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Eco Friendly Gifts: Wrapping Paper Alternatives

October 3, 2011

My husband’s aunt, now in her 80’s, is one of those people who actually unwraps her gifts so carefully that she can re-use the paper.  She irons it (really!), folds it neatly, and saves it for another time.  She also gasps in (mock) horror when someone else rips open a package and flings the paper aside.  She jokes that it’s because she was brought up during the Depression, but then, she has probably never had to buy wrapping paper in her whole life!  Her frugality seemed a little extreme, but it made me take a look at our own approach to gift wrapping.  While I love to see beautiful presents under the tree, there was so clearly a disconnect between using all that wrapping paper – most of it unsuitable for recycling – and our attempts to live a “greener” lifestyle.

So a few years ago, we started coming up with eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts, and here are some we like best:

  • Wrap in the colored comics from the Sunday paper. (Does anyone still get the newspaper anymore?  We do!)
  • Wrap baby presents in a baby blanket.
  • Include a scarf or shawl in the present and use that for wrapping.
  • If you love the paper on a gift you’ve received, open the package carefully, save, and re-use the paper!
  • Cut open a brown paper grocery bag and decorate the blank side with paints or markers.  This is a classic preschool activity; try red and green handprints and footprints, or potato stamps of stars, snowmen, or other seasonal themes.
  • Hide unwrapped presents somewhere in the house and play “hot or cold?” to find them.
  • Wrap a kitchen gift in colorful kitchen towels (either seasonal or to match the recipient’s kitchen).
  • Make your own Furoshikis (Japanese wrapping cloths) out of inexpensive fabric.
  • If the gift is in a plain box, just use markers to decorate and write a gift message.
  • Buy some inexpensive fabric ribbon to use instead of curling ribbon or stick-on bows.  The fabric can be saved, pressed if necessary, and re-used.  Be sure to cut nice long pieces that can be doubled on smaller packages; they’ll be much more versatile!
  • Save and re-use gift bags (no stickers – tie on a gift tag that can be removed).
  • Give gifts that don’t need wrapping.  We’ll be exploring that idea in another post, so be sure to subscribe to the blog!

How do you reduce your C(hristmas)-waste?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Vanessa permalink
    October 3, 2011 2:04 pm

    I save kids artwork and use that for wrapping smaller gifts.

  2. October 4, 2011 4:42 pm

    Good idea, Vanessa! Thanks for sharing.

  3. October 10, 2011 6:46 am

    I posted about this last year:

    My favorite right now esp. for larger gifts: using huge pieces of fabric (passed on from a friend, and they are upholstery fabric with funky print that I don’t see myself using anytime soon) secured with masking tape or a ribbon. It doesn’t have the ripping noise factor, but still fun to unwrap.

    • October 10, 2011 5:17 pm

      Thanks, Betsy! We love using fabric around here. My daughter picked up a bunch of upholstery samples for free and we’ve been using those for gift wrap and making handbags. The pieces are about 18″ square and really heavy, so should last a good long time!


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