Green your Giving: Ideas for Earth Conscious Wrapping

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My sister-in-saw Nancy was a resourceful recycler long before being green was vogue. Raising four children in the 70‘s on a very limited income, she creatively reused and repurposed everything. When other kids were ferociously ripping wrapping paper and balling it up for the trash, Nancy’s’ gang carefully cut the scotch tape and folded the gift wrap for re-giving. Ribbons and bows were saved in a box for next year. The kids learned not to be disappointed if a box from Radio shack contained hand-crocheted slippers. (The box had probably once contained a remote-control airplane before.) It wasn’t unusual to open a Christmas card from Nancy that we’d sent her a previous year. She’d cut the fronts off all the cards she received and paste them to construction paper to create a new card.  Coffee cans and jelly jars were saved all year, decoupaged and repurposed for cookie giving. She’d put a coat of glossy Modge podge on stale Christmas cookies and use them as tree ornaments. She wasn’t trying to save the environment. She was just using what she had to make the holidays special but we could all take lessons from Nancy in being green.
When I attend a holiday gathering that involves gift-giving,  I’m often appalled at the heaps of gift wrap, cardboard boxes, ribbon and other disposable waste. Most people don’t realize that shiny gift wrap is not recyclable because it contains dyes that are difficult to process. Think of the pile on your own living room floor and imagine that multiplied by all of the homes in your neighborhood, let alone the world. I remember a statistic I read a few years ago that Americans generate 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s about 1 million extra tons of trash each year.
It seems that this is the one time of year when even many who are eco-conscious ignore the environmental impact of their gift giving in favor of festivity and flair.
There’s a lot of focus on purchasing gifts that are recycled or recyclable,  but how can you present those gifts and decorate your home or business in a way that’s less wasteful?
I’m guessing if you’re reading this,  you buy from crafters and local indie businesses, and you probably make a lot of your gifts by hand, right?
Here are some simple suggestions for lower-waste giving that’s still merry and bright.
  1. Make your wrapping part of the present. Wrap a hand painted silk or knitted scarf around the gift. Tie a piece of scrap yarn around it instead of purchasing ribbon or make your bows out of something you would normally throw away like the shiny foil bags coffee comes in.
  2. Out-of-date road atlas pages or used road maps make fun colorful wrapping as do pages from the past years calendars, particularly if they have images or quotes.
  3. A lot of parents wrap every tiny stocking stuffer separately but that’s a lot of waste and the kids just want to get to the toy. Consider bundling all the gifts for one child together in a single wrap or if you want to make the opening last longer,  make it game like an Easter Egg Hunt with clues.
  4. Kids love cereal boxes. They make a fun container for books and games.
  5. Use real popcorn to cushion your breakables for shipping.
  6. You know those burlap or canvas wine bags that the grocery stores send home? Why not splash a little fabric paint on them to bring beverages to a party rather than purchase a paper wine bag?
  7. Make or buy reusable cloth market bags out of cool fabric and wrap your gifts in them.  If you are not in the habit of bringing your own bags to the grocer, paint or stamp the brown craft paper bags and use them for gift wrap. (Trader Joe’s makes this extra-easy by using festive holiday-themed brown bags.)
  8. If you still get a physical newspaper delivered to your house, save the comic section.  It makes fun gift wrap.
  9. If you’re hosting a company or family gathering, make creative wrapping part of the fun. See who can be the most resourceful. If guests do use commercial wrapping, take a lesson from Nancy and save to reuse. It might even be fun to see who gets whose paper next year.
What other tips do you have about being a conscious giver? As always, you’re invited and encouraged to share your creative ideas in the comments below.
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