Clever ways to reduce paper this holiday season

It’s the time of year for festive parties, sharing joy, and buying and wrapping gifts.  We all know the holidays create a lot of waste, but reading dismal statistics about the 2.6 billion dollars we spend on wrapping paper each year can be a holiday buzzkill.  Furthermore, I’m betting that you already know about using newspaper to wrap up your gifts in order to reduce wrapping paper –

Newspaper Wrapping done right – with natural accents too!
Image via CourtneyLaneMichaels

Keep your spirits light (as well as your garbage) by making these easy swaps to reduce paper this holiday season.

1) Send a holiday postcard – but email the Christmas letter, party invitations, and even the thank you notes.

2) Buy generic looking gift bags, and rather than purchase tissue paper, shred the Christmas catalogs you receive on an endless basis (Macy’s I’m looking at you!).   Leave a small note on the card asking the receiver to please reuse the bag, and suggest it to the next recipient as well.

Sick of those catalogs? Set up a reminder to take a few minutes (perhaps after the holidays) to get off all those mailing lists with  This is a “free service to opt out of catalogs, coupons, credit card offers, phone books, circulars and more.”

3) Wrap strategically! One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received in my life is “It isn’t all or nothing.”  Can’t bear to part with the beautiful paper on at least a few gifts?  Don’t worry about it!  Wrap stocking stuffers, Secret Santa, and children’s gifts in newsprint and save the good stuff for those who really love glittery snowflakes.

Another wrapping suggestion that eliminates paper altogether – use something reusable such as a scarf, dish towel, or cloth bag!

Beautifully wrapped gift using a scarf. Image via

4) Want to save some time?  Set up a treasure hunt! Instead of spending the average of 3 hours wrapping gifts (yikes!) take a few minutes to brainstorm some clues, write them out, and then hide the gifts.  This could be a great Christmas tradition too.

5) Looking for a way to get crafty? Attend the Peabody Essex PEM PM event on Thursday, December 19th which will teach you how to fold paper Japanese style in order to adorn your gifts.

NOTE: If you DO choose to go with wrapping paper this season – some have metal foils that are NOT RECYCLABLE – please choose wisely and go with an all paper wrapping paper that you (and others) are able to recycle.  If you receive metallic wrapping paper – re-use it!

Got ideas for other holiday paper use, re-use, or elimination?  We want to hear them!  Share your ideas by posting them on our facebook page here.


This blog post was written by Beth Melillo, a member of the SalemRecycles Committee.  Beth is an MS candidate as Salem State University in the I/O Psychology program and is interested in sustainable business and development.  You can often find her running at Forest River Park or checking out books about upcycling from the Salem Public Library.