When making your holiday shopping list this year, don't forget to give a gift to our planet and all its inhabitants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency blog, "Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Trash cans full of holiday food waste, shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills." Reducing waste can cut down greenhouse gas emissions, helps conserve our natural resources and has positive effects for future generations. Here are a few terrific holiday gift wrap alternatives so you can help the environment (and have a bit of family fun at the same time).
It's fun to watch everyone's eyes light up at the sight of gaily wrapped surprises. But in just minutes, the wrapping is torn off; the bows are scattered; the boxes are ripped open; and there is a pile being dumped into the garbage can for transport to the local dump. Why waste money on throwaway wrapping paper that will have less than a few minutes' worth of glory and use when you can make a gift presentation that will last? You can still have the pleasure of surprising your loved ones with terrific gifts and even make a commotion about the presentation while you begin to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Plan a family day to make your own wrapping paper. Get a newsprint pad like Strathmore's from your local art supply store; get a roll of plain craft paper; or even collect a bunch of brown paper shopping bags, and gather around your table with crayons or colored pencils. Draw pictures and colorful designs, and then wrap your holiday gifts with this homemade gift wrap. Make sure the kids sign their artwork. It will meaningful for grandparents to receive a gift adorned with a special wrapping just for them. Adults will also enjoy letting their inner child come out as they decorate.
Wrap your presents in everyday materials like newspaper, print and all, and tie them with colorful fabric ribbons. It's inexpensive. The paper is completely biodegradable. And fabric ribbons are reusable. You can "Use either the comics section with a simple bow or just the printed newspaper (no color or ads) for the classiest look," says an article called "Green Gift Wrap Ideas" on the popular Art of Simple lifestyle blog. Stop before you throw out last year's (or older) colorful road maps and calendars; you can use them to wrap packages instead. Most tissue paper is made from recycled materials (read the package label). If you need to place a gift in a box with tissue, use colorful wrapping for the box.
Fabrics are a completely reusable option. Silk scarves, dinner napkins and other swatches of fabric can be pulled around a package and the corners tied together for a touch of whimsy. It's easy to make the wrapping part of the present, too: Use a small canvas tote bag for your favorite book lover. A decorative T-shirt can wrap an odd-shaped gift or a doll. Stuff a manicure set into cotton gloves. Wrap a recipe book with a cooking apron. Or bundle personal toiletries in a bath towel.
In many cases, a present can stand on its own with just a fabric ribbon to adorn it. For example, place seeds and small hand gardening tools inside a clay pot. Put tea bags inside a mug. Special dinner fixings can be served up in a decorative mixing bowl. Or fill a plastic toolbox with an assortment of handyman tools. If you need a container, use a plain white cardboard gift box tied with a fabric ribbon for color.
Wrapping paper and gift bags might still be the preferred option. If so, look for recycled paper products and avoid the shiny metallics that aren't biodegradable. And just in case your family members and friends aren't as proactive about reusable gift wrap, don't rip the packages you receive to shreds. Fold the gift wrap neatly, and save those bows to reuse it all yourself.
Rather than head out to the store to buy all new gift wrap, challenge yourself to look around the house for items you already have and put a creative spin on them. You'll declutter, save money and minimize your gift wrap footprint, an all-around win for you and the planet.