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Green Giving This Holiday Season

By Felicia Chou, Program Analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery at the Environmental Protection Agency.

I can see it now: Wrapping paper flying everywhere, brilliantly-colored, shredded tissue paper and tinsel floating through the air. Yes, it’s that time of the year again when everything we have dreamed of is presented to us under layers of ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper. This year, give the gift of environmentalism while enjoying the most wonderful time of the year.

In the spirit of green giving, I’ve always been a fan of re- gifting (Shhhh… Don’t tell anyone), because there’s only that many awkward gifts you can fit in storage. But if you really want to be spreading holiday cheer instead of holiday leer, start by choosing a “green” gift for your loved ones. Many brand new, unopened items make their way to reuse centers and thrift stores, and you never know if there’s a perfect something just waiting to be wrapped and gifted.

Items made of recycled-content that are durable enough to last years of wear and tear will help keep resources out of landfills. For greener gadgets and appliances, check out EPEAT-registered items and those that are Energy Star certified.

Instead of buying DVDs or CDs, why not give gift cards so your friends and family can just download the content? This also conserves the energy and resources required to manufacture the DVD or CD, and reduce packaging waste.

Instead of wrapping your gift, consider placing the gift in a reusable bag as part of the gift. Otherwise, use recycled paper or add an artistic flair by using old newspapers, magazines, or decorated paper. Reuse wrapping tissue paper and basket paper shreds; I go digging around the office’s paper shredder for crinkled, shredded paper to cushion my items destined for re-gifting. Dive into your creative side by making your own holiday cards, or repurpose old holiday cards by cutting out designs and making a holiday collage.

When all the wrapping paper has been pulverized, boxes and bags tossed aside, and opened holiday cards trampled underfoot in the excitement, be sure to salvage any leftover packaging you can use for next holiday season, recycling the rest.

What to do with unwanted gifts? Besides re-gifting, the Salvation Army, Good Will, and other donation and reuse centers will be glad to take them off your hands. Not only will you be helping those in need, someone in the spirit of green giving might give it to someone who will really love it.

Find more green holiday tips.