It's Aunt Mildred’s 80th birthday, and you've spent your Saturday afternoon scouring shops for a gift. Aunt Mildred is partial to potpourri and tacky picture frames, and especially to china knicknacks that collect dust, get in the way, and are positively threatening in their fragility. Finally your weary eyes light upon the perfect token of your affection: a china pelican to augment Aunt Mildred's impressive porcelain animal collection.

You're like, super ultra eco though, and would really rather not package Pelican in the Styrofoam peanuts the shop owner is trying to force on you. What could I use instead, you wonder, scratching your head and gazing down at your all-bamboo socks and eco-sneaks.

Aha! Shredded newspapers and magazines! Foam polystyrene products like Styrofoam are made from styrene -- a petroleum by-product -- and it's almost impossible to find a place willing to recycle it. Shredded paper, on the other hand, is a triply eco choice; you save the Styrofoam, give old newspapers a second life, and, if Aunt Mildred is as green as you are, she’ll throw the paper in her recycling bin, or even on her compost heap. Low-end shredders go for only about $20, and if you can't bear to cough up the dough, chances are there's a shredder somewhere in your office at work.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2007. The story was added to MNN.com in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2007.