Physical Plant offers tips to reduce waste this holiday season

As we celebrate the holidays, large amounts of trash are generated through wrapped packaging and paper.  The Physical Plant’s Recycling Office at Appalachian State University has compiled a list of tips to reduce holiday waste during festive celebrations.

Alternative Gift Wrapping Ideas

These measures involve reusing different kinds of paper and packaging to wrap gifts:

  • Use brown paper bags and decorate them with markers, stamps and other decorative materials.
  • Purchase sturdy gift bags that can be used year after year.
  • For large or hard-to-wrap gifts, just add a bow instead of gift wrap.
  • Hide gifts and set up a scavenger hunt for finding them rather than wrapping them.
  • Put small gifts in a stocking and use the stocking every year.
  • Wrap gifts in comic papers or old newspaper and decorate.
  • Make gift tags from last year’s greeting cards.
  • Wrap gifts in other gifts.  For example, wrap jewelry inside a scarf.
  • Use recycled-content wrapping paper if you must wrap gifts.

Gift Giving Ideas

Looking for alternatives to purchasing brand new and heavily packaged products while still finding gifts that are meaningful?

  • Send holiday e-cards rather than greeting cards, or purchase recycled-content cards.
  • Make gifts instead of purchasing them.  Baked goods are always a hit.
  • Give locally made gifts and support your local economy.
  • Look for gifts that are minimally packaged or have no packaging at all.
  • Consider the environmental impact of your gift.
  • Re-gifting is a wonderful way to reuse and recycle.
  • Make a gift reusable by giving a reusable grocery tote, water bottle or lunch container, and teach someone the value of reuse.
  • Give gift certificates.
  • Instead of giving a material gift, make a donation to charity in someone’s name or buy them tickets to a sports event, concert or other event.
  • Consider purchasing a more durable item that will last longer.  If money is an issue, consider co-purchasing a gift for someone with other family members or friends.
  • Shop at thrift stores for unique gift items or holiday decorations.
  • Purchase recycled-content products to close the recycling loop.
  • When shopping for gifts, be sure to use reusable shopping bags.

Party Waste Reduction Tips

  • For those festive holiday parties, try these waste-saving opportunities:
  • Buy baked goods and snacks in bulk or large volume.
  • Use reusable tableware and borrow from friends and neighbors if you don’t have enough.
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels.
  • Rent reusable party dishes from your local party rental company.
  • Place plenty of easily identifiable recycling bins around during your party.
  • Point out ways your party is practicing waste reduction and spread the word.

Waste Reduction after the Holidays

  • Waste reduction activities can continue even after the holidays come to an end. Try these measures:
  • Save packing materials, giftwrap and tissue paper for reuse.
  • Use leftover giftwrap to line dresser drawers and shelves.
  • Save bows, ribbon, tags and gift bags for next year.
  • Cut up leftover wrap to make scratch pads.
  • Compost leftover food.
  • Recycle your tree.  Some communities collect trees to make mulch.  Check into your local program opportunities.
  • Continue green living, learn from your actions, live better and become more eco-conscious year round.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling at Appalachian, contact Physical Plant resource conservation manager Jennifer Maxwell at