas and put them to work!

Of course, many gifts do not even need wrapping as they are in pretty containers, jars and boxes already. Tie a reusable ribbon around it, and that’s it. 

How about a New Year’s resolution? Every day, consciously reduce waste before it is bound for the landfill, or the incinerator, or the streets and waterways of Philadelphia. The environment and the beings who inhabit it are grateful.

For more information, and getting involved, you are invited to subscribe to Philly Talks Trash. Connect with the team at wastereductionphl@gmail.com or scan this QR code.

the Philly Talks Trash team

Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and beyond