Recycling Wrapping and Packaging after the Holidays

Wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S. Wrapping paper is not recyclable because of the specialized designs. Here is a quick guide to holiday wrapping and packaging and which materials are compostable, recyclable and re-useable. Click on the table below to enlarge.

Gift Giving Ideas that are Eco-Friendly

One of the ways to be more Eco-conscious is purchasing Eco-friendly holiday gifts. Here are a few ideas and some things to consider when purchasing Christmas presents ;

  • Look for gifts that are ‘experience gifts’ or gift certificates rather than products. Reduce the product impact altogether and give someone an experience.  Consider movie, theater or restaurant gift certificates. Or for more fancy options, plan a holiday tea, spa packages or weekend getaways. These are easier to wrap too!
  • Consider purchasing products that are durable, not over packaged, energy efficient, made with recycled materials or recyclable. All of these are standard criteria for choosing more sustainable made products.
  • Purchase green gifts from green-minded companies. There are a host of Internet based companies that already have done the selecting for you on green and sustainable products. They have an array of different types of gifts for all ages.  Here are some recommendations; Organic Bug, Buy Green, Eco Choices and ReuseIt.
  • Donate unwanted gifts to charity. We all receive gifts that we don’t need or don’t want. Instead of hiding them in your closet or garage, consider donating them to local charities that can use them. Go to eco-officiency’s recycling and donation page to learn more about where to donate these items.
  • With battery operated gifts, consider choosing rechargeable ones. If you do purchase toys or products that do have batteries, consider also purchasing rechargeable batteries to reduce the waste impact.
  • Be mindful of wrapping gifts in re-useable bags or recyclable wrapping paper. Wrapping waste is a huge contributor to our landfill waste. Much of it can’t be recycled or composted. Be mindful of the packaging and wrapping you purchase. Come sustainable wrapping choices are re-useable bags, re-used wrapping paper, comics from the Sunday paper, or paper bags decorated with stickers. According to, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

As a helpful reminder, download eco-officiency’s conscious consumer pocket guide that has the 10 questions listed to help make a sustainable purchase.

  • According to, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Artificial vs. Real Tree: What is more green?

The American Christmas Tree Association just published the Christmas Tree comparison study by Five Winds International. The study and the full LCA report is available on their website at the following link.

The study found that consumers need to consider an array of factors such as length of ownership, disposal method and tree miles before choosing which tree is more environmentally friendly. ACTA encourages consumers to consider these five helpful tips when deciding which tree to buy this year:

  1. Purchase locally grown Christmas trees if possible.
  2. Consider “Tree miles.” How far did the tree travel to get to your home? How far did you travel to get it?
  3. If you have purchased more than nine cut trees over the last nine years, consider purchasing an artificial tree to minimize your environmental impacts.
  4. If you own an artificial tree, make sure and keep it in use for at least six to nine years.  If you plan to replace an artificial tree, donate it before you dispose of it.
  5. Properly dispose of your natural cut Christmas tree by checking with your local waste authority.

The study also highlights an “Eight Christmas Environmental Payback Period” between the two tree products based on the study’s five environmental indicators. The study found that the environmental impacts of one artificial tree used for more than eight Christmas’ is environmentally friendlier than purchasing eight or more live cut trees over eight years.

Office Gift Exchange Idea

If your office has a gift exchange, consider some gift alternatives that would either promote the reduction of consumption or support local families. Here are some ideas;

  • Consider ‘adopting’ a family. Instead of gifts for employees, consider purchasing gifts for one or more local families. Through homeless shelters and family support non profits, organizations can easily  find a family in their area.
  • Purchase ‘experience’ gifts. Rather than purchase a tangible item, consider giving gifts that are more experiences such as movie tickets, dinner gift certificates, guided hike tours, or other local services.
  • Fair Trade and Local. If your office still wants to do a gift exchange, promote fair trade and/or local products.