William V.Raszka, MD, Associate Editor, Pediatrics
Each year our family has a gift-wrapping party two nights before Christmas. I am not
sure how this tradition started but it has become quite an event. Our children invite
friends, we serve sparkling wine, and we make sure we have a huge supply of traditional
and non-traditional papers from which to choose. Everyone spends a lot of time making
sure the gift looks fantastic. The process involves me, in private, putting a gift
into a box, and then randomly selecting someone to wrap the gift. Only after the gift
is wrapped do I tell the wrapper to whom the gift should be addressed. The kids go
through the same process. Usually, we have a terrific supply of boxes from which to
choose. While we do not shop on-line very much, beginning in the fall, we tend to
save all our boxes knowing that we will need them in December. This year, however,
was a bit different. We ran out of boxes. We did not run out of boxes because we had
more gifts but because fewer boxes had arrived at the house over the past three months.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, online retailers are trying hard to minimize the amount of wasted space in boxes.
Some have developed sophisticated algorithms to minimize the number of shipments and
empty space in boxes. Others have developed machines that automatically create padded
mailers on demand to fit smaller items thereby eliminating the need to use a box at
all. Personally, I had noticed that fewer boxes had been shipped to the house and
more soft packages had been left in our mailbox. While I am very happy that on-line
retailers are minimizing packaging, transportation costs, and material to recycle,
we did have to scramble a bit this past holiday. We developed some creative solutions
and as a bonus, we had less material to take to the recycling center.