Sustainable Holiday Tips: Gift Wrap, Bows And More

Americans throw away 25% more trash during the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year than any other time of year. That’s 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week!

Sustainable Westport is the gift that keeps on giving. All year long, the environmental advisory board helps all of us — residents, businesses and the town itself — reduce our energy, water and waste impacts.

Now — as wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue, bows, ribbons and food waste pile up — they offer a few holiday tips.

Wrapping Paper

Every year, an estimated 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is used in the U.S. Most ends up in landfill or incinerators.

The vast majority of wrapping paper (particularly holiday paper with glossy coatings, glitter and foils) cannot be recycled. It wreaks havoc on recycling machinery, and the more components added to the original paper, the more challenging it becomes for recycling centers to access the fibers needed for recovery and recycling.

Try to minimize your wrapping paper use.

Gift Bags and Tissue Paper

Gift bags and tissue paper also cannot be recycled. Like wrapping paper, most paper gift bags are adorned with finishes that make recycling impossible. Even if the gift bag is plain, it can only be recycled if it is brown, and the handles are removed. Tissue paper creates issues for recycling centers, so it should be trashed (or avoided altogether).

Bows and Ribbons

Gift bows and ribbons are also trash. Consider replacing the traditional stick-on bows and synthetic ribbon with reusable cloth ribbons. At the very least, reuse ribbon and bows rather than throwing them in the trash. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

Holiday Gift Wrapping Alternatives

The good news: There are fantastic, sustainable options for holiday gift wrapping. From 100% compostable and recyclable wrapping paper, to reusable fabric wraps and creative thrift ideas, you’ll find many ways to wrap gifts while being conscious about excess waste. Click here and scroll down for recommendations.

Food Waste

It is estimated that 25% of municipal solid waste is food. During the holidays, this number rises significantly. Follow these tips to help reduce your overall food waste now and throughout the year:

Shop with purpose. Buy only what you need. Shop your fridge first. Then, plan your meals and make a list. Being organized and prepared will keep you focused on the essentials. And of course, never grocery shop on an empty stomach.

Get creative with your cooking. Reviving leftovers can be easy, fun and economical. You could add leftover chicken to a salad for a whole new meal. Or you could turn it into chicken soup. Well-cooked vegetables could make a wonderful pasta sauce and yesterday’s baked potato could be tomorrow’s mashed. The possibilities are endless.

Imperfect could be perfect. Many imperfect fruits and vegetables, or those that are wilting or browning, can be used for baking, sauces stock or smoothies.

Store your food better. Proper food storage can prolong its life and reduce waste. Store fruits in the low-humidity section of your fridge, along with vegetables such as peppers and squash that tend to rot quickly. Store vegetables in a high-humidity crisper drawer to keep them from wilting too fast.

Freeze food for later. If you have food that you can’t eat before it goes bad, think about other ways to use it and stick it in your freezer. For example, frozen, ripe fruit makes delicious smoothies.

Get organized. Spend time organizing your kitchen so you know what you have and where to find it. Place perishable items near the front so you don’t lose sight of them.

See clearly. Using clear containers makes it easy for you to see what you have on hand and how much you have left.

Consider canning. If your garden is overflowing with tomatoes, long-term storage techniques like canning can help you to make good use of your harvest.

Eat your leftovers. Only half of Americans take leftovers home from a restaurant. With growing portion sizes, one restaurant meal may make two. If you don’t have room in your fridge, use your freezer.

Holiday Lights Not Working?

Bring them to the Westport transfer station. Drop them in the “holiday lights” bin in the electronics area.

Do not put string lights in your curbside bin. They wreak havoc on the machinery at the recycling center.

Or participate in a holiday light recycling program. LED holiday light manufacturers Christmas Light Source and Holiday LEDs offer programs to ship broken lights to a special recycling center, in exchange for a coupon to purchase new LED lights.

Speaking of LEDs: You can replace traditional incandescent string lights with a LED version. They provide energy savings of up to 80%, and last up to 25 times longer.

5 responses to “Sustainable Holiday Tips: Gift Wrap, Bows And More

  1. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    My late mother told me that during WWII when gift wrapping was hard to get owing to government imposed paper shortages people would wrap gifts in newspapers (the Westporter Herald and Westport Town Crier were popular) and send them to their loved ones on the battlefront. Back then the government made sure that regardless of “supply chain issues” all gifts were delivered because it maintained morale both at home and on the front lines. Using the newspaper as gift wrap also helped the fighting men stay close spiritually to their loved ones at home. I also have a copy of a cookbook published by the Westport Women’s Club at the depth of WWII. It featured recipes that were developed with an eye to conserving valuable food ration coupons. I would consider donating it to a worthy local museum (if I could find one cultured enough to appreciate its significance).

    • When I was young, my friends and I used to wrap gifts in the comic sections of the Sunday newspapers. They were colorful (and cheap)!

    • What a treasure it would be to have the Westport Woman’s Club cookbook back where it originated. We would be honored to be considered as a benefactor of the cookbook donation to the WWC to share with our members and community.

      Robin Clark
      President, WWC

  2. Earlier this month I attended The New England Quilt Museum in Lowell Mass. They had a very timely exhibit of artwork made from materials that we are so guilty of throwing away either in the trash or in our recycling bins. These sustainable art quilts included Amazon Prime envelopes to old clothing ripped to shreds and applied to canvas with beading and thread. I don’t have photos but you can Google the N.E. Quilt Museum for more info and go if you can. Westport has many creative artists who can create some unique art work without causing harm to our environment.

  3. Michael Calise

    Stock Market pages of the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times are great for gift wrapping as are many other colorful and interesting pages