Green Design - Green Holidays

By Sarah Van Arsdale on November 7th, 2009

Fabulous design. Cutting edge looks. Interesting twists in color, fabric, and texture. These are all elements inherent in design that's ecologically sound. Yes, your creativity can have free reign even as you make choices that help protect the planet. Increasingly, manufacturers are creating products that have minimal impact on the environment, whether because they're made from organically-grown cotton or because they're made with renewable resources. We think environmentally friendly design is so important that we recently added a Green Design lesson to the NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design.

In our "Decorating Green" column we'll look at a sustainable, low-impact element of design in each issue of "Designer Monthly." We hope these articles will help us all help the planet and the many creatures that share it with us.

Green Holidays

Not long ago, preparing for the holiday season meant lugging home bagfuls of gift-wrap: reams of thoroughly dispensable, one-time-use-only paper in patterns with dancing Santas and marching fir-trees and bells and stripes and polka-dots, all of it accompanied by yards of red ribbon, gold ribbon, silver ribbon curled into bows or straightened into ties.

And all of it going pretty much straight from the store to the dump. And from there, who knows?

Well, this is a different era than the one we grew up in, and we have a new awareness of how wasteful it is to manufacture something that will just be tossed out. And with that awareness comes a proliferation of companies, large and small, ready to help dig us out of the post-holiday trash heap.

The first thing to consider when greening your gift: giving is where the wrapping comes from. Using recycled wrapping paper saves a bundle of trees before you even start in.

Even before getting into holiday patterns, let’s take a quick peek at some of the gift wrap we're in love with: the fresh, flowery designs from Amy Butler, which we found here:

Gift boxes photo by Amy Butler

But the biggest selection of recycled gift wrap we found was at Of The Earth, which you can browse to your heart’s green delight at

We like these simple cards, with the green Christmas tree or blue Star of David. These are not made of recycled paper, but are made from “Lotka” paper, which according to the website is “made from the inner bark of the Daphne Bush, which grows high in the mountains of Nepal.” The bark regenerates, so no deforesting is needed.

Happy Holidays cards copyright Of The Earth Happy Hanukkah cards copyright Of The Earth

Even better, using these cards supports the local rural economy. “The traditional art of hand papermaking has been handed down from generation to generation in a rural economy that is dependent on the craftman’s skill,” the website says, so the traditional way of life can be preserved.

The company’s 2009 Holiday Line includes several utterly green wrapping papers, in an assortment of colors, from brilliant blue to deep red.

wrapping papers
wrapping papers

You can also get out of the business of using trees for holiday cards by visiting Tree-Free Greetings, which makes its cards from such resources as reclaimed sugar cane paper.

Of course, saving the planet doesn’t begin and end with recycled wrapping paper and vegetable-based inks. You can also choose holidays cards that support a cause you believe in; we found a very easy-to-navigate site at, which has a compendium of charity cards to choose from.

Here, you can browse the charities or search by charity type; the site also specifies their criteria for including charities, which includes a review of the mission and assurances that the organization is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

The organizations range from an arts program for homeless children to the New York Public Library to the Perkins School for the Blind.

And of course you can also contact the organizations you support and see if they are producing holiday cards this year.