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Sustainable Gifting Part 2: Ideas for low waste, eco-friendly wrapping

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Earlier this week I talked about ideas for sustainable and low waste gifts. That being said, you can’t give sustainable gifts without considering how you wrap them. In my quest for living a more sustainable, low waste lifestyle, I have taken a hard look at my gift wrapping over the years, and made a few changes to allow for less waste, and still the same amount of joy while putting together gifts.

Wrapping presents at Christmas is my favorite activity. I get the music going, I usually have hot cocoa, cider, or a glass of wine, and get all my supplies ready. I have a plastic tote full of Christmas wrap, tissue paper, Christmas themed bags, and ribbons. What may be different from my set up to yours is that 90%+ of my Christmas tote contents are reused. I have not bought a roll of holiday wrapping paper or bag on clearance from Target in easily 4 years. I used to buy new rolls every year, but then I started saving my wrap and now I don’t have to worry about that. I still have some gift bags I bought on clearance from Target years ago that I haven’t used up yet which goes to show that you really don’t need to stock up on after-season gift supplies unless you are truly out of your own supply.

There are so many great gift-wrapping options that I wanted to list out some of my favorites below. I hope this inspires you to think twice before grabbing that second roll of wrap at the store, or pick up another new gift bag when you have 10 options at home.

Glass jars: Jars make great gift holders! You can put festive cookies or candies in jars, layer cookie ingredients or dried soup mix with a recipe card in a jar, or even use a bigger canister type jar for a themed gift. For example, one year I got a bunch of self-care goodies in a jar like nail polish and a face mask etc. As I mentioned in my sustainable gifting post, recycled jars can also be used to make candles with or even decorated as nice votive holders. The great thing about using a glass jar is that it can be reused for something else once the gift has been enjoyed.

Reusing gift wrap and bags: I saw this post the other day that actually had a gift bag with lines for people to write who got the gift bag and what city/state they lived in. I thought it was such a funny gesture but also shows how much use you can get out of reusing gift bags! Gift bags are a great way to avoid wrapping paper, and also can fit oddly shaped items that might not be easily wrapped. In fact, I am staring at a big gift bag right now that my husband used for one of my gifts, and I jokingly (not so jokingly) asked him if I could open that gift up early because I really want to use the bag for a gift we made for my mom. Bags are useful! You can also use non-traditional gift bags like tote bags or reusable shopping bags. I have gotten lots of gifts in tote bags and I like giving gifts in reusable shopping bags because the bags can be reused and repurposed. It’s like a mini-gift all in itself. I am also a big saver of wrapping paper. Most wrapping paper is unfortunately not recyclable, so reusing it is a great way to get more mileage out of it, just like a gift bag. I also enjoy seeing all the different types of wrap I get- none of our presents match under the tree but at least I can smile every time I wrap something, remembering which friend or family member the wrap originally came from.

Alternative wrap options: If you want to wrap presents but don’t have any old wrapping paper handy, try using paper bags (cut out the desired size from a paper grocery bag) or newspaper. Both of these options are 100% recyclable! If you choose to use a brown paper bag, you can even decorate it in your own way with stencils or drawings. I have also seen people use kids white craft paper to wrap presents in. The wrapping paper becomes a blank canvas to be decorated for any occasion. Dish towels or extra fabric also make great wrap options! The dish towel can be used as part of the gift and the extra fabric can be washed and reused again.

Reusing boxes or baskets: If you would like to wrap something or have something fragile that needs to be in a box, don’t be afraid to reuse cardboard boxes (looking at you Amazon, Target etc.). If you have other boxes (even cereal boxes!) those can be also used. If you get a funny enough box you could even make a joke out of wrapping someone’s gift in an old box of cheerios or something. Similarly, baskets make great gift containers because they can be repurposed for storage.

Gift tags/bows: I have gotten away from using bows on gifts because they are not reusable and end up in the trash at the end of the day. Instead, I have opted for other means of decorating such as reusing saved ribbons, or getting creative with gift tags. Any time I see a good piece of ribbon I save it in a jar. When it’s time for my canning season, I use decorative ribbon to wrap around the jars, and can also do the same for small gifts, candles, or gift baskets. I also recently came up with a way to reuse some of my Christmas cards by cutting out the pretty cover pictures to make gift tags. Simply cut your shapes, and either tape or use a hole punch and string on your gift after filling out the blank back of the tag. When I made soaps and candles with my good friend Nicole (Harp and Wellness), we repurposed old Christmas decorations like small ornaments, sprigs of fake greenery, and old party favor bags to spruce up our gifts. It was really fun decorating using items she had around the house.

Whatever you do – use what you have on hand! The point of living a lower waste, more sustainable lifestyle means not going out and buying all these eco-friendly products and throwing out everything that you currently have. The best option is to first use up what you have and instead of replacing it with new. When you do run out, opt for some of these more eco-friendly alternatives down the road. The planet and your wallet will thank you.

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