By Alyssa Van Kuiken
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