Reduce, Reuse and Recycle During the Holidays

I love the holidays. I find it especially rewarding to slow down when everything around me is speeding up. I love going for long walks on the empty streets of our neighborhood when the malls are packed, or wandering on trails in the woods with the (almost) silent sound of wind whistling in my ears.

holiday couponI’m not a total grinch though! I love giving gifts to friends, family, and non-profit organizations, and I enjoy getting into the holiday spirit on a concrete level, not just an ethereal one. Much like other aspects of my life, I have re-engineered the gift giving process and created my own unique ways of doing so.

As you can see in the photo above, rather than packaging gifts in expensive new wrapping paper that will go into the trash heap and straight to the landfill, I like to cover gifts in newspaper (that I’ve read), giving it a second use. I enshrine this reused newsprint with a big, beautiful, piece of ribbon. After consumption, the newspaper can be recycled and the ribbon can be saved for another use. I’ve wrapped gifts this way for years and decided it’s about time that I share this money saving process with y’all!

The gift depicted above is for a very dear friend. The recipient will remain a mystery, but I will reveal the contents of these packages. The bottom box contains a re-furbished vitamix, the top box, one of my favorite books, The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England.

Here are some of my tips and tricks to help you reduce, reuse and recycle during the holidays, so that we can protect the planet we are so lucky to live on, while we celebrate!

How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle During the Holidays

  1. Make homemade gifts such as healthy cookies, candy, lip balm or a knit scarf or hat.
  2. If you don’t enjoy making things, go to a local craft fair to purchase hand made foods and other goods and support local artisans.
  3. Give used items such as books, or if you’re looking for clothing or high end gifts, investigate gently used merchandise on or a local consignment store (I shop at Common Threads which has locations in Boulder and Denver).
  4. Give the gift of your time by offering a massage, babysitting, walking your neighbor’s dog, or gardening for them.
  5. Give a monetary gift to charity, or offer to do an afternoon of service in honor of a friend or loved one.

The boys know that I don’t like to waste and they regularly wrap gifts to me in newsprint! As you can see, when I purchase envelopes, I buy them in this plain naturally colored shade that does not contain artificial dyes or bleach.

mom gift

How do you conserve during the holidays? What tips do you have for all of us? Please leave a comment and let us know!


22 responses to “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle During the Holidays”

  1. I used to wrap presents in newspaper. Then I changed to reusable paper gift bags, then I made a bunch of cloth gift bags. They’re sturdier than paper and will become family heirlooms. Who knows, they could be past down for a couple generations. So not only environmentally a better choice, but also a wonderful family tradition.

  2. Do you know a pilot? The “charts” (maps) they use outdate quickly and are thrown away. They make beautiful gift wrap !

  3. A year late, but still relevant – I use pretty paper bags (and some of the more colorful plastic bags) for wrapping things. Gifts, but also if you’re reusing cans and want to cover or line them.

  4. On wrapping:

    When I was growing up, my parents taught us to carefully unwrap gifts and to save the paper. In the attic they have several boxes of wrapping paper from bygone years, which means that every gift will be wrapped in a different print, which is quite visually appealing. Plus it is fun to recognize and remember specific papers and reminisce about when they first entered the household.

    As an adult I’ve opted to buy festive fabrics after the holidays and to sew wrapping bags. Even someone who is not especially gifted at sewing (like me) can sew a bag which can then be tied with a loose ribbon! You can get fancy and make them with buttons, a drawstring or snaps, but even just a simple fabric bag tied with a ribbon looks good. Best of all, they can be used year after year and still look pristine.

    On gifts:

    In my family we take the position that if you don’t have a good idea for a gift, you don’t give a gift! If you feel bad about that you can always make a donation to the recipient’s favorite charity. A lot of gifts are homemade, such as coupons like what you’ve shown, but it’s also a good idea to simply remove obligation. There’s so much pleasure in finding the right gift for someone and almost no pleasure in giving someone ‘something’. One great gift every five years is so much better than 5 mediocre gifts.

  5. I reuse ribbon and wrapping paper from gifts given to me in the past. I sometimes pick up wrapping paper from thrift stores. I wrap in newspaper, used maps and wallpaper from sample books that are going to be thrown out (I pick them up from my local paint and wallpaper company.) This year I made my own bows with magazine pages and newspaper inserts. I sew, so I also take fabric scraps and make ribbon out of them. I make gifts and purchased gifts are usually from secondhand shops. I generally buy items found throughout the year and it really is amazing what you can find that are new looking and unique. This has been a practice for as long as I can remember. My friends and family expect this from me and at this point would be disappointed if I bought them something new that included a gift receipt. :)

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