Sustainable Living: Unwrapping the Gift-Wrapping

Four days to Christmas and I usually find that this is when people go into a wrapping presents frenzy, at least the ones who are less organized. According to a published psychological study, "a gift-wrapped item influences the recipient to have a more favourable attitude towards owning the gift item." Gift-wrapping is a strong visual cue that signals goodies inside and also a physical reminder of happy times of tearing it apart to find the actual present in there. It also heightens the sense of anticipation before the actual opening of the gift. Above all it looks pretty. Presents under a tree is an iconic image of Christmas.

Now to put a downer, it is made of paper and it is as use and throw as it comes. I do know many people who will save their wrapping paper by unwrapping presents carefully and reusing the paper, but not enough people actually do it. In the US an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays. Four million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags. Let us assume that 2 million tons of this is paper which adds up to approximately 30 million trees just to wrap presents.  In the UK 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper is used each year, the equivalent of approximately 50,000 trees. So what are the options?

Think no gift-wrap at all. Yes, it may look a little unfinished but the important thing is the actual present itself. If this is not an option then think of gift bags, preferably made from recycled paper or cloth. It does not necessarily have to be holiday themed so that the recipient can reuse it for another occasion, like someone's birthday. 100% recycled wrapping paper is available from the Natural Collections.

Alternatively, recycled brown paper is also greener than conventional wrapping paper, and can look good on your presents. Recycle your own by saving any that comes wrapped around a parcel, or buy it from WWF. Another option is to use aluminium foil, which can be recycled or even reused. You can make your own by using all the colourful holiday themed pictures from shopping catalogues or even newspaper.

Consider alternatives to ribbons - use baubles or even hair clips to decorate the outside of a present as these can be reused and they serve another purpose. Why not even consider reusing ribbons and bows? Having a green Christmas is making sure that you do the little things to ensure that you continue your sustainable lifestyle. Even if you haven't been a goody green shoes this year, it doesn't mean you can't start now.

And gift-wrapping is not something that is restricted for Christmas alone...