Calming the Wrapping Paper Madness

This morning I read a blog post on Practically Green about how to avoid mountains of holiday trash.  It’s a good article.  You should read it and take the quiz on Practically Green.  Love the site.   Then reflect on how you can best apply their advice to your holidays.   I started thinking about the mountains and mountains of wrapping paper, toy boxes, twist ties, plastic and more that are generated when my family gets together for Christmas.

These days we have three young children and upwards of 8 adults unwrapping gifts Christmas morning.  This year we’re expecting 10 adults, pretty much all of whom exchange gifts (now why was I worrying that my children might feel disappointed that they didn’t get enough gifts this year?  Geez!)

So, how to reduce the garbage?  My goals this year are to reduce the amount of waste and increase the percent of recyclables that are actually recycled.   My wonderful Mom has had a Christmas-changing revelation this year that will help dramatically: Gift Bags.  Why gift bags?

  • They cut your wrapping time down dramatically.  She wrapped all her gifts in a fraction of the time it usually takes her.
  • It will make opening the gifts much less frustrating for the young children.
  • Gift bags are reusable.  Dramatically less waste
  • Gift bags are not as messy as ripped paper.  It will be much easier to clean up.

    Now of course, not everyone will use gift bags,  and there is still the packaging that many of the gifts actually come in to contend with.  What to do with all that?  That’s where my plan comes in:

    • Step 1: The day before speak with everyone about “the plan”.  Get everyone on board.  Designate someone to be responsible for collecting reusable items like bows and and if there’s a use for them, twist ties.  Decide if there is an interest in trying to save wrapping paper for future occasions.  We didn’t use to think it was worth it to save a few pennies, but now we’re willing to do it for ecological reasons – at least when we have space to store it.
      Make sure everyone knows what numbers are recyclable with the recycling system where you are.
    • Step 2: When people bring their gifts to put under the tree, if they use large shopping bags to transport them to the tree,  gather the large shopping bags and have them available. Designate one for reusable items.  Get a large plastic bag for actual trash.  Set these aside, but available.
    • Step 3: Action!  During the unwrapping, try to get the reusable items collected as they are produced.  Perhaps have a bag in the middle of the room that everyone can toss bows into it.  2 points for a good shot!  Teach kids to look for the recycling symbol on their packages, it can be like a “Where in the World is Waldo” game.  Have a bag designated for the reusable bags.

    There are many reasons to keep the garbage under control on Christmas morning,  for one thing,  you don’t want to lose the toddler under mountains of wrapping paper and for another you don’t want that nice piece of solar panel jewelry you received going out with the trash!

    It’s possible to keep Christmas morning madness under control.  It helps for everyone to know the plan in advance and to have your tools in place before you being.

    Good luck and MERRY CHRISTMAS!


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    1. we do: reusable shopping bags (great for people who don’t already have bags), kid-made wrapping paper (reuse their artwork, more recyclable than glittery shiny giftwrap), and no gifts for adults.

    2. I hate wrapping paper waste so much I made cloth wraps! We just launched the business this week if you are interested in looking 🙂

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