It’s holiday season! This means rolls upon rolls of wrapping paper and tape. There is something strangely nice about taking the time to wrap each gift up nicely and then tear into the wrapping paper when it’s time to open the presents. And how lovely is it to see stacks of gifts wrapped in colorful and festive paper?
But think about all of the garbage bags that are stuffed with wrapping paper after families have ripped through gift after gift.
Let’s crunch some numbers to give perspective. In the U.S. alone, we throw away 4 million tons of gift wrapping trash every year. And between Thanksgiving and New Years, it’s an extra 25 million tons of garbage, on top of normal household trash. Gift wrapping is obviously a profitable business (nearly 10$ billion during the year 2010). That is a lot of trees turned into a lot of waste.
Many of us think, we will just recycle the wrapping paper! Unfortunately, due to the dyes and laminate on the gift wrap, it is very difficult to recycle. The result is that this paper ends up going to the landfill anyway. On top of all of this, the dyes and foil that make wrapping paper (which is often made in China) so pretty can contain toxic substances like lead, chlorine, synthetic inks, and heavy metals.
We can do our best to get wrapping paper that has been recycled or that has been printed with eco-friendly ink, but gift wrap is still the most useless form of paper. It’s only purpose is to make a gift look pretty and perhaps to hide its identity. It’s only used once and we buy rolls of it every year. The good news is that there are better ways to wrap a gift!
1. Reuse paper you already have.
There’s already a ton of paper in your house that can be repurposed as wrapping paper. Newspaper, magazines, paper bags, and even the paper that is used to cushion items purchased online. This is a great way to get one more use out of something that already had a purpose. These kinds of papers are also more easily recycled. My favorite thing to do with this type of gift wrap? Draw on it or let my son draw on it for a more personalized touch.
2. Reuse gift wrap and bags
Chances are that you will receive gifts in bags and wrapping paper. Wrapping paper is harder to get more than one use out of, plus I don’t like to expose my family and friends to the potentially hazardous chemicals on the paper. But sometimes if I unwrap carefully, I can squeeze out another use of good quality paper. Gift bags are much easier to reuse. I save all bags and tissue paper that I get. It may not fit in with my minimalistic views to hoard gift bags, but they save me time and money and they always look nice.
3. Use a furoshiki.
Furoshikis are traditional Japanese cloths used to wrap food/lunches, gifts, clothes, etc. This is my absolute favorite method of wrapping gifts. It lasts for many gifts, can be used in other ways like as a lunchbox or hair kerchief, will save you money, and comes in many beautiful designs. Traditional furoshikis can be found online or you can just used scraps of fabric. My favorite came from Wrapsody Baby and is stunning (they also make beautiful baby slings). Fabric stores often sell precut squares of fabric that are the perfect size.
Happy Gift Giving!