12/06/2011 01:14 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2012

Guilt-Free Green Gift Wrap Guide

Nothing excites me more during the holidays than finding the perfect gift for a friend or family member and wrapping it up so that the package looks thoughtful and inviting; however, nothing makes me feel more guilty than all the wasted paper, tissue and ribbons that I have to throw away during the holidays. Americans use more than 8,000 tons of wrapping paper each holiday season, which equals approximately 50,000 trees. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day the average American household trash output increases this amount by another 5 million extra tons. So this year I set out to find ways to make festive gifts with a lot less guilt and waste.

1) DIY Gift Wrap:

Homemade gift-wrap is a great way to recycle and is a lot more fun for children. You can use recycled brown craft paper or the inside of brown paper grocery bags and paint them, add glitter and/or use stamps. This creates a festive one of kind recycled wrap -- great for grandparents. This is a very affordable way to create green gift-wrap. Here is a great source of bulk 70% recycled craft paper:

According to the Carnegie Mellon Green Practices initiative, "If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields." Old books and magazines are the perfect material to reuse for gift wrap. You can take old magazines and use the images, like pictures of waves from old surfing magazines, for your ocean-loving friends and family. Additionally, images of cars from old car magazines are great for boys of all ages. Most newsstands and bookstores throw out old magazines after the new issues hit the stand -- so, if you talk to your local store you may be able to get some great back issues for free.

2) Reusable Gifts Wraps & Bags:

Cloth reusable wraps or bags are another way to create a beautiful package without creating paper waste. There are many small companies making festive bags and wraps in a huge variety of colors. This is great for family gifts. You can start a tradition in your home where you reuse these bags every holiday season; however, it can become a very expensive option if you were to use cloth for all of your gift giving.

For those of you that are very ambitious and great with a needle or thread, you can sew your own gift bags. Reusing cloth makes gift bags/wraps much more affordable. I am not qualified to give sewing advice or instruction, but the following link has easy to follow how to guide to sewing your own reusable bags.

3) Eco Wrapping Paper:

If you are short on time and not very crafty, the easiest way to have more green gift wrap is buying eco gift wrap that made from recycled paper and/ or sustainable natural fibers. There are many great options, such as the paper from Fish Lips Paper Designs.

There are even seeded papers seeded with wild flower seeds that you can plant after you open your gifts available here.

There are so many ways to give our gifts this holiday season in a more thoughtful and green way. After all, the way we give can have as much impact as what we are giving.

I wish you all a very special (and green) holiday season.