Green Wrapping and Ribbons

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, Americans throw away more than a million extra tons of trash each week, including holiday gift wrapping and packaging, according to Robert Lilienfeld, co-author of "Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are."

Finding an alternative to standard gift-wrap materials is easier than you might think. Wraps made from recycled paper abound, as do beautiful gift wraps made from alternative fibers such as woven grass, lokta, tree bark, banana fiber, spun silk and recycled rag.

Lokta paper is made from the inner bark of the lokta bush, a quickly regenerating plant that grows in Nepal, while banana paper is created from the waste bark of banana trees grown in such places as Thailand and Costa Rica. Decorative handmade paper from India and Bangladesh produced from rags discarded by the cotton garment industry is tree-free and 100 percent recycled (, 800-420-3818).

Less expensive wrapping solutions include old maps, newspapers, Sunday comics and holiday gift bags, which can be used over and over. Kids' artwork can make a nice wrapping for presents to proud grandparents. Or try making the wrap a part of the gift: Putting cookies in a flowerpot or hiding jewelry in a new pair of gloves will keep your gift under wraps and the "wrapping" out of the trash.

Some gifts may not need wrapping at all: tickets to concerts, museums or sporting events, gift certificates or houseplants.

And consider ribbon, miles and miles of which is used and tossed out each year. If every family in the United States saved and reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of the trimming saved could tie a bow around the planet, Lilienfeld says. If recycling ribbon doesn't suit you, substitute a natural fiber raffia ribbon in place of synthetic ribbons, or look for biodegradable ribbon made from cotton and soy-based inks (

Or avoid ribbon altogether, and accent gifts with seasonal cookie cutters, twigs of greenery, pine cones or handmade ornaments.

Brenna Maloney

© 2007 The Washington Post Company