Wrapping presents is one of my favorite holiday traditions. And even though I’m not very skilled at it and always seem to run out of tape, creating the look of a gift is like creating a work of art—regardless of your gift-wrapping abilities! There are thousands of different patterned papers to choose from and tons of accessories (ribbons, bows, crazy curly things) to customize a present. For some it’s a chore, but for me it’s fun and something I look forward to during the holidays.
But it’s not just fun for me: wrapping gifts has become so popular that there are wrapping competitions world wide and television shows about it—not to mention the blossoming trend of having an entire room in one’s house solely for wrapping—aka a “wrapping room.” Funnily enough, I tuned into a wrapping competition show last week with the intent to marvel at what a professional wrapper’s incredible creation would look like. But instead of looking on in awe, I felt awful. Witnessing roll upon roll of paper and other textiles being used for absolutely no purpose at all, other than to be judged for no longer than 60 seconds, got me thinking about how much wrapping-paper waste will be accumulated this holiday season.
For you number folks, wrapping paper generates 4 million tons of waste in America each year. And you may be thinking, “So what, it’s paper! Compost it! Recycle it!” At least that’s how I used to justify using it—even though I threw ripped up paper straight in the trash anyway. Unfortunately, a lot of wrapping paper is coated with plastic or synthetic dyes that don’t allow it to be composted or recycled, even if we wanted to.
This year I am challenging myself to use only sustainable gift wrapping materials. And I’m quite excited about it.
5 Fun Sustainable Wrapping Ideas
1. Brown Paper & Hemp String
Channeling Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, this style of wrapping has always been a favorite of mine. It’s just so traditional and grounded. Some grocery stores still use brown bags for their customer’s groceries, so utilize this freebie for your wrapping paper. Brown bags are often made from recycled paper and are recyclable.
Hemp breaks down in 3-6 months and you can just toss it right in your compost.
2. Banana Leaf
Thailand, Vietnam and The Philippines have stopped using plastic packaging for produce, instead using banana leaves to sell their fruit and vegetables. If you live in a tropical place, or any place that has plants with large pliable leaves, make sure to make use of nature’s wrapping paper!
3. Magazine Paper
Every now and then I like to purchase a magazine. It’s not the best habit, but like reading a book, every now and again it’s nice to read words on paper instead of a screen. Plus, magazine paper can double as gift wrap. And the fun thing about this form of wrapping is that—if you’ve ever made a collage—you can cut and layer all types of words and images to create your wrapping design.
Something that doesn’t get ripped can be used over and over. An old t-shirt or tea towel can conceal your present if you don’t want to purchase a piece of fabric. If you purchase fabric, make sure to consider fabric scraps—they’re less expensive and most times end up being thrown out if not purchased in fabric stores. Check out Furoshiki cloth and the art of wrapping gifts in cloth here.
Everyone loves a jar. In fact, the jar may even be the present. But a present holding another present? It’s a double win. Spruce it up a little with some string and a sprig of rosemary and you have a rustic, carefully crafted, eco conscious dream gift.
As for gift wrap accessories, nature has the best kinds. Wildflowers, pussy willow or twigs make beautiful gift toppers. Take a walk in nature, collect your decorating supplies and have fun wrapping!
Photo: Lemon, Neel, Dimmock, Shea, Stollery, Bertelli; Unsplash