Give a Better Gift

Christmas Gifts

When I was a child, my sister and I treated piles of torn Christmas wrapping paper as if they were freshly fallen leaves — running through them, jumping on them and then helping to throw them in the trash. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember the days before recycling bins.)

Now that I have my own kids, Christmas mornings are still known for their piles of spent paper. I know all this holiday waste isn’t good for the environment, and it always makes me feel a little eco-guilt. So this year I made a plan based on a simple question: How can I waste less stuff?

Try these easy ideas for minimizing your family’s holiday waste:

Reusable Bags
Instead of wrapping presents, I’m buying a few dozen blank canvas grocery bags. My daughter Mira, 6, will love using fabric paint to personalize each one!

Recycled Gift Tags
Gift cards are lovely, but they hit the recycling bin once the holiday is over. Not this year! I plan to cut out designs from last year’s cards to reuse as gift tags. As for the cards I send, I’m going to send greeting cards with imbedded seeds that can be planted in your garden and sprout flowers come spring. (Check out the cards from the Greenfield Paper Company

Green Gift Wrap
Giving Grandma a sweater? Why wrap the garment box? Instead, I’ll tape the sides shut and glue one of my kids’ many pieces of artwork to the center.

Natural Ornaments
A few tree ornaments will inevitably break each year. In the past, I always bought new ones to replace them. But I love this idea from foodie and mom Damaris Santos-Palmer: Dry orange slices in the oven and then hang them from your tree. “They look like beautiful stained glass,” says Santos-Palmer. “After we’re finished with the season, we just put it in our compost bin. Done.”

What I love most about these ideas isn’t that they reduce holiday waste — although that’s great! It’s that my kids can help me accomplish them. I can’t wait to see those orange slices shining on my tree, breathe in their scent, and tell my kids: “Hey, we made that!”

Cynthia Ramnarace is a freelance writer in Queens, N.Y. She is a regular contributor to and AARP Bulletin. Her work also appears frequently in American Baby and Kiwi magazines.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

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