Wrapping paper waste is a big problem. Most of it cannot be recycled meaning it ultimately ends up in landfill. During the Christmas period alone Americans throw away an extra 5 million tons of waste; four million of which is shopping bags and wrapping paper.
A Brief History of Gift Wrapping
The first recorded use of wrapping paper for gifts was in ancient China during the 2nd century BC. Centuries later in 1917 Hallmark Cards (brothers Joyce and Rollie Hall) set out to develop this process into the wrapping paper industry we know today. Prior to this the traditional way to wrap gifts was with fabric, brown paper and newspaper. Fortunately for the planet these traditional and more eco-friendly wrapping methods are coming back into fashion.
Reuse Brown Paper Wrapping
Use brown paper to wrap your gifts. Throughout the year keep any brown paper bags that arrives in any packages you receive. If it’s creased you may need to iron it gently on a low heat. If you don’t receive parcels, ask your friends and family to keep their unwanted brown paper bags for you.
Brown paper is a great eco-friendly alternative to wrapping paper as it can be composted after use in a home composter. There are lots of ways you can jazz up the paper to make it more appealing; the only limit is your imagination. Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Use stamps
• Draw designs on with coloring pens
• Collecting green waste from a local forest including holly, dried flowers, pine cones and berries
• Tie it with colorful ribbon which you can reuse every year
• Cut out images from cards from previous years
• Decorate with dried oranges and cinnamon sticks
Switch to Eco-friendly Paper Parcel Tape
Most tape is made from synthetic materials which cannot be reused or composted. This means it ultimately ends up in landfill. The good news is there are eco-friendly alternatives such as paper parcel tape. This type of tape can be composted in your home composter. Combine paper tape with brown paper wrapping and you have a completely zero waste wrapping solution.
Furoshiki is a cloth material used in Japan for wrapping and transporting gifts. Traditionally the cloth has a pattern on both sides so when it’s folded over it still looks appealing to the eye. The Furoshiki wrapping method is simple but effective and a great way to reuse material again and again.
You can start your own collection of cloth by reusing material you already have in your home or buying material from thrift stores. Always try to reuse material you already own before buying new if possible.
How to wrap gifts using the Furoshiki method
All you need to wrap gifts using the Furoshiki method is a square piece of cloth. Traditionally there are 10 different sizes of Furoshiki cloth and the size of the cloth needed will depend on the gift. Some of the most common sizes include 45 x 45 cm (17 x 17 inches), 50 x 50 cm (19 x 19 inches) and 70 x 70 cm (28 x 28 inches). The only thing you need to ensure is that the cloth is square.
There are lots of different wrapping techniques you can use. Some of the most popular are:
• Otsukai Tsutsumi - for square gifts
• Yotsu Musubi - for square gifts
• Entou Tsutsumi - for square gifts
• Hira Tsutsumi - for long gifts
• Kousa Tsutsumi - for flat gifts
You can find tutorials for these wrapping techniques on YouTube.
Reusable Gift Bags
If you’re not very good at wrapping then reusable gift bags may be a better option for you. You can either buy them or make them yourself out of old material you have in your home. There are lots of great tutorials on YouTube.
Not only do they look great, they also take out all of the hassle of wrapping gifts as you can simply place the present inside the bag and tie it closed. You can ask your friends and family to return the bags after they have opened their gifts so you can reuse them again.
When you receive a gift in a gift bag remember to keep it so you can reuse it for someone else. Just remember to take off any name tags that might be on it.
Upcycled Christmas & Birthday Gift Tags
However you decide to wrap your presents this year it’s likely you will want gift tags. Rather than buy new, create your own from old Christmas or birthday cards you’ve received from previous years. If you haven’t kept your old cards, start doing it this year ready for next year. You can cut out images from the cards to create your own unique gift tags.
Let's use our imagination and creativity this holiday season to bring holiday cheer and life to our gifts for those special people in your life while living a sustainable lifestyle that will help protect mother earth our home for generations to come. Happy Holiday Creating!