Q: Is there an eco-friendly way to wrap and send gifts this holiday season?

A: Admit it -- for years you've rolled your eyes every time Aunt Mildred carefully unwraps a gift so she can save the paper for next year. But maybe she has the right idea. Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Aunt Mildred-style recycling is one way to cut back, but there are other ways to make your gift-giving green.

Wrap it up

Package gifts in newspaper; old magazines; elephant poo-poo paper -- an odorless product whose manufacturers earmark a percentage of the profits for elephant conservation; a biodegradable plastic bag or a reusable container (like a tin or Tupperware). The U.S. Postal Service also sells boxes on eBay that have a Cradle to Cradle certification from architect William McDonough's consultancy, which evaluates sustainability.

Pack it in

When it comes to shipping your surprises, resist the urge to cushion your carefully chosen gifts by packing them in a Styrofoam-filled box. "A complete no-no is polystyrene, a.k.a. Styrofoam peanuts," says Julie Muir from the Stanford Recycling Center. If someone sends them to you, try dropping them at your local UPS store to be reused and recycled. To protect your packages, use shredded paper instead (you were going to recycle those old printouts anyway, right?).

Send it over

UPS has a "green fleet" of 1,629 vehicles that can transport your goodies using alternative fuel.

Give it back

Finally, don't forget to recycle the boxes you receive (and re-gift any of those presents that weren't quite your style) -- make Aunt Mildred proud.

Story by Susan Cosier. This article originally appeared in Plenty in January 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright EnvironĀ Press 2008