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Keeping the Holidays Green: 8 Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas

By , dealnews contributor

The results are in and Black Friday 2011 was a smash: Shoppers spent an average of $400 over the weekend, up from $365 last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

We're guessing that you bought yourself a little holiday gift, but also thought of your loved ones ... and now you have to wrap all those presents. And as a Green Dad with years of Yuletide experience, Christmas time yields enough waste paper to fill about 17 million manger scenes. The EPA estimates that Americans toss 25% more trash than usual during the holiday season. And that's not a very nice present to give Mother Earth. Instead, follow these eight tips that will keep the green in your colorful holiday season.

Save the Boxes, Bows, and Bags
In our house, we are in the habit of saving gift packaging, from ribbons, to bows, tissue paper, and bags, which not only come in handy for birthday parties and other festive occasions, but is actually a nice way to cut down on disposable expenses. If really big boxes prove impractical to keep, you can break them all down and bundle them with twine for easy recycling. Better yet: Toddlers love really big gift boxes. When she was two, my daughter spent more time playing in her "secret fort" than with the gift that came in it.

Search for Used Boxes for Shipping
Spreading holiday cheer sometimes requires a trip to the post office. Packing up your wrapped presents will require a shipping box, and while your solution may be to go out and buy a proper shipping box from the post office, Green Dad says don't! Why not visit your local office supply store, supermarket, or liquor store, and see what boxes they might have that you can simply take away. Not only is this eco-friendly, it's extremely economical as small postal boxes can cost upwards of $5.

Use Starch Packing Peanuts for Shipping
The evils of polystyrene packing peanuts, marketed by Dow Chemical under the trade name Styrofoam, have been known for some time. Polystyrene is produced with benzene, a known human carcinogen. In fact, nearly two dozen cities in the U.S. have banned the use of polystyrene for food packaging. What's more, polystyrene takes a long time to break down in the environment and is also potentially harmful to animals. You can invest in three cubic feet of CareMail Biodegradable Packing Peanuts for $25.95 (with $4.99 s&h, a low by $2) to protect both your holiday gifts and the environment from hazardous waste. I love that you can wash these packing peanuts down the sink, and never have them menace your floors with dirt, or your arms with static-peanut cling.

Re-purpose Your Sunday Paper
Here's some news you can use: Cut down on newsprint waste by reusing last week's newspapers. By some estimates, one-third of all newsprint goes straight to landfills, trashing the equivalent of about 40 million trees. If you have lots of old newsprint lying around the house, put it to use wrapping your holiday goodies. Try adding brightly-colored stamps to plain black-and-white newsprint for a charming, homemade gift. You can go a step further by recycling all of your discarded newspaper wrapping and set it aside for a proper recycling. If enough people do this, my hope is that it will make headlines in the next morning's paper.

Use Recycled Wrapping Paper
Assuming that you follow Green Dad's example, you might not subscribe to any print publications for environmental reasons. However, you can sitll score gift wrap that's recycled from Amazon. The Green Field Paper Company's 100% Recycled Gift Wrap ($7.95 with $4.99 s&h, a low by $1) come in a variety of prints and patterns and are great for gifting all year-round. The Gifty Boxes print, pictured, is my favorite because there's nothing worse than snowmen and reindeer prancing about on gifts in August.

Use Recycled Tissue Paper
I have nothing against going whole hog on the wrapping bonanza, but let's remember to save whatever we can (per tip number one), and to use materials that reduce our carbon footprint. I found some no-frills, 100% recycled tissue paper from a vendor on Amazon. Choose traditional white tissue paper ($6.50 with $5 s&h, a low by $1) or select from a variety of colors ($4.99 with $5 s&h, a low by $2), all made from 100% recycled paper.

Seal Up Your Eco-Friendly Holiday: Use Green Tape!
On a recent shopping expedition, I went looking for novel eco-friendly office supplies and indeed, recycled Scotch tape exists. This Scotch Magic Greener Tape 6-Pack ($13.84 with $4.99 s&h, a low by $1) is made from 65% renewable or recycled materials, and this six pack comes with a complimentary dispenser. Non-yellowing, American made, and photo safe, this is the stuff for wrapping up your holiday booty with a (hopefully, recycled) bow. (Don't need that extra dispenser? Pick up a 6-pack for $14.99 with free shipping via Prime at Amazon.)

Skip the Paper Products All Together
While presenting wrapped gift serves the time-honored function of increasing the suspense and fun as the gift is eventually revealed, you can still surprise your loved ones this holiday with extra-thoughtful and green non-paper wrapped gifts. "Wrapagami," the art of fabric gift wraps, is your ticket to the greenest holiday season. Giving someone tickets to a concert or a gift card of their favorite band? Wrap them up a band T-shirt with a bow! You can gift some relaxing bath and body goodies in a tied up, neatly folded bathrobe. Just about any gift wrapped in a luxurious sweater or tucked into a chic purse will go over big. For tips and tricks on how to wrap your gifts in cloth, pick up a copy of the aptly titled, Wrapagami ($13.59 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $1)

Front page photo credit: Yahoo! Green
Photo credits top to bottom: Creative Organizing and GoodLifer

Lou Carlozo is dealnews' Green Dad columnist. He was most recently the managing editor of WalletPop.com, and before that a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Follow him on Twitter — @LouCarlozo63. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
Very true. It's especially bad if you also re-gift what they gave you, in the same bag it came in.
Jeff Somogyi (DealNews)
One tip on recycling / reusing gift bags, wrapping paper, and gift boxes: Attach a post-it note to it with the name of the person you originally received it from. It avoids a bit of holiday-time embarrassment.