Choosing to Properly Recycle During the Holidays is a Gift to Our Future

As Christmas decorating, holiday shopping and festive present-giving begins in earnest, there are some easy ways to ensure gifts make a smaller impact on the environment without reducing the joy they bring to recipients.

Each year, an estimated 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper ends up in landfills. And while many conscientious people do try to recycle wrapping paper, a common mistake is putting all wrapping paper, tissue, ribbons and boxes into the recycling bin. If gift wrapping materials are metallic, foil, velvet or glittery, they are unfortunately not recyclable. The same is true of holiday cards; if they are printed on shiny photo paper or have metallic embossing or glitter, that portion of the card needs to go in the trash.

There are some beautiful, creative ways to cut back on gift wrapping materials consumption, such as to dip into a stash of brown paper grocery sacks or other colorful paper bags, cut them up and give them a refresh. Gifts wrapped in repurposed paper can be absolutely beautiful – and especially festive when adorned by reusable twine and natural evergreen sprigs rather than new shiny ribbons and bows. Another option is to actually make the wrapping part of the gift, such as artfully bundling a cookbook in a tea towel so there’s nothing to throw away.

A great way to improve sustainability relating to gift-giving is to forego the boxing and wrapping altogether and opt for experiential options like performance tickets – or gift certificates from local restaurants and services. Not only does this cut down on waste and help reduce accumulation of “stuff”, it can help drive the local economy by offering critical support to small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

If giving or receiving a cell phone or tablet, consider what should be done with the old one. Global estimates are that 5.3 billion cell phones are thrown out or stashed in drawers annually. When devices are not recycled, the opportunity to reuse gold, copper, silver, palladium and other valuable components is lost. And, if devices go into landfills or are incinerated, hazardous elements like mercury and lead can cumulatively cause real health and environmental harm. Some electronics stores like Best Buy will take devices to be properly recycled, and certain items may even be traded in for a gift card or store credit. Similarly, several area Walmart stores house an ecoATM™, a small self-serve kiosk where people can sell or properly dispose of old cell phones. To find a local kiosk near you, visit

The Butterfield Recycle Committee meets monthly and is very committed to sustainability on the BTV campus. Its work over the years has seen great results:

  • City of Fayetteville now picks up all recyclables as part of weekly routes.
  •  Active Living Area
  • Recycle Coordinators are in place to support all residential area of campus – apartments, cottages and Village Homes.
  • New residents are informed about how to recycle and a Resident Manual helps provide ongoing guidance for how the program works.
  • Events taking place at BTV incorporate recycling of bottles and cans, and a recycling container is stationed at the front entrance.