Gift wrapping in general, and especially around the holiday season, leads us to think we need hyper specific packaging in order to “fit” an occasion. We then buy much more “stuff’ like gift bags, wrapping paper, tissue paper, and ribbon that will likely be discarded within hours of being torn apart. Not only becoming a waste of money but a waste of resources. In the big picture, the antithesis to sustainability is consumption. Yet, during this time of year there is a lot of tradition and pride in exchanging thoughtful, unique items to our family and friends. So how can we marry the two ideas?
Below is our guide for gift-wrapping inspo that reduces, reuses, and in all cases can be recycled. Plus, we hope you find there’s more to climate-friendly wrapping other than minimizing waste. A sustainably wrapped gift feels like a gift all its own. It’s often more personal, showing your individual touch better than snowman wrapping paper can, and more beautiful by giving the recipient a unique, eye catching package that’s as much of a treat wrapped as is what’s inside. Take a look to see how us fools will be wrapping this holiday season.
Furoshiki: The Japanese art of cloth wrapping
Using cloth like a personalized dish towel, a hand-dyed silk, or a bandana requires no adhesive, no paper, no twine. The furoshiki methods are without a doubt the most eco-friendly for the reason that no other resources are required and no waste is created. Furoshiki gives us intentional techniques for efficient folds and knots that will artfully wrap your gift.
I love this method for the simplicity and the beauty. It took me a couple tries to get it right but I found it super helpful to watch videos like these. Furoshiki wrapping is the opportunity to give something just as special on the outside of the package as whats inside.
The Sunday Funnies
Newspaper gift wrap; it’s classic and charming. Additionally, it’s recyclable and not only could serve as gift wrap but also an alternative to packing peanuts or bubble wrap if you’re wrapping something fragile.
Pick up a local paper, read and enjoy with a cup of Carmen’s masala chai, then afterward proceed to wrap a gift as you normally would, using modge podge as your adhesive (modge podge is a recyclable adhesive unlike tape or some other glues). Create a bow with some twine and you’re finished! Stamps will work great here for labeling the to and from. Check out our DIY wrapping paper below for some helpful tips on how to bring it all together.
Not into stamping? No problem. Re-work a small gift topper to create a tag; e.g. a vintage matchbook!
A little something extra
In lieu of a large bow or ribbon which will only end up in the landfill, one of my favorite ways to accessorize gifts is to top them with an exposed gift that also acts as decoration. It’s a great way to add something small, something handmade, or something that ties in with to wrapped item.
Gift yourself a day at the park or an afternoon trail hike. Take that time to collect plant matter like wild grasses or pinecones. Adding this type of flora to gifts gives it a very seasonal element that can take the place of a red and green bow. Great flora gift toppers:
– native grasses
– staghorn sumac
– birch wood
– soft pine needle twigs
– wild grape vines
– dried seasonal fruits can also make a beautiful addition. look towards blood oranges and navel oranges
So maybe your gift isn’t reasonable to wrap. Maybe there’s a lot of small items or a few fragile ones. A gift bag can be just as sustainable of an option as newspaper. Instead of tissue paper, use a bandana or vintage scarf to wrap your gifts in and use the ends to fill out the top of the bag. Brown paper gift bags are so easy to reuse and repurpose plus are almost always recyclable.
DIY wrapping paper
Conventional wrapping paper is dyed, laminated and often contains plastics which are all reasons that prevent it from being recyclable. But, needless waste no more! This is the alternative you can swap out for your old idea of what wrapping paper was. Look at what it can be!
Grocery bags get a new life! Yes, grocery bags. Butcher paper works as a great sub for wrapping paper if you can find it. However, grocery bags are extremely accessible, practically free, and are the perfect butcher paper dupe. We’ll be stamping these bags to create unique, one-of-a-kind wrapping paper. Why stamps? Paints are extremely toxic to the environment when they begin to break down (say for instance when they are sitting in a landfill) and they prevent your paper from being recyclable. Stamps can be used with water-soluble, non-toxic inks that will allow your paper to end up right where it should be- in the recycling bin.
What you’ll need:
– paper grocery bag
– 100% natural jute twine
– rubber stamp
– ink pad. look for a water soluble, plant-based inks rather than petroleum based. plant based inks are easier to remove during the de-inking process in recycling. Here’s a brand I recommend.
– modge podge and applicator such as a paintbrush
Cut the grocery bag down each side until it lay flat. Measure out how much paper you’ll need to cover your gift and cut any remaining paper away. The handles are usually glued to the bags are are easy to remove. Take off the handles. There will likely be some residue left behind from the handle glue- thats ok! This side of the bag will be the inside of the wrapping. Flip to reverse “exterior” side of your wrapping where we will put our stamp design.
Choose a stamp design and ink color. Take to the paper to create your own pattern design. Embrace any smudges or imperfections, it will only add to the custom appeal.
Give it some time to dry though it doesn’t take long.
Begin to wrap your item as you normally would. However, we’re swapping out tape for a recyclable, non toxic adhesive; Modge Podge!
Apply adhesive to areas you would normally tape. Apply pressure to help bond the paper.
Pro Tip: butterfly clips help great at this step if you don’t have the patience to apply pressure yourself.
Once the adhesive has dried, apply your jute twine just as you would ribbon. Jute or other 100% natural material twine is recyclable and biodegradable. Not only that, it’s great for gift wrapping on any occasion (so worth saving if you receive some on your gift!). If you have letter stamps, you can use those to write out your “to and from”. You can also get creative with a gift topper by adding flora or another “little extra” something.
There you have it! A completely recyclable, biodegradable alternative to traditional wrapping that has the perfect touch of custom for any occasion. We hope you take the sustainable route for future gift giving opportunities and have a very happy holiday season. Good riddance, 2020!