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4 sustainable gift packaging ideas for the holiday season

A hand stamps snowflakes on a holiday gift wrapped in eco-friendly paper.

With the holiday season fast approaching, shoppers across the country are turning their attention, and their wallets, toward buying gifts for their nearest and dearest. And if there’s one thing that gets everybody in the holiday spirit, it’s a good old gift-wrapping session.

But with all of this wrapping and packaging comes waste, and environmental concerns have led many people to express an interest in eco-friendly packaging. Read on to learn more about the issue of packaging waste and explore some great gift packaging ideas that can help you stay green during the holiday season.

Why is there so much gift packaging waste in the U.S.?

The next time you bring home a gift from the store and wrap it up, think about this: Shopping bags and wrapping paper contribute around 4 million tons of waste per year. It’s also been estimated that half of the 85 million tons of paper consumed in the U.S. every year is for wrapping and packaging products.

Even though most gift packaging is often single-use and difficult to recycle or compost, people probably aren’t going to stop wrapping up their holiday gifts any time soon. According to Sundale Research, Americans spend around $7 billion on wrapping paper each year. But so long as most packaging options aren’t sustainable, it’s going to cause problems for eco-conscious shoppers.

So, why is it so difficult to recycle gift packaging? First, there’s the presence of sticky tape and decorations (like ribbons and bows) which cannot be recycled. This means if you do wish to recycle your gift packaging, you need to go through the laborious task of removing all the unrecyclable materials.

There are also issues around dyeing or lamination of the gift paper—which again means that it cannot be recycled—as well as the presence of non-paper additives like glitter, plastics or gold and silver coloring. Finally, some gift packaging has a thin structure and contains low-quality fibers that aren’t ideal for recycling.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why eco-friendly packaging seems to be hard to come by. But that doesn’t mean that people who are committed to a green lifestyle can’t giftwrap their presents.

Top 4 eco-friendly packaging ideas

Want to stay on top of your carbon footprint this holiday season? Cut the waste out of wrapping with these sustainable gift packaging ideas:

1. Get creative with your wrapping paper

There are tons of creative options that you can use to make your holiday gift wrapping sessions more eco-friendly. You’re only limited by your imagination! Replace the package’s bow with a real bow tie for a sustainably spiffy aesthetic, or if you’re wrapping a child’s gift, why not swap out the ribbon for bright, colorful laces or even a jump rope? Quick reminder: All wrapped gifts need to be enclosed in a suitable shipping container, so check out this UPS® packaging advisor for customized recommendations on which containers and interior cushioning options are right for your packages.

2. Try alternative wrapping paper options

When it comes to wrapping paper, you don’t have to go with the store-bought variety. From colorful ads to old newspapers and magazines, there are many recyclable alternatives that you can use to make a memorable, eco-friendly gift for your friends and loved ones.

You could skip wrapping paper altogether and use decorative tins, wooden boxes or a reusable gift bag. Although this seems like a relatively minor adjustment to your gift-wrapping process, it could have a serious impact on packaging waste. According to Wrag Wrap, the average American gives around 42 gifts per year, but if reusable gift wraps were used for only three of those gifts, we could save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

3. Reuse your old wrapping paper

Why not try using last year’s wrapping paper for this year’s gifts? If you do, you’ll be in good company—as many as 53% of adults end up reusing their gift wrapping paper. Of course, you don’t have to reuse your old paper just for wrapping. You can shred it for cushioning inside a shipping box or take scrap pieces of paper and use them to make gift tags. Any gift packaging idea that stops wrapping paper from being single-use is a great way of cutting down on the waste.

4. Head to The UPS Store

When it comes to eco-friendly packaging, sometimes it’s best to let the experts handle things. The UPS Store provides boxes that are fully recyclable and able to be reused, as well as a carbon neutral option which allows you to neutralize the climate impact of your packages. In addition, there’s the option to use kraft paper—a recyclable, compostable, unbleached and tear-resistant packaging option that’s perfect for filling empty space inside a light-to-medium weight package.

One of other sustainable packaging innovations that you can take advantage of at The UPS Store is inflatable cushioning, which allows you to eliminate polystyrene packing peanuts from your packages. Since bags of inflatable cushioning take less space on trucks than bubble wrap or packing peanuts—as the cushioning is shipped uninflated—it’s also good for your carbon footprint.

Give some of these sustainable packaging options a try and boost your green credentials while you get into the holiday spirit. For help with sustainable packaging when you’re shipping, visit your nearest The UPS Store® location.

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