Tips: Green Gift Giving

The holiday season means lots of gift wrapping as we exchange presents with family and friends. Most wrapping and packaging finds its way into trash bins and eventually, landfills. Fortunately, there are some easy and fun ways to celebrate the holidays in an environmentally friendly manner.

"I encourage everyone to consider ways to cut down on packaging and wrapping by focusing on recycling and reusing," stated Roderick L. Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). "On average, people throw away about 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve."

Here are some tips for holiday gifts, gift wrap and cards:

  • Look for gifts that are durable, energy efficient, recycled (for example, antiques or used bikes) and recyclable.
  • Avoid buying items that are over-packaged. Ask your store to support efforts to reduce packaging.
  • Give gifts that help reduce environmental impact all year long, such as re-usable linen napkins, canvas shopping bags or plants that help make indoor air healthier.
  • Make something or bake something to minimize waste generation or natural resource use.
  • Give rechargeable batteries and a charger.
  • Don't wrap oversized gifts. Re-use wrapping paper and gift bags.
  • Consider sending holiday postcards to save on postage, paper and envelopes.
  • Give homemade cards or make sure your cards are made from recycled paper.
  • If you are mailing gifts, use newspaper, real popcorn or corn-based peanuts instead of plastic foam peanuts for cushioning.
  • Buy less unneeded stuff. Give from your heart and your head. Let someone know you have made a charitable donation in their name instead of sending a gift.
  • Give the gift of time and shared experiences instead of unneeded things.

"If every American family wrapped just three presents in re-used paper or re-used gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields," said Bill Bider, director of the KDHE Bureau of Waste Management. "By changing just one traditional practice, like re-using gift boxes and wrapping paper, it can make a huge difference."

For other environmental gift ideas, check these Web sites:

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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