Time to Cut Down on Wrapping Paper

By Alyssa Van Kuiken

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As Christmas time approaches and we begin to check off the items on our list of things that we need to buy for our family and friends, we also find on our shopping list things that we need to buy just to make the gifts presentable such as wrapping paper. Almost everyone finds themselves in need of this commodity for kids and adult gifts alike.

At Christmas we all expect to find wrapped presents under the tree, but why not simply place them in a gift bag or another more practical gift covering instead of wrapping paper?

There are several alternatives to using wrapping paper that can be reused when it comes to Christmas time, birthdays and other events where gifts are given. Some options include things like using cloth, repurposing newspaper, or using gift bags and all of these options could potentially cut back on the waste generated by wrapping paper. While some of the alternatives listed are slightly out of the norm, such as cloth wrappings, something as simple as using a gift bag can make a difference.

Yet, according to an infographic found on  Visual.ly ,

only nineteen percent of adults put items in gift bags instead of wrapping the items. 

Why is it that this number is so small despite the fact that using any of those items will help the environment by cutting down on the nearly 4 million tons of waste that are generated by gift wrapping and shopping bags per year (Garner).

Most people believe that they can recycle wrapping paper after they have torn it off of their gifts, but the information provided by several websites seems to say otherwise. WRAP, a UK based program, says that wrapping paper cannot often be recycled because of the way that it is made. Most papers contain dyes and lamination and tape is usually stuck to it, all of which make it difficult to recycle (WRAP). So despite the fact that many think that wrapping paper isn’t so bad because it can just be recycled and reused, it seems that it will eventually make its way to a landfill, not into new paper which will just add to our growing environmental problems.

It is generally true that you can wrap more presents with a roll of wrapping paper than you can if you took the same amount of money and bought gift bags in a single year. However, if you take into consideration how many times you can reuse bags in comparison to the one (or maybe two times) that you can use wrapping paper, it becomes easier to see that it is not that big of a financial difference.

American’s spend an estimated $2.6 billion on wrapping paper every year at an average of $4.99 per roll (Visual.ly).

If you take that number and look at how much wrapping paper you use in a year in comparison with how many years you can go without buying new bags simply by reusing them, you can see that it makes sense to make the switch for at least some of your gift giving.

Also, according to Statista.com, the average American is expected to spend roughly $906 on Christmas gifts in 2017, so even if there is a slightly elevated cost of packaging the gifts that you are giving by using bags, if you lump all of the Christmas costs together it will likely be a very minimal difference.

One argument that some have made is that wrapping paper is part of the fun of Christmas and that kids have been tearing through the paper to get to their toys on Christmas morning for years. This is a point that is hard to ignore. The thrill of tearing open that layer of paper and seeing that new doll or truck is one that many kids look forward to all year long, but why can’t they pull their toy out of a bag instead? Will the effect really be that big of a difference and will the kids even notice a difference if you did switch to bags?

If the tradition of a child opening a wrapped gift is really important to you, then perhaps you do continue to wrap their gifts, but you can still swap out the adult’s paper wrappings for bags. Any amount of change can have an impact. It is estimated that “45,000 football fields worth of paper would be saved if every American family wrapped three presents in re-used material” (Visual.ly). According to an infographic found on Creditdonkey.com, the average American wraps fifteen presents per year so three gifts would not be a big change for just one family, however, when that is added all together across the whole population, it is a massive difference.

Another statistic shows that,

Americans spend about 3 hours wrapping gifts each year, with 25% of people expecting to spend more than 4 hours (visual.ly).

Time around the holidays is meant to be spent with family, not with a roll of wrapping paper and some tape. Those three hours could be spent playing in the snow with your kids or just relaxing. If we were willing to put our gifts into gift bags instead, we would likely be able to cut down on the amount of time spent getting gifts ready.

In a scotch tape survey that can be found on Myria.com, you can find statistics that say that “nearly 70 % of Americans say they enjoy wrapping gifts” and that “28% say that it gets them in the holiday spirit”, but aren’t there other ways of getting into the spirit that are less wasteful and even more enjoyable than gift wrapping?

If you are stumped on what these other holiday spirit kick-starters might be, a quick google search can give you a lot of ideas. You can have a holiday movie marathon, and in the four hours that you would normally spend wrapping, you can probably get through two movies. You could spend four hours ice skating although you might be tired after that activity. You could spend four hours baking cookies for you and your friends and family to share and enjoy. While wrapping might be the thing that some people need to get in the spirit, most people can find another activity that is just as enjoyable, if not more so, to get them in the holiday spirit.

Wrapping paper has its obvious perks from kid’s enjoyment to boosting holiday spirit, but your time spent wrapping could be used in other ways, and the financial difference would be minor. A simple switch to another form of gift wrapping can mean a huge decrease in waste if it happens over a portion of the population. It is not a difficult switch, so as you wrap your Christmas gifts this year, consider helping to do your part and start using alternative forms of gift wrapping instead of using wrapping paper.

Photo by Iris Rodriguez

To Lean In, Or Not To Lean In: That Is The Question.

By Irisneida Rodriguez

women workingAccording to the Morton College student demographics, females accounted for 57.2 percent of enrollees for the 2016-17 school year. I began wondering how many of us have, or plan to have children? How many of us have or will be affected by maternity leave or simply any other time needed off during the initial childbearing years? How will that impact our earnings and status in the workplace?

These are all questions that I find myself thinking about because one day I want to have children but also have a professional occupation. And so, adding to my worries, lies the thought of how will I successfully balance the work and housework (which includes, but isn’t limited to childcare).

I heard of the term “leaning in” in my Sociology class. After reading a few articles on the topic I came to an understanding of what it is and if it’s the right thing for women to do. This social phenomenon has been in headlines for a few years now. The term came about from a book published in 2013, written by Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. The book was titled, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

A quote from Sandberg’s mentions,

“I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential”.

Ultimately, the goal of the book seems to be to motivate women to “lean in”, meaning, to work hard and take their role at work serious to earn a lead occupation, promotions and raises. What are the consequences of leaning in?

An article titled “The Real Reason Women Should Lean In” by Liz O’ Donnell, published by the Huffpost, presents how leaning in at the start of the career (or job) can be beneficial later. O’ Donnell goes on to present a personal anecdote of how leaning in since the start of her career has allowed her to keep her job and ask for more work flexibility. For example, she mentions joining management team meeting via Skype and later says;

“If your employer doesn’t know that they can trust you to get work done anywhere, anytime, they’re less likely to grant you flex accommodations”.

To O’Donnell, building a trustworthy, reliable, efficient and valuable image of yourself in the workplace will help once you’ll need those days off or flexibility whether it’s to care for children or even elderly parents, it is worth “leaning in” for.

An article titled “Recline, don’t ‘Lean in’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg)” by Rosa Brooks, published by The Washington Post in 2014 she stands against the idea of “leaning in”. She mentions her hate for Sandberg isn’t anything personal, but because before she changed her ways and was convinced to “lean in”, she “had a life, had friends, family, children, hobbies, occasional vacations and eight hours of sleep.” Now, she was miserable and had spent too much time building her network that became too tired and felt “boxed in”.

In Brook’s point of view, leaning in is like a trap. It is making women tired and eventually want to drop out of their professional occupation. Brooks claims,

“If we truly want gender equality, we need to challenge the assumption that more is always better,”

She also argues that we must stand against the assumption that men don’t suffer as much as women when they’re exhausted and have no time for family or fun.”  To back up her arguments Brook’s mentions that women work that “double-shift” because they do far more housework and childcare than men do.

To lean in or not to lean in: that is the question. This corny trope came to mind, but it really is a matter that should be of concern to not only us women but men as well.

This topic is related directly to the institution of the family can be sociologically analyzed by the symbolic-interaction perspective. How will your romantic relationship be affected by having little to no time for care when your partner is constantly busy with work.

What is your take on being expected to work extra hours as a sign of being a better worker than someone else? Are you supporting her career? How will you and your household be affected if your partner is earning below what she should be?

Ladies, what are your takes on this matter? Why is parental and family leave unpaid for many in need, even if it’s highly likely and inevitable in most occasions? In my opinion, what this says about our country is that ubiquity in work valued over the personal lives of human beings.

A Pew Research Study of 2013 presents that the percent of 25 to 32-year-olds with at least a four-year college degree has been steadily on the rise since 1993 (when both gender categories lied at about 25 percent). Women have surpassed men with 38 percent compared to 31 percent.

We can expect more women to join the professional workforce and take on lead positions but will leaning in have what we consider “successful” results without damaging the family arena? Or is leaning in motivating and encouraging more women to work to their full potential and earn benefits but feeling incompletely happy in their personal lives?

Photo from Wikipedia