Gift giving and receiving are my favorite things to do during the holidays. Nothing quite beats the anticipation of opening a package and discovering a delightful gesture of generosity and kindness.
Same goes for watching people open their gifts and seeing their cheerful expressions. And although not necessary, I have to admit, packaging does make the experience much more special.
But sadly, comes a sobering fact about holiday gifting: according to the EPA, U.S. household waste increases a whopping 25% between Thanksgiving and New Years. Yikes!
Looking back at our Christmas mornings as children, I now cringe at the balls of wrapping paper, tape, and plastic that were discarded all in a matter of minutes and the subsequent garbage bags full of unnecessary waste.
Even as a kid though, I liked to open things carefully and keep bits and pieces of scavenged ribbon and paper for my next craft project. I suppose then, it’s no surprise that I still have a designated drawer full of bits of ribbon, paper, and bags from previous gifts that I like to reuse.
So, when it comes to wrapping, keep in mind what you already have that you can use and whether your packaging has a chance at a second or even third life. A little forethought and creativity can significantly reduce waste.
Here are some simple suggestions that are beautiful, reusable and/or can be disposed of without extra waste.
Cotton twine (natural or colored) is usually my go-to in place of ribbon (unless I have some left over from a previous gift).
For a little extra pizzaz, try adding some natural touches.
Hearty fresh greens like a single rosemary spring, a eucalyptus branch, or air plant look fantastic. Cinnamon sticks are also a great choice. And if you are lucky enough to have a fresh Christmas tree, a small clipping from it is sure to be a welcomed and fresh scent. For gifts that will be given shortly after wrapping, a delicate branch of holly berries or mistletoe can bring extra holiday cheer.
Skip the Paper
Did you remember those huge plastic bins to store holiday specific wrapping paper? Not only do most of us not have the space, but it’s completely unnecessary.
For gifts that fit or already come in special boxes for storage or even in baskets, skip the paper. Simply add some natural trimmings, a special message, or a small holiday ornament as an accent.
A Gift within a Gift
For gifts that need to be wrapped consider a furoshiki: a wrapping cloth (commonly found in cotton or silk) used in Japan to transport and store goods and gifts. Traditionally the furoshiki was only used as a means of keeping a gift covered until it’s destination, but why not extend it to be part of it? A quick google search yields countless ways of wrapping and as an added bonus can be reused or even worn afterwards. Extend the concept by using dish or hand towels, scarves, handkerchiefs and bandannas.
By the same token, reusable totes make perfect gift bags. And for folks with sewing prowess, check out this ‘gift tote’ bag with ribbon handles for a fun DIY.
As the weird kid who got a strange satisfaction from successfully picking off scotch tape on gift packages without any harm to the paper, all I can say is thank goodness for washi tape! It’s a great stand-alone to dressing up your gifts and can easily be peeled off, leaving the wrapping paper fresh to and ready to reuse.
Less is more
Say good-bye to the heavily printed occasion specific wrapping paper. I’m a huge fan of recycled kraft paper in both brown and white. The less something has printed on it the better you can customize it for any occasion and more likely for it to be reused or recycled. Draw or write directly on the paper for a personal touch.
This is definitely more adventurous for most of us, but if you are feeling extra crafty and on a mission to seriously wow your gift recipients, consider painting your own wrapping paper. The efforts can be framed, re-cut into cards, or even labels for future use.
How do you like to wrap up your holiday treats? Do you have any clever ways to reduce packaging waste? What are your gift wrapping alternatives? I’d love to know if the comments below.
Wishing you a very happy and festive holidays!