The holidays are a time of giving. Unfortunately, with massive amounts of gifting in the U.S. comes massive amounts of trash. According to Stanford University, Americans generate 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than during the rest of the year. That’s 25 million tons of extra garbage heading to landfills.

Gift wrapping materials are a major component of this extra waste. In fact, U.S. Americans throw out enough wrapping paper during the holidays to circle the planet nine times! The following 3 tips can help you soften this blow on Mother Nature without having to sacrifice your gifting aesthetics.

  • Find Wrapping Paper Alternatives. Get creative with your wrapping materials. Use newspaper, comics, or maps instead of wrapping paper. Ask your child to draw holiday pictures and use them as gift wrap. Glossy wrapping paper is usually not recyclable, so using other paper helps the environment. You are likely to find materials around the house you could wrap with, so this strategy also helps your pocketbook during the holidays. If every U.S. American family wrapped just three gifts in reused materials, the amount of paper saved would cover 45,000 football fields. If you must use wrapping paper, opt for those made of recycled materials.
  • Reuse, Reuse, Reuse! Wrapping gifts in recyclable paper is a great idea, but using reusable containers is a better one. Decorative tins, gift bags, and cute boxes are beautiful and can be reused for years on end without producing garbage. Save any ribbons and bows to reuse next year. Consider purchasing items without holiday-specific patterns or images so that you can reuse them for birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Be Prepared. When the gift-giving begins, the room is filled with excitement, and we might forget about recycling or saving materials. Sometimes, the pile of torn wrapping paper in the living room is too tedious to sort through, so we take the easy route and throw everything away. To prevent this scenario, have two large bags ready before everyone starts opening presents: one to store reusable bags, boxes, ribbons, and bows, and the other to collect recyclables. Sort materials as each present is unwrapped.

When planning this year’s holiday gifts, consider your environmental impact. Reduce, reuse, and recycle your gift wrapping materials as much as possible.

Sharon Schweitzer and Emilie Lostracco co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary seriesConfucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Emilie Lostracco is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication Intern with Access to Culture. The Montreal native is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, studying International Relations and Global Studies. Emilie specializes in international environmental efforts, European studies, and French. She plans on graduating with honors in December. Connect with her via Linkedin.

Photo credit: Silvia Sala