Sustainability Throughout The Holidays - Part Four - Zero Waste Gift Wrapping by Lindsay Ross

Beautiful Wrapping — Waste-Free!

If you’re attempting a low- or zero-waste holiday, the gifts are only the beginning. Aside from the packaging the gifts coming in, the wrapping you add before you place the presents under the tree is one of the biggest sources of waste at Christmas. Let’s have a look at the options — from the best options if you need to go with paper, to fully eco-conscious and reusable.

Wrapping Paper & Bows

If you know you’re going to stick to wrapping paper, then try to make it high-quality wrapping paper (read: doesn’t rip easily) that you can fold and re-use. Of course this only works if the recipient isn’t all about ripping and tearing (which many people regard as all the fun)! Similarly, ribbons and bows are usually plastic, but if you already have them on hand, you won’t save anybody or anything by buying more eco-conscious alternatives. Use what you have first. Thankfully, ribbons and bows can often be re-used for years and years, so be sure to sort the wrapping after all the gifts have been opened and save these for next time!

Repurposed (Disposable) Gift Wrap

Next up toward more sustainable gift wrap options is using things that would otherwise go in the garbage or recycling to wrap gifts first. This includes newspaper, old maps (you can even find these by the pack in some thrift stores), brown paper that arrived as packing paper in a package and even chip bags (wash very well and use silver-side out!). This option doesn’t cut out waste completely, but it does divert it from the waste stream for a time. If whatever you’re using would have ended up in the recycling anyway, use it for wrapping first and save the wrapping paper! One really interesting option is to unwind old VHS tapes (only if they truly are destined for the trash) and use the tape as ribbon!

Use Cloth!

Of course, the most obvious, prettiest and longest-lasting option for eco-friendly, zero-waste wrapping is cloth! In the mid-90s, my mom sewed about two dozen cloth gift bags in all different shapes and sizes and guess what? We’re still using them! Reduce the waste even further by using scrap fabric. Not into sewing? No worries! If you haven’t heard of the Japanese art of furoshiki, prepare to be charmed. All you need is a cloth, like a silk scarf maybe (square is best). Furoshiki is the art of tying a cloth to wrap any size or shape of gift. There are ties for books, for wine, for groceries and for anything else you might want to wrap! I like to buy square scarves at thrift shops and use these for wrapping but you can also buy furoshiki cloths. We posted about this on The Apothecary blog last year — give it a read to find out more! Of course, cloth is not the only conventional reusable option. There are always baskets and tins!

The Gift IS the Wrapping

Whoa… right? Mind blowing thought. When planning your gift, plan one part that will actually be the wrapping for the gift. Is it a durable Mason jar? A beautiful Big Blue Moma basket? A large mug or bowl? A shirt or a towel? Skip any superfluous wrapping and wrap up one gift in another beautiful gift!

A Note on Garnishes

When it comes to ribbon and bows, the options are really endless. Consider using something in place of the bow — a small ornament, an edible goodie, or something pretty from nature like evergreen twigs or other plant pieces (pinecones, maybe?). When choosing ribbon and bows, choose cloth and always reuse! Once you’re on the low- or zero-waste wrapping kick, you can practice collecting little bits and pieces throughout the year — it’s amazing what you can find! Keep a box tucked in a closet and fill it with sustainable wrapping options. The best place to acquire these things is when you receive gifts — keep and reuse absolutely every component you can. When the holiday season comes around, you’ll be all set!

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