Thinking Inside The Box

By Sharon Naylor

October 21, 2011 5 min read

When you pick out the perfect gift for those on your Christmas list, package that item in a pretty gift box that they'll want to keep and use again. We're not talking the thin, cardboard gift boxes you see in some card stores; we're talking sturdier, keepsake boxes that are meant to last, holding treasures such as love notes, engagement cards and other precious items.

A good gift box isn't just two times the present. It's also smart for the environment.

"Always consider the waste that you may be creating when you buy and wrap a gift," says Sophie Uliano, author of "Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life." "It's amazing to realize that half of what ends up in the landfill is paper, most of which is packaging and (paper). Landfills have been closed all over the place because they are chock-full."

Even with the advent of wrapping paper made of repurposed and recyclable materials, it still takes time for the paper to decompose. An alternative is a gift box that is never discarded.

Here are some of the top gift-box options to consider:

--Card keepsake boxes: A cottage industry has recently emerged around decorative boxes created by theme and fashionable design. Originally marketed as a more ornate way to present wedding greetings, these boxes make the perfect keepsake containers. At Michaels Stores, you'll find a sizable black-and-white damask card box with an attached 4-by-6-inch photo frame that sits atop the box on display and can fold down. CreativeCustomCardBoxes.com Owner Marni Gold says that the hot colors for her two- to three-tiered card boxes, which suit holiday gifting but are very displayable all year long, are silver, gold, metallic purple and especially Tiffany blue, her top seller.

--Hat boxes: All things 1960s, retro and heirloom are in style right now, and Victorian or modern-style hat boxes have emerged as a top display item. They also work as storage pieces for hats, wigs and love letters or special greeting cards. "I visit antique shops and vintage stores to find hat boxes, often getting them for less than $5, and I use those as my gift packaging or as the gifts themselves," says budget shopper Katie McCardle.

--Photo keepsake boxes: Storage is very important for homeowners, and many are buying leather or decorative keepsake boxes with a slot on top for displaying a photo. Find these at budget-friendly stores, such as Target.

--Jewelry boxes: Although some are crafted with mahogany and can get pricey, you'll find affordable, colorful, fabric-covered jewelry boxes at Pier 1 Imports for $19.95. The best part? These soft-textured boxes are gifts in themselves.

--Multimedia boxes: Many organization shops, such as The Container Store, offer colorful storage boxes made for storing CDs, Blu-ray Discs and other media. In bright candy colors or neutrals, these boxes provide your gift recipient with secondary use of a well-chosen storage box after the enclosed gift has been revealed.

--Natural canvas boxes: Be eco-friendly for the holidays. Lidded boxes made of organic canvas materials are available in neutral tones of tan or brown, and they double as multi-use storage bins suitable for anyone on your gift shopping list, male or female. Find these at home decor stores, for example Bed Bath & Beyond, for $17.99 to $19.99.

--Wicker boxes: The natural look is in, and many recipients will take a lidded wicker box and add it to their bathroom decor as a place to store magazines or extra toilet paper. A wicker box can also hold crafting items, catalogs or any number of sundries that require attractive storage in the home. Because wicker is neutrally colored -- most often Earth tones -- it's a style that's sure to work in some area of the recipient's home.

--Heirloom boxes: One of the best ways to give a keepsake box that's friendly to the environment is to hand down something that has been in the family for generations. When you give a grandmother's treasured hat box to your daughter, for instance, it's a sentimental gift. When you fill it with your favorite mementos from your daughter's childhood, the sentimentality increases exponentially. And in this financial era, nothing could be more pleasing to you than not having to pay for such a priceless present.

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