The days are shorter, the air is colder and we’re all starting to prepare for the holidays. Images of shiny wrapped presents litter shopping malls and billboards around the country as we start counting down the days until Santa arrives. While the holiday season can have such a positive impact in our social lives during an otherwise dreary time of year, the impact it has on the environment is incredibly negative. While consumers are starting to lean towards greener purchasing decisions when it comes to actual gifts, it is easy to overlook the pretty packaging we wrap it up in. Luckily for us, Melat Negash from Mind the Wrap Campaign is here to tell us all about gift wrap, and how we can help our planet one present at a time!
From birthdays, to Christmas, to weddings and other special occasions, giving and receiving gifts is a wonderful tradition that helps us connect and strengthen relationships. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of waste generated by modern day gift wrapping paper. Many of us are not aware that most wrapping paper sold in shops cannot be recycled – particularly the glossy and sparkly variety. Many of them are mixed with materials such as plastic, glitter, dye, ink, laminate, sticky tape, and other things that are difficult to recycle. Because it can be so difficult to dispose of wrapping paper, tonnes of it ends up in landfills or incinerators every year, often having been used only once.
Here are some statistics to better understand the impact of our gift wrapping choices,
- In The United Kingdom, around 100 million rolls of gift wrapping paper are thrown away after Christmas (source)
- The United States of America consumers spent just under US$13 billion on gift wrap in 2017 (source)
- In the United States of America, 4 million tons of waste during the holidays is made up of wrapping paper and shopping bags – this means harvesting around 30 million trees (source).
- Canadians throw away about 540,000 tonnes of gift wrapping and gift bags during the holiday season (source).
- Australians are estimated to use over 150,000 kilometers of wrapping paper for Christmas alone – enough to wrap around the Earth’s equator almost four times (source).
Even if you question or ignore the statistics, just look around shops and online at how much wrapping paper is on sale all year. A search of Amazon.com for shiny wrapping paper returns over 700 results. Is it right to create so much waste year after year for something we usually use only once? For many, it’s often an unconscious purchase – something we buy without thinking about if we really need it.
What are the alternatives?
There are lots of sustainable and beautiful alternatives to wrapping paper:
- Newspapers (e.g. free papers such as the London Evening Standard)
- Fabric (e.g. scarves, tea towels, cushion covers, pillowcases, offcuts, tote bags, Wrag Wrap)
- Brown paper (try to find ones not wrapped in plastic)
- Children’s artwork
- Maps brought back home from travels/holidays
- Old calendars
- Packages from online and offline shopping
- Sheet music
- Tins and jars
- Dried fallen leaves and orange/lemon peels make great finishes instead of glitter and plastic materials
- Washi tapes, twine and fabric strips – seal your wrapping with these or other paper tapes as most plastic sticky tape is not biodegradable and cannot be recycled
Whether you are time-poor or a crafty creative, there are many options to re-use, re-purpose and save money. It can be an opportunity to declutter too! Why not use those scarves you never wear to wrap something and pass on as a ‘gift in a gift’? Or even a chance to develop a new hobby if you can master Furoshiki, the Japanese art of fabric wrapping.
Please visit www.mindthewrap.org for more, where you will also find a handwritten letter from Sir David Attenborough among other goodies. Mind the Wrap is a campaign to raise awareness about wrapping paper waste and encourage use and re-use of more sustainable alternatives. Please share and spread the word!
If you need help getting ready for an eco-friendly holiday season, your local Professional Organiser is a great person to call! Have a look on our Find an Organiser page to find help local to you.