Did you know that half of the paper consumed in the U.S. every year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products? This holiday season, I’m challenging myself to to wrap all the gifts I give in an eco-friendly way.
The eco-friendly gift wrapping approach
Eco-friendly, green gift wrap can mean a lot of things, but for me, this means reusing and recycling as much as possible.
1. Use what you already have.
Don’t buy any gift wrap supplies unless you have to. Find inspiration from things lying around your house—shopping bags, newspaper ads, and the like. Once you start looking at material as potential gift wrapping aids, the possibilities are many.
2. Reuse as much as possible.
If you have a recycling bin that gets filled, then you have plenty of wrapping paper and containers. I’m starting to save my yogurt containers for gifts!
3. Buy sensibly.
If you need to buy wrapping material, look for paper and bags that can be reused and recycled.
4. Less is more.
When you use unconventional materials for gift wrap, it’s easy to get carried away and think you need to make up for your approach by overly decorating the wrapped gift. Keep wrapped gifts as simple as possible. Just one little bow, a picture, or hand-written message on a brown box go a long way, making the gift look classy without looking like you tried too hard.
Preparing for eco-friendly gift wrapping
Here are some basic gift wrap supplies you’ll need.
- Save paper shopping bags from stores.
- Ask for plain brown paper bags at stores.
- Save interesting newspaper, magazine pages, and newspapers.
- Save your child’s art work.
- Save some of that plain white paper you’d otherwise recycle.
- Gently-used scarves, t-shirts, thin towels, and washcloths are great for wrapping oddly-shaped gifts.
- Use new tea towels, and make them part of your gift.
- Bottles and tins are wonderful for packaging edible gifts.
- Small baby food containers are great for jewelry.
Keep these on hand for decorating wrapped gifts:
- Crayons (great for drawing on gift wrap)
- Small ornaments
- Little pieces of art work (to cut and glue to gift wrap)
A few gift wrapping ideas in action
Cloth is great to wrap oddly-shaped gifts. This technique has been around for centuries, and is still really popular in Japan.
2. Brown bags
Brown bags are incredibly versatile.
I have a friend who always gives her gifts in simple brown packaging with a little bow. Classy and eco-friendly.
3. Brown paper from cut up brown bags
We have dozens of paper bags from Trader Joes—they make for great wrapping paper.
4. Plain paper with tape embellishments
Plain white paper with fun duct tape you already have on hand = lots of fun.
5. Children’s art work
I love children’s artwork because they’re so unpredictable and look great as unique wrapping paper. The kids can also create the gift wrap after you wrap the gift.
It’s a great way to recycle all that artwork you can’t bear to toss.
6. Bottles with a handmade label
It’s easy to transform bottles and tins into special gift packaging with a custom handmade label. All you need is a little white paper and some creativity.
My husband gave me a necklace in this bottle years ago. It is something I’ll save for the rest of my life.
I am a big fan of using newspapers to wrap gifts.
Use either the comics section with a simple bow or just the printed newspaper (no color or ads) for the classiest look.
What are some ways you creatively and frugally wrap presents?
Originally published on November 3, 2010.