I have seen the aftermath of family gift-passing on Christmas morning. A big black trash bag gets filled to overflowing with papers, plastic packaging, twist ties and bows (after everyone’s finished sticking them on the baby or the cat’s head and taking pictures).
In recent years, people have grown increasingly aware of their waste. We’ve also become aware of how much money we’re ultimately spending on things that end up in the garbage.
That being said, the holidays are upon us and the shopping season is full-blown. The economy isn’t as great as it has been, so things may be a little tighter—and that’s okay. Taking the time instead of paying the money for a meaningful holiday gift is definitely in, from Martha Stewart DIY to canning, preserving and baking our holiday gifts. To match the simplicity of frugality, you can also keep in mind the many gift-wrapping options that exist in objects that already exist. Being eco-friendly also means being economical—which means you’re careful not to waste money or resources (says my economist fiancé).
Instead of throwing our gift-wrap into the landfill, why don’t we make the gift-wrap part of the gift?
I’ve made a list of some eco-friendly gift-wrap ideas that I think anyone can enjoy and put their own spin on, as well as some resources:
- I keep a little box of smoothed out tissue paper, ribbons & bows, and gift wrap hidden away, adding to it each time I find something that I will honestly actually use. Tap into your saved gift-wrap and reuse!
- Newspapers—I save pages of The Onion and wrap my more liberal friends’ gifts in them, or if you have friends that aren’t from your town, it’s nice to save interesting articles for them from your local paper.
- Maps—In Boulder, I find tourist maps all over the ground. It’s sad and it’s a waste. I bring them home, save them in the box with my tissue paper, and put them to use as wrapping. This helps the environment and stretches your holiday money.
- Get stuff in the mail? Tear off the tape & mailing labels, paint the box with a color that matches your recipient’s personality, and viola! You have a beautiful gift box! You can also decorate your box in clippings from newspapers, magazines, etc. Japanese Washi tape is beautiful and functional and is made from renewable resources such as bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat or gampi tree bark.
- Magazines—Before I went paperless, I used to save my Anthopologie catalogues, Toast, etc. They make for some beautiful photos and an elegant touch to handmade gift wrap. If there is just an image that reminds you of someone, get out that exacto knife and save it in your gift-wrap stash until it’s that time. I save clippings throughout the year. You can decoupage your box with the clippings—this makes a personalized box that your recipient will usually hold onto (so your time and love don’t end up in the landfill, too).
- Watercolor paper—kids love using watercolors, and everyone loves getting watercolors from children. Just put little Johnny to work and after the paper dries, you have a completely unique gift-wrap that’s personal and loving, and you get to spend some quality craft time.
- Old sheet music (awesome).
- Thrifting! There is so much already out there in our world that we should try to use that, instead of creating more “stuff.” Using scarves, tablecloths, aprons (for the chef in your life), pieces of vintage fabric, old book pages (some thrift stores have stashes of broken books that you can give a new life to, without destroying perfectly good books. Just ask someone who works there.)
- Put that sewing machine to use! If you sew, you can make a little pillowcase-like cover to simply place your gift inside of. Or just use an unloved pillowcase, cutting & sewing it to revive and make it fit. You can also thrift some pillowcases or dish towels. Cotton muslin also makes a chic and elegant gift wrap. It’s super cheap from the fabric store per yard and should last for all your gifts. If you think that your recipient will not be reusing the fabric, just ask for it back. There’s no harm in saving the Earth. That brings me to the last one, Furoshiki.
- Furoshiki are a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that were frequently used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods. They make the perfect wrapping for boxes or bottles. They are square, while dishtowels are more rectangular. You can find a video on how to wrap Furoshiki here: http://vimeo.com/2321507 and for a visual showing how to use Furoshiki click here.
- If you have empty chip bags, cut along the side to open it, wash it off to degrease it, and cut it into strips to make a ribbon or bow—the inside of chip bags are usually silver, and silver almost always makes a complimentary touch to any gift.
- String & shrubbery. Do you get fresh flowers? Hang them upside down wrapped with string to secure them & when they’re dry, you have a pretty present topper. Wrap with string, thread, twine, jute, etc. and tie to the top of your gift as you would anything else. It looks gorgeous. I love to use pine sprigs—perfect for the holidays with a slight scent.
Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/24thcentury