The Three R's Of Christmas

By Sharon Naylor

September 4, 2009 5 min read

If you're dedicated to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle and have incorporated some green practices into your household successfully, you certainly will be interested in adjusting some of your holiday traditions and practices to reduce waste. Think about the mountains of wrapping paper left on your floor after the present-unwrapping session. In the past, all of that paper was thrown in the trash, along with the foam peanuts that encased the hot new toy your child received.

Christmas is a holiday, but it doesn't have to be a holiday taken from green living. Here are some top ways to reduce, reuse and recycle your way through the holiday season:

1. Ban non-recycled paper products. That means wrapping paper and greeting cards. Shop from reliable suppliers. Hallmark, for instance, offers greeting cards -- including its cards for 99 cents, humor cards from its Shoebox and Saturdays lines, and part of its PRODUCT (RED) initiative -- that are produced on paper with recycled fiber. Hallmark's earth-friendly card line, unveiled in summer 2009, uses 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper. No new trees were used to make these cards, and they are made from recycled materials that have been diverted from landfills or made from materials originating in a sustainable forest. These green cards sport eco-friendly labels on their backs for easy identification.

2. Give gift bags new life. If you've saved those cute gift bags from years past, just snip off the filled-out tags attached to the string handles, and use those repurposed bags to hold your current year's gifts.

3. Use your supply of tissue paper -- likely in large supply in your gift-wrapping stash -- as the wrapping for your gifts.

4. Recycle your bows. Eliza Cross, a Denver-based author and environmental practices reporter who writes the Urban Homesteader blog (, says: "We don't peel the backing off of 'peel and stick' bows. Instead, we use a little tape to secure them to the package. They are easier to remove and reuse that way."

5. Recycle packing material. Cross says she uses the paper materials from her home office shredder as padding in her holiday shipments.

6. Repurpose old fabrics. Ann Monroe, a blogger covering issues of sustainability at, says, "Instead of throwing out old, worn clothes, cut them up and use them to wrap presents." Other fabric items ideal for wrapping gifts include worn blankets and craft sheets of felt. Just gather the fabric around a small gift; gather at the top; and tie the pouch with holiday ribbon.

7. Use a gift registry so that loved ones know what you'd like to receive. Eliminating guesswork eliminates waste, with no clunker gifts wasting givers' money and your storage space. "For several years now, our extended family has used a wonderful Web site,, to list and track Christmas present requests," says Cross. "It's set up to eliminate duplicate gift purchases and returns."

8. Shop from an eco-friendly Web site. At, you can give someone the heartening gift of knowing a family in a developing nation now has a sheep, ducklings, cows or other animals that support their income and survival. Search reputable Web sites that support Third World artisans, and see which cause speaks to you about the recipient. Some popular causes include health-based, children's hunger and educational charities. If you like to give wine as a gift, check out to find organic wines and those from eco-friendly vineyards.

9. Go do-it-yourself with gifts. Burn a CD of a relative's favorite songs or a DVD of family photos and video. Write and frame a lovely poem for a friend or relative. Cross suggests combining DIY with living gifts, such as "an amaryllis bulb 'planted' in a clear vase with water and red marbles; it grows just fine without the dirt." Cross also suggests delectable treats, such as jars of jam made from summer-fresh peaches. And a new trend is "sanctioned regifting," for example, handing along a novel you own that you know your sister would like or handing an heirloom collectible to a daughter.

10. In the "reduce" category of the three R's of eco-friendly Christmas celebrations, plan for a smaller feast. Do you really need six appetizers, three entrees, seven vegetables and four pies? With bread? Whittle down the menu, replacing some of those appetizers with organic veggies, and you will whittle down waste, as well as your waistline.

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