News and Updates

From the City Manager's Desk

View All Posts

Dec 11

Are You Naughty or Nice When It Comes to Eco-friendly Holiday Packaging?

Posted on December 11, 2019 at 3:22 PM by Sharon Hoggard

It’s that time of year! The elves have been making a list and checking it twice—to see who is naughty or nice when it comes to eco-friendly holiday packaging. Every bit you do, from shopping with reusable totes to using gift wrap and containers of your own creation, contributes to a healthy Hampton Roads community.

“It’s easy to celebrate the holidays while being environmentally aware, and suppliers are providing more choices in wrapping paper, cards and gift bags that are recyclable,” said Katie Cullipher, an team leader. “That’s good, but consumers can also think about alternatives to using all of these paper products before they shop. Do we really need to buy new wrapping paper every year, or are there other creative ways to present a gift?”

A study from Stanford University revealed that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. This extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

Cullipher encourages gift givers to get creative and make their own wrapping paper using fabric, maps, your child’s artwork, gently-used scarves, thin tea towels or reused paper. Top it with a pinecone, twine or a sprig of fresh rosemary. Placing gifts in reusable containers, such as baskets, canisters, pretty boxes and tins, is another fun way to reuse special items you have around the house. “Your own curated gift wrap will be the hit of the gift exchange—and Pinterest,” Cullipher said.  

To celebrate a season that is both bright and eco-friendly, use the holiday wrapping checklist to know which packaging materials are recyclable, or not, and have a nicer green holiday ahead!  

Naughty. The following holiday items are not recyclable:

  • Greeting cards with glitter or metallic accents
  • Gift wrap and gift bags made of foil or plastic
  • Ribbons and bows
  • Plastic product packaging
  • Tissue/wrapping paper with glitter

Nice! These items can be recycled:

  • Paper greeting cards and envelopes
  • Paper gift bags
  • Plain tissue/wrapping paper (without glitter or foil)
  • Cardboard shipping boxes

Good to do always:

  • Keep reusable shopping bags in your car.
  • As a gift alternative, make a donation in honor of a loved one.
  • Send e-cards and e-vites rather than paper cards. 
  • Avoid paper/plastic by using your own dinnerware, cups and utensils when entertaining.
  • If you give electronic gifts, include rechargeable batteries.
  • If you use a naturally grown Christmas tree, place it in a quiet corner of your yard after the holidays; the birds will love it. Or, recycle it. Check back with for a list of Christmas tree recycling guidelines for each Hampton Roads locality. 
  • For more tips on keeping a green holiday season, visit

About is your go-to resource for all things green in Hampton Roads – from recycling tips and pointers for keeping local waterways clean to water-saving ideas and simple steps to make local living easy on the environment. Launched in 2011, the region-wide public awareness and education campaign is administered through the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and powered by the following members: The cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg; the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry and York; the town of Smithfield; and HRSD. Like on Facebook, follow on Twitter and Instagram, tune in to YouTube and catch the “Let’s Talk Green” blog, written by a team of local experts.