There are several layers to Recycling Christmas:
I’ll start with the traditional religious and gift-giving concepts and the go on to those that fit the more classic ecology dimensions.

1.The SUPER-SPIRITUAL: This approach goes back to the basics and reminds us that Christmas is about the Christ coming into the world as a human being. It is not primarily about buying presents. The focus is on being generous and remembering those who are born into poverty as Jesus was. This is all true and good but the spiritual only approach risks being inhuman if taken to a judgmental extreme as your family calls you the Grinch yelling “Bah Humbug!” Besides, the joy of family gatherings and gift-giving is not bad, even though frequently overdone.

2. The SUPER-FRUGAL: This approach is akin to the super-spiritual but the motivation is not only getting back to the basics but doing it cheaply.I have been accused of this by my family since by natural temperament I tend toward frugality. (They have less neutral term for it.) For ideas on this style see Frugal Gifts for Family & Friends and Nothing New Christmas 

3. The SUPER-ENVIRONMENTAL: Serious environmentalists can be hard to live with at times. They take their water bottle everywhere,refuse straws and plastic bags, may even carry their own reusable silverware,etc. (I plead guilty.) But there are other issues like what about all the boxes and transportation involved in online shopping? For a closer look at complicated decisions like this, click here

The above are all legitimate things to think about as we approach Christmas, but for the weary or lazy, I offer two simpler and less extreme ways to be a good person who accepts that Christmas involves giving gifts but still is conscientious about reducing one’s impact on the environment.

4. THE PRACTICAL: If you are hosting family for Christmas (as we are this year) it typically means cleaning the house. My own modest cleaning this year revealed

  • that my stack of 8 ½” by 11” papers was now 10” high.These are papers that were originally only printed on one side so I used them to print unofficial stuff on the other side.
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    Jim noticed some folks sifting through the neighbors’recycling bin for metal. He remembered that we had a bunch of metal remnants in the garage which we planned to some day take to the metal recycling center.

“Some Day” became today for the paper and metals. Itjust took keeping our eyes open.

5. THE “IT’S NOT TOO LATE” APPROACH: So it’s Christmas morning and presents are being opened. It’s not too late to recycle part of Christmas. Consider the wrapping paper.

Many years ago in our super-frugal days when of necessity we didn’t have much discretionary money, we decided to wrap our family Christmas presents in brown paper grocery bags. The kids were young enough that they didn’t complain that we were weird. We said that “Simple brown packaging can hide treasures.” We still do it but few others do.

Solution: Most traditional wrapping paper can be put in paper recycling as long as it doesn’t have glitter or foil on it and you take off sticky tape, ribbons, and it passes the “scrunch” test. Check RecycleNow and Earth911 for details.

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January 1 – Addendum: Christmas Day is over and I saved all the wrapping paper to recycle. I also reviewed our local recycling regulations. I had a giant garbage bag of discarded paper. I decided to carefully go through all the remnants removing tape and deleting metallic paper. Nothing had glitter on it. The stack on the left can be recycled. The bag on the right holds remnants that cannot go into recycling. I feel virtuous but I doubt that I will do this again. It took over 2 hours to sort what can be recycled and what can’t. Maybe considering we had 10 family members we had too much wrapping paper – most relatives wrapped at our house. Maybe we had too many presents. Maybe we should have used reusable bags… Whatever. I can’t (and don’t want to) control other people’s gift giving, I just wish the paper didn’t feel so wasteful.