Refuse Division

Gifts Without Waste

Helpful Ideas to Create Less Waste During the Holidays

December 1, 2010 | 2 min reading time

This article is 13 years old. It was published on December 1, 2010.

As Winter chills begin to warm the holiday spirit, people start preparing for their traditional holiday customs, such as gathering together for feasts and exchanging gifts. We welcome the chance to get together with loved ones during such a festive time of year. However, we sometimes generate more waste at these events than we normally would. This year, make merry throughout the holidays and create less waste while celebrating. Below are suggestions that can help:

Gift Wrap

  • Wrap gifts using paper products from around the house, such as old calendars, maps, blueprints, comics, magazines, or specific parts of newspapers (e.g., the sports section to wrap sports-related gifts).
  • Use brown paper bags to wrap gifts, and then jazz them up with reused or recycled decorations (e.g., buttons, ribbon, yarn, string).
  • Wrap a box and lid separately, place the gift in the box and place lid on top. Secure them together with yarn or ribbon. Since the lid can simply be removed from the box without tearing the paper, it can be used over and over again.
  • If you purchase gift wrap, be sure to look for post-consumer recycled content.

Gift Bags

  • Reuse gift bags, tissue paper, and other fill materials.
  • Get crafty. Sew up some cloth gift bags (that can later double as grocery totes) from used textiles (e.g., clothing, linens, drapery, scrap fabric).

 Give Gifts Without Wrap

  • Give gifts for services or events, such as massages, movies, sporting events, plays, musical performances, etc.
  • Give membership gifts (e.g., science, historical, or art museum; zoo; botanical garden).
  • Help someone learn how to do something they've always wanted to do (e.g., golf, tennis, skiing, snowboarding, music, dance, sewing, painting, pottery, cooking). Give them a gift of lessons.

 Greeting Cards

  • Send your holiday greetings electronically.
  • If you buy holiday cards, be sure they contain post-consumer recycled material.
  • Save an envelope and money on postage by sending holiday postcards.

 Bows, Ribbons, Gift Tags, Decorations

  • Cut up holiday cards you've received in previous years and use them as gift tags. Or, string them together and use them for decoration.
  • Unravel paper bag handles and use as decorative ribbon or bows.
  • Scraps of ribbon, string, or yarn can spruce up any gift wrap.

 Alternative Gift Wrap

  • Used tins, baskets, or decorative boxes can be found in your closet, basement, or thrift store and make excellent alternatives to wrapping gifts.
  • Sew scraps of used textiles together and wrap gifts in a homemade cloth. 
  • Try furoshiki – the Japanese art of cloth gift wrapping. Hem a square of cloth from used textiles and get instructions for different wrapping techniques at

Although the suggestions above can help you reduce and reuse your holiday waste, remember to recycle boxes, cards, gift wrap, or other holiday items once they are no longer of use to you.