Why go green with your gift wrap? It saves you money. It could save you time (no need to add all those wrapping necessities to your shopping list on top of everything else). And it’s good for the environment. Don’t believe me?
Consider that, according to the EPA, holiday wrapping paper is a large part of the 25 percent increase in waste generation between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Plus there’s the environmental impact of manufacturing all those papers, ribbons, and the like.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, fun, and attractive ways to wrap your gifts that don’t involve buying roll after roll of paper every year.
Perhaps the easiest way to cut back on your gift wrapping consumption is to reuse what you’re given. When I was growing up, we’d always parade around with bows on our heads as we opened gifts (OK, I admit, we still do this). Then the ones that were still in good shape would be saved for next Christmas.
Bows aren’t the only items that can be reused. As long as they survive their first use, gift bags and boxes are worth saving too. You can even reuse wrapping paper that’s in good shape—the paper that covers children’s gifts may be a lost cause, but you can carefully remove yours, fold it, and save it. (One hint: avoid going overboard with tape and it will be easier to save your gift wrap.)
If you do buy new wrapping paper, make sure it contains recycled content. Look for papers with high Post Consumer Waste (PCW) content, which means they were recycled from consumer use, not waste from paper mills. One hundred percent recycled paper printed with soy-based inks is about as eco-friendly as you can go with actual paper products. Or use treeless sources of paper, such as hemp wrap, instead. And if you’re using gift bags, make sure they’re reusable ones made of recycled paper or fabric. Learn how to make fabric gift bags from eartheasy.
There are plenty of great options for wrapping boxes beyond purchased packaging too. You can’t go wrong with newspaper—that’s what my aunt always wrapped our gifts in when we were growing up (and what I used for a couple of gifts under my tree this year, above). Pick a particularly thought-provoking article or the comics and you’ll not only wrap your packages in style, you’ll also provide a couple of minutes of entertainment for the recipient!
I also love using brown mailing paper or even paper bags from the store too. It’s an incredibly eco-friendly choice—and you can decorate away with stamps, markers, potato prints, you name it. I think one of the prettiest Christmas trees we had growing up was the year we stamped brown mailing paper with silver and gold shapes to wrap the gifts that went under it.
Old maps, posters, calendars, or leftover wallpaper are great for covering boxes too. Better yet, make your entire packaging part of the gift. For the foodie, place an assortment of pastas, sauces, olive oils, and sauces in a basket or a colander rather than wrapping them. Are you giving a close friend a handmade journal? Why not just wrap the book in a beautiful silk scarf? If you’re baking gifts this year, consider giving cookies and other treats on a pretty platter that can be reused, or wrap that lovely loaf of bread in an organic cotton dish towel.
Another option: learn how to use a Japanese furoshiki (or any big, pretty cloth) for wrapping gifts this holiday season. This instructional video shows you how.
If you don’t have bows to save (perhaps all your friends and family are into green gift wrapping too and stopped using them!), you can pick greener options. Purchase hemp and raffia—they’re abundant materials not made from trees. Or forgo ribbon altogether. If you want to add a decorative touch to your package, adorn it with something recipients can actually use instead—perhaps cute cookie cutters for a friend who loves to bake or golf tees for a family member who loves to hit the course. You can decorate packages with natural items too—try branches, pinecones, or sprigs of berries from the backyard. (Or if you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, shells are a nice touch.)
Check out The Daily Green’s great slideshow of recycled papers, biodegradable and natural ribbons, hemp paper, and more. And peruse Gaiam’s Top 10 Green Gift Wrap Ideas for great eco-friendly gift wrapping options, including recycled aluminum foil (festive!) and recycled silk sari yarn (lovely!).
For some, the green packaging doesn’t end with wrapped gifts. If you’re shipping gifts to family or friends who live elsewhere, be sure to pick the smallest box that fits what you’re sending. Try to reuse packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and such too. Or if you need inexpensive packing materials and don’t have any leftovers on hand, use shredded paper or purchase biodegradable packing peanuts, which are made of starch so they dissolve in water.
While you’re busy getting crafty with your green gift wraps, why not make this fun ornament from magazines you have lying around too?
(Oh, and I still believe that buying fewer gifts to wrap in the first place is the best way to go green. But if you’re still shopping, mosey on over to Yahoo’s rundown of green holiday gift guides.)
One last Know-It-All Note: If someone in your family likes to toss gift wrap in the fireplace, tell them to stop! Aside from the fact they may be tossing perfectly good paper that can be reused, many of the inks and foils in gift wraps can be toxic when they’re burned.
The Home Know-It-All