Festive, eco friendly alternatives to Christmas wrapping paper

During the Depression, lots of people got in the habit of carefully unwrapping Christmas presents to avoid tearing the paper. They would fold it up and use it again the following year. When prosperity returned, society as a whole became less careful about waste. Today, with the economy in bad shape, it’s a good time to go back to frugality. For one thing, find alternatives to wrapping paper. With a little creativity, we can even produce some new eco friendly habits that will be worth keeping when it starts to improve.

Nowadays, Americans produce a million more tons of waste every week during the holidays than the rest of the year, a 25% increase. Most of the extra waste is wrapping paper, packaging, and ribbon. In fact, one year’s worth of discarded ribbon is sufficient to tie a bow around the entire planet!

Surely everyone wants festive-looking packages. Crafters have begun to think of ways to reuse stuff that would otherwise go straight to the landfill. The results are not only as attractive as ordinary wrapping paper, but unique. Imagine the effect of every package being different instead of many of them wrapped in the same paper!

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Use different paper–or no paper

Consider using newspaper, old calendars, paper bags, roadmaps, etc. Does that sound tacky? Add sparkle and elegance with whimsical additions. Instead of ribbon, how about fabric scraps, string, yarn, or even a rhinestone brooch from a thrift store. Make a bow from doilies or muffin cups. Make tags from last year’s Christmas cards.

The difference between a cheap, tacky looking package and an elegant one is the amount of imagination and creativity that goes into it. Think of how to use buttons, pine cones, acorns, sprigs of a fragrant plant, or words cut from magazine or newspaper headlines.

Maybe your children would enjoy seeing their artwork used for gift wrap. At least, it doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, you can commission them to draw or paint on any kind of paper. Do it yourself if you have the skill and the time. If you’re into scrap-booking, any of the stamps and other materials you use can jazz up a package

Planning ahead for next year, save up this year’s wrapping paper, like your great-grandparents did. Preserve flowers during the spring and summer.

You don’t necessarily have to use paper at all. How about:

  • Fabric
  • Burlap
  • Foil (which can be recycled later)
  • Damaged CDs, or those unwanted CD-ROMs that come in the mail
  • Bubble wrap
  • Tea towels

For that matter, you can wrap one gift with another, using, say, a bath towel or a dress-shirt and tie.

Need a box? Surely you have been saving up usable boxes that get mailed or shipped to you throughout the year. You can also reuse boxes that other products come in, from that new computer to crackers or cereal. Carefully pry them apart at the seams, refold them inside out, and reglue the seams. Now you have a plain surface to exert your creativity on.

By using eco friendly alternatives to wrapping paper, you ease the burden on the local landfill and recycling center. (When the supply of paper for recycling spikes at the end of the year, the price it can command goes down.) Once all the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, there will still be plenty to throw away. But instead of throwing away fresh, new wrapping paper, you maintain a green Christmas by throwing away only what you would have discarded anyway.

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Photo credit: Brown paper packages tied up with string. Some rights reserved by LornaWatt.

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