Heal the Bay’s Sustainable Holiday Tips: PART TWO

 From the Desk of Meredith McCarthy, Director of Campaigns & Outreach, Heal the Bay leader for over 20 years, and professional mom working hard to thrive during this busy holiday season.

From our beach cleanups to our policy work on single-use plastics, Heal the Bay is tackling the waste crisis. With the holiday season upon us, there are numerous opportunities to help protect our local waters and watersheds by going green. 

Read Part ONE of our Green Holiday Tips Guide: Sustainable Shipping Holiday Myths

Read Part THREE of our Green Holiday Tips Guide: Decorating for Your Holiday Party

PART TWO:  Wrapping Paper vs. Recycling

I have memories as a child writhing in pain on Christmas morning as my mother helicoptered around us demanding we take the utmost care when opening presents. Wrapping paper in my family fell into the legacy category. Every bow was carefully peeled off and the tape slit so the paper could be reused again and again. We longed to rip open packages with reckless abandon like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. This was not a planet-saving strategy, but rather an exercise in extreme frugality (my parents having grown up in the great depression). The mantra was “waste nothing”. Back then wrapping paper was actually paper as opposed to the metallic, plastic hybrid we see in the stores today.  This new elaborate wrapping poses a challenge for an already complicated recycling process. 

Your wrapping paper is most likely not recyclable

Traditional wrapping paper often contains a mix of materials, including metallic or plastic coatings, glitter, and other embellishments. The same elements that make the paper shiny also render it difficult to recycle. That’s because shiny wrapping paper is often made with Mylar, a plastic film coated with aluminum. Don’t wishcycle. It’s going to the landfill. 

The thin and delicate nature of wrapping paper adds to its recyclability challenges. The fibers used in many wrapping papers are often shorter and of lower quality compared to those found in standard recyclable paper products. As a result, the recycling process becomes less effective, leading to lower-quality recycled material or the rejection of the paper altogether. 

If the paper weren’t challenging enough, the tape, bows, and adhesive labels contaminate recycling streams, making it harder to separate and process the materials efficiently. Those shiny stick-on bows and sparkly nylon ribbons? Unrecyclable. 

“Wrapping up” Your Green Holidays Sustainably

This year try a more sustainable approach to gift wrapping. Explore alternatives such as reusable fabric, interesting apparel like scarves from Goodwill or even creative DIY solutions like:

  • Maps 
  • Newspaper
  • Bees Wrap
  • Naturally Dyed Paper
  • Toilet Paper wrap

One of our Heal the Bay team members got creative by wrapping her gift in a Heal the Bay t-shirt!

Opting for minimalistic wrapping styles without excessive embellishments can also contribute to making gift wrapping more environmentally friendly. Try a rosemary sprig from the bush outside and a hemp or jute ribbon. The string and rosemary can go in the in the organics bin. If you can’t imagine a holiday without unwrapping gifts, try 100% recycled kraft paper. Ultimately, all the parts of your gift should tell the recipient that you care about them and their future. 

Give the Gift of Experience

Not every great gift needs a bow. Heal the Bay has no-wrapping-required gift options for you!

For the future marine scientist in your life: Gift Heal the Bay Aquarium Winter Science Camp, perfect for kids from kindergarten to 5th grade, our Winter Sessions are open from January 2 to January 5, 2024.

For the impossible-to-shop-for Secret Santa Recipient: Give a Heal the Bay Gift card, good to use on all items in the shop, at Heal the Bay ticket events, and visits to the Heal the Bay Aquarium.

For the Animal Activist on your Gift List: Gift a Heal the Bay Aquarium Membership which includes unlimited free visits, exclusive member benefits, and valuable discounts.