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  • Suresh Venkatraman

Tips for Holiday Waste Reduction and Sustainable Gift Giving

Researched and compiled by Champion Organic Communications, © 2012.

Here are some tips for making your holidays just a little greener:

Newspaper wrapping from

Use creative “eco-wrap.” Use comics, old maps, sheet music, fabric/wallpaper scraps. Visit local recycler, FabMo, 2423 Old Middlefield Way in Mountain View for high quality designer materials. Use tins and pretty empty food boxes for gift containers. Reuse wrapping paper, or use recycled brown wrapping paper with a sprig of green for a natural look. Last-year’s holiday cards make great tags!

Don’t wrap oversized gifts. Hide them and give clues. Make gift-giving into a treasure hunt.

Avoid, reuse or recycle foam peanuts. For alternative packaging materials, try shredded paper, popcorn or candy canes. If you end up with foam packaging materials, reuse them, donate them to your local UPS store or recycle them at the Postal Annex Service Center 2310 Homestead Rd in South Los Altos.

Give the gift of time or talent. Take someone to a play, concert or movie. Make your own gift certificates. Offer your talents like photography or financial planning. Give your favorite recipe and include ingredients.

Help your friends go green. Give planet-conscious gifts like compost bins, can crushers, water timers, programmable thermostats, rain barrels, light timers or bird feeders.

Be smart with your holiday lighting. Buy outdoor light strands that are wired in parallel – if one bulb goes bad, the others still work, so you won’t be throwing away entire strands. Or better yet, switch to energy-saving LEDs.

Japanese fabric wrapping, “furoshiki,” from

Keep it simple. One thoughtful gift is better than six wrapped packages of unwanted gifts.

Plan “previously-loved” or homemade gift exchanges. Books, a restored piece of furniture or a rebuilt bike can be cherished for many years and by many people. And homemade body care or food items such as jams, cookies and dried fruits are always a welcome gift at the holidays.

Stuff stockings with sentiment. Have family members write a note to every other person, saying one thing they really love about that person.

Opt out of unwanted mail. Eliminate unwanted junk and catalog mail at

Compost your leftover food. It’s easy and makes for a great fertilizer!

Invest in communities and the environment. For as little as $10 you can invest in a “micro” loan at or Consider charitable gift giving to make a difference at or purchase a gift at And donate to local charities and nonprofits ­– may we suggest GreenTown Los Altos?

Our sincere thanks to GreenTown volunteers for our 2012 Eco-Wrapping Extravaganza for their time and donations and to our partners, Los Altos Forward, Passerelle Investments, and Thai Silks (silk donations). Have a blessed holiday season!

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