According to Greenily, “From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week! Much of the wrapping paper can’t be recycled at all due to dye, laminate, or non-paper additives (i.e. foil) it contains. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.” Furthermore, “If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.”
Making eco-friendly giftwrap is easy. It’s also an opportunity to personalize your presents, and get creative, if you’re so inclined.
Below are some suggestions of how to waste less and create fun packages this year.
Avoid buying typical wrapping paper that’s covered in ink. Instead, try:
• Newspaper. My faves are the comics, crossword page, ads and foreign or old newspapers, if you have access to them. Sometimes I can get them at a local Asian market. It’s fun to customize a bit. For example, give a sports fan a prezzie wrapped in the Sports page following a big win for his/her team.
•Maps always look cool!
• Kraft style paper. I got some on Amazon that is made from 100% recyclable materials, 100% biodegradable, and made in the U.S.
• A new or used reusable bag will enable your gift recipient avoid waste, too.
• A coloring book page. Snag one from your kid or print one out from a website (Here’s a link to one.) I like to color a few bits of it and attach a marker to the gift.
• Artwork that your kid brought home from school.
• Recycled tissue paper and wrapping paper.
• Grocery bags
• Fabric or cloth, such as dish towels, scarves, fabric remnants, etc.
Shapes & Containers
Tired of rectangular boxes? Wrap your gift in something different. I know that you have stuff laying around that would work.
• Talenti sorbet, Tofutti and plastic take out containers are among my favorite reuseable holders of small things. Throw a little recycled tissue paper inside them and you’ve got cozy spaces to hold an ornament, jewelry, and a variety of other items.
• T-shirts and other clothing can be rolled up and tied like bon-bons, with raffia, string, rope or even rubber bands at each end. You could also wrap something else in a new or old t-shirt, too.
• Re-use a can, flower pot or box that had a previous life. If relevant, tie in something that has to do with your gift, like a box of tea that contains a gift card to a coffee shop or tea house.
• Mittens (especially those single ones that lost their mates), hats and socks make good present holders.
Bows & Ribbons & Such
The less tape you use, the better! Re-use bows, yarn, string, rubber bands, and anything that’s laying around and hold things together. If you do use standard tape, use as little as possible.
• Paper raffia is biodegradable and recyclable.
• Washi tape (read more about this below)
• Skip the ribbon and write a message in place of one. Using a ruler and pencil, quickly draw guidelines and then write a greeting on your gift. Maybe omit an accompanying card and include the recipient’s name as part of the “ribbon.” It doesn’t have to be perfect.
This is where you can really have some fun! Here are some ideas:
• Buy some decorative washi tape. This stuff is great because it comes in all kinds of fun patterns and colors. Plus, you can tear it with your fingers. Plus, it’s made from Japanese shrubs and is typically biodegradable. You can find at craft stores like Michael’s, JoAnn Fabrics or of course, online. Then make designs, borders, or whatever floats your boat. Snowflakes are a pretty easy thing to make, even for non-creative types.
• Incorporate a photo and draw or tape a frame around it. If you don’t have a photo to spare, take a photo of your photo and print that out.
• Potato prints! Using a paring knife, the pointy end of a can opener, or anything that makes a good tool, carve out a simple shape or letters and embellish your prezzie with a pattern or message.
Here are a couple of sites for inspiration:
• If potatoes aren’t your thing, how about another print, such as the bottom of a sneaker, your hand, or your pet’s paw? Look for water-based environmentally friendly paints.
• Reuse kid stuff, like plastic letters, wooden baby blocks, game pieces, sea shells, plastic flowers, Legos, or even a small book.
• Use markers or crayons to trace your hand or draw a picture.
• Pretend you’re back in middle school and write the gift recipient’s name in giant bubble letters.
• Incorporate part of the gift as the wrap that’s visible from the outside. A candy cane, lip balm, fun pencil, nail polish or picture frame all make nice little treats.
• Add elements of nature: an interesting shaped twig or stick, berries, a spring of pine. Food items also work well: a sprig of rosemary or other herb, dried fruit slice (you’d need to plan ahead for this one).
• Thrift stores and dollar stores have lots of fun and inexpensive stuff that you can use to embellish a package, or even contain your present without having to spend much.
With a little planning ahead (yes, I realize Christmas and Chanukah are just around the corner), you can make unique packages that are easy on the planet. And when you open your own gifts, hang on to those bows, ribbons, and other materials for future use!