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My Attempt To Be Greener For The Holidays

2011 January 10

xmas.1By Larry Teller

Although changes in public taste have made it somewhat less courageous in recent years, it’s still tough to minimize wasteful gift-giving during the holidays. And as an EPA public affairs veteran, I’ve even had a hand in promoting best green practices—whether for the holidays or back-to-school —but haven’t always done as well as I’d like by what we’ve sensibly preached.

I resolved a few weeks ago to try to be greener this year for one, very noticeable, aspect of gift-giving: wrapping. I was especially interested to see how family and friends would react to, for instance, a book placed simply in a bookstore bag, a box of cookies adorned with nothing but a snippet of ribbon, or a bottle of wine in recycled 2009-vintage wrapping.

I anxiously readied myself for smirks, remarks and looks, hoping that the sweet thought behind each gift wouldn’t be negated by people thinking I was either not thoughtful or cheap. This being an EPA-sponsored blog, here’s the peer-reviewed data: for 20 gifts, 1 smirk, 3 good-natured comments—one truly complimentary—and 16 (but it’s hard to know for sure, right?) apparent nothings.

Relief, and success worth, I think, building on next year. Please share how you try to balance holiday gift-giving with waste reduction.

May I add that I especially like one of my co-worker’s green gifting: donations for us to a worthy charitable organization.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Walter Graham permalink
    January 10, 2011

    I eased into this a couple years ago. Most stuff goes into gift bags which I’ve encouraged the receiver to reuse and I found they often sent it back with the next gift. Some small stuff still gets wrapped for the kids mostly, but no one has complained or said anything negative. And a number have said they wanted to start doing it too. Let’s make it “the new thing” – Walt P.S. – It has also saved tons of time wrapping stuff just right. I’ll probably keep doing it just for that reason.

  2. Karen Sanders permalink
    January 10, 2011

    The leftover wrapping paper from gifts you received could also make great decoupage ornanments or decorations to keep for yourself or to give as a gift next year.

  3. armansyahardanis permalink
    January 10, 2011

    To Be Greener Is Ready On To Be Stranger.
    To be stranger is always want to change the deadlock system.
    It is spread on the worldwide.
    And make the people destructive their environment: infrastructure and also superstructure.

    Which system ? Who is the people that made this system?
    Nothing ! No people did. Natural does.

    To be greener must solve that problems.
    Not easier…..

  4. Janet Kruse permalink
    January 11, 2011

    I have always followed this practice with my children:
    Santa ‘s gifts are not wrapped —-the elves are too busy making them. Anything from mom and dad or relatives will be wrapped.

    I also reuse all gift bags…. I have a nice assortment received over the years..

  5. Larry Teller permalink
    January 11, 2011

    I like Walter’s idea of encouraging people to reuse gift bags. So, how does one do the encouraging? And does the encouraging differ for giving a gift vs. mailing it? Practical advice, please.

    P.S. Is the commenter related to our missed retired colleague, same name?

  6. Larry Teller permalink
    January 11, 2011

    Thanks, Karen. I hadn’t heard much of decoupage. When I asked a co-worker about it, a cubicle neighbor overheard the question and showed me her decoupage–a nautical illustration laminated onto a cut of wood in the shape of a sailboat. Very impressive and, she said, not hard to do.

  7. Lizzie Lu permalink
    January 16, 2011

    I frequently give gifts that are consumables, in an effort to keep from giving useless trinkets that people may never use. So far, no one has ever turned their nose up at a box of ribeye steaks, or a nice bottle of wine.

    When it comes to wrapping, I frequently use boxes I already own from purchases made earlier that year (ex: a shoebox), and wrap with either 100% recycled brown paper – very simple – or newspaper. For bottles of wine I simply attach a ribbon. I’ve always liked how sweet & simple the wrapping turns out.

  8. Ahmed D.Pathan permalink
    January 17, 2011

    I like Walter’s idea of encouraging people to reuse gift bags. So, how does one do the encouraging? And does the encouraging differ for giving a gift vs. mailing it? Practical advice, please.

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