A green Christmas: how to maintain holiday sustainability

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Excitement abounds, wrapping paper flies and gifts are received. Christmas is clearly a time for giving and sharing. However, from all this generosity and joy comes an excess of trash.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 25 percent more waste is generated during the holiday season. A lot of this comes from wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and other materials that come with gift-giving.

Luckily, there are multiple ways we can green our Christmas but still enjoy the gift of giving.

Here are some tips:

Consider the gifts you give.

Many items come protected in an excessive amount of packaging. Given the choice between similar items with different packaging, choose the one with less. This helps reduce your Christmas waste and tells businesses waste reduction is important to you.

Homemade gifts add a special touch to any present and don’t come with extra packaging. Log onto Pinterest and plan away. Maybe even upcycle an unused item from your place into something the gift receiver could use. Now, talk about waste reduction!

Consider donating to a charity in honor of the gift recipient.

Not only does this save materials and help a wonderful cause, but it can also be meaningful to the honoree.

Do you ever feel like you are buying a gift for someone just to give them something? Many times a kind note, extra hug or special visit can mean the world to people. In this season of love, consider an extra act of kindness as your gift.

Consider eco-friendly wrapping.

When it comes to wrapping, I agree there is nothing more fun than tearing paper to get into a present; however, most wrapping paper is not recyclable.

So, instead of purchasing wrapping paper this year, look for other paper sources that could be put to a new use and be recycled once the present is unwrapped. 

Newspaper is an easy substitute. Other neat wrapping options could be old maps or calendar pages. This adds an artsy element to the gift as well! Gift bags are great for reusability. They come in all sorts of colors, designs and sizes. Many of them can work for multiple occasions. Tissue paper used to hide the gift inside can be reused or recycled.

Many other reusable options exist. Mason jars and a little tissue paper inside look great. Do you have extra bandanas or cloth laying around your room? Wrap your present for your crafty aunt in this and she may even be able to reuse the fabric in a future project.

Still want to be greener?

Knit or make a scarf, then use it as wrapping paper for your gift.

No matter how you green your Christmas this year, I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends.

Stay warm and spread peace. Merry Christmas!

Jennifer McLaughlin is the sustainability specialist and can be reached at jennifer.mclaughlin@sdstate.edu.

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