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Wrapping paper, zero waste holiday
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Seattle green advocates urge us to skip Christmas wrapping paper, rent decorations

(Photo by freestocks on Unsplash)

The holiday season is a time for giving and celebrating, but a less savory side effect of that is how much ends up in the landfill.

“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, just in that short period of time, household waste increases by over 25 percent,” said Sofia Dragomiretskiy, co-owner of Decorent, a sustainable Seattle decoration rental service.

I know, I know — I swear I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, especially during a challenging year. But there are some really easy ways to have a greener holiday that won’t take away from your joy. Let’s start with wrapping presents.

“Most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable,” said Spokane’s April Dickinson, known as Zero Waste Dork on Instagram. “It has some element of a coating on it or glitter or a metallic. It’s really this horrible feeling to see a really beautiful wrapped present get ripped to shreds and then you immediately take all of that wrapping and ribbon and put it into a giant garbage bag. That was our tradition for many years.”

Dickinson has since switched over to a Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in fabric.

“I’ve been using the same silk fabric that I got on my Buy Nothing group, for free, that I’ve been using for the last five years. It looks beautiful under the tree, you don’t need tape, you don’t need scissors. The gift can be literally any shape, the fabric goes around it. If you’re in a situation where you’re physically there when the gift is being opened, then you can just ask for the fabric back.”

As far as buying gifts for her two young sons, she mostly shops second hand.

“I see a lot of people asking, ‘What can I get a this-aged kid?’ or ‘What should I get a teenager?’ and I always remind people that they can just ask and get the kid exactly what they want or need. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. A zero waste gift is a gift that actually is going to be loved and used. We should really be gifting with a sense of helping someone else and not necessarily feeding into our own egos around what gifting is.”

When it comes to decorating your Christmas tree, a local husband and wife owned company called Decorent is focused on sustainability.

“Decorent allows you to rent Christmas tree decor for the holiday season,” said Dragomiretskiy. “You can either make your own design from scratch using the decor on our website or you can choose one of our professionally designed tree sets. We currently offer 16 designs.”

Renting tree decor is also ideal for people who live in small spaces, with no room to store boxes full of seasonal decorations. She says much of the waste generated during the holiday season comes from single use holiday decorations.

“People usually get sick of stuff or they buy very cheap things that start to look bad or break easily,” Dragomiretskiy said. “Whereas we invested in things that are going to last a very long time. We reuse all of our packaging and storing solutions. We invested in burlap bags which are made from natural jute fibers and are biodegradable. We do invest a lot of time into creating delivery routes that are the most fuel efficient. If we notice we have deliveries in Tacoma three days in a row, we’ll actually contact our customers and ask them if we can deliver their decor a day earlier.”

But does any of this actually make a difference? If I stop buying wrapping paper, will less be manufactured? Does adding elements of a zero waste lifestyle make a dent?

“That is something that makes me want to throw my hands up and just be like, ‘Whatever!’ It really feels to me like the capitalist machine just keeps churning no matter what,” said Dickinson. “But I think it does make a difference because when I feel really overwhelmed with things happening in the world that I don’t have control over, being able to have control over these decisions is really empowering. It does make me feel better and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. It also inspires people without us always knowing it. Sometimes people will tell me two or three years later that they saw something I posted and they changed. So we don’t know who were impacting and who we’re inspiring to make changes.”

Here are some of Dickinson’s favorite places to get sustainable holiday gifts and learn more about zero waste:

Eco Collective  (Ballard)
Scoop Marketplace (Kirkland/Juanita)
A Public Shop – (West Seattle)
Seattle ReCreative  (Greenwood, Seattle)
Art Salvage (Spokane)
Buy Nothing Groups (everywhere)
Seattle Zero Waste
Zero Waste Washington

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