I Need...Gift Wrap

>> Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I know my posting has been rather slim the past couple of weeks with the Thanksgiving holiday, and now my whole family has come down with a cold. Being sick is not good for the environment or the pocket book. I'm planning to head over to Target later today to pick up some drugs and some Kleenex (the recycled toilet paper is killing my nose). Sorry to everyone for the small backslide, but I have never been of the opinion that environmentalism should make you miserable.

So anyway, with the holiday season coming up, I wanted to make sure I got this post in about gift wrap. According to Earth911, "as much as half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans consume every year goes toward packaging, wrapping and decorating goods. Also, wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about four million tons of trash annually in the U.S."

Just think about that huge mound of wrapping paper that tries to take over the living room every Christmas, and you'll understand why it's important to be conscious about your wrapping paper purchases this holiday season. So here are some ideas to get you started:


  • Make sure the wrapping paper you purchase is recyclable. Mixed content is difficult to recycle and will not be accepted by any recycling centers that I know of, so for example, paper with a shiny metallic, plastic, or waxy surface or glitter is a no-no. Also, in my area, only white paper can be recycled (including white paper that has been printed on), so any wrapping paper that has been dyed would be out for me.
  • Reuse gift bags. I think reusing wrapping paper is a little more difficult, so I'm including it as a step for the more gung-ho environmentalists below. But reusing gift bags is as simple as emptying the bag. I have yet to have to buy a gift bag for a baby shower gift, and I think I'll be good for at least 15 more friends' babies.
  • Reuse wrapping paper. If you carefully unwrap your presents instead of tearing through them, you can successfully use the wrapping paper again. However, I think this would work better a) for adults than children and b) for gifts that trickle in like on birthdays or weddings rather than on Christmas morning. (Otherwise you'll end up annoying your family with your eco-obsessiveness.)
  • Buy wrapping paper with recycled content. This takes some advance planning however, since I haven't seen any stores carrying this yet. But if you Google "recycled wrapping paper," you'll find a bounty of beautiful papers to choose from. Also recommend this for scrapbookers.
  • Wrap gifts in newspapers, magazines, calendars, or maps. Small caveat here, though: When I was a kid, we always had to wrap our presents in the comic section of the newspaper, and I hated it. I always felt like my present came off looking cheap next to all the shiny wrapped gifts my friends brought. Umbra Fisk over at Grist gives the following suggestion to solve this problem: "The trick of making decent wrapping out of newspaper or magazines is in the choice of photo or section. I learned this from an actual Artist who wraps his gifts this way, I promise. A newspaper will yield interesting photos, or advertisements, perhaps even germane text, that will look slick and nice on presents if the following conditions are met: the attractive part of the photo is centered on the top of the gift in plain view, the paper is carefully wrapped, there is a separate gift tag, and bonus points for some ribbon-type of finish."
  • Make your own wrapping paper. Decorate recycled paper with stamps, markers, paints, etc. This works really well for gifts from one four-year-old to another, but for older kids or adults, see the caveat above.
  • Wrap your gift in a gift. For example, wrap your gift with a towel or tablecloth that can then be used.
  • Wrap in cloth or use a cloth bag. But make sure you're giving the gift to someone who will reuse the cloth, and not someone who's just going to throw it away. If the gift is for a disposable fan, you'd be better off using wrapping paper that can be recycled, I think.

Tips for the Budget Conscious
Using paper you already have lying around (like old newspapers) is the most budget-friendly option, and that's the reason we always did it when I was a kid. But if you prefer your wrapping paper to look more traditional, I'd say reusing gift bags or wrapping paper is your best option.

Where I'm At
I still have a huge roll of recyclable wrapping paper left over from last year as well as the aforementioned gift bags (although most are not very Christmasy), so I'm set for this year. In the future, I think I'm going to go the newspaper route, following Umbra's advice to make it more attractive, and keep letting my kids make their own wrapping paper until they start complaining.

This is just what I thought of. Any other suggestions for budget-friendly/eco-friendly wrapping?

Photo by Manassas Cakery. It's a cake!


reddan May 20, 2009 at 1:36 PM  

i always use the comics

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