Christmas and holiday wrapping papers generate a huge amount of waste. Carnegie Mellon estimates that waste from U.S. households increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This includes all types of waste, but certainly wrappings are the primary source.
Here are five ways to use less paper and create less waste from gift wrapping at the holiday season.
1. Wrap gifts in fabrics. Our family has gone completely to using pieces of Christmas fabrics. These can be fastened with tape, just like paper, although the tape won’t stick as well. The tape will hold the edges enough to allow you to tie the package with chunky yarn, cloth ribbon, hoarded rick-rack, etc. We now have a box full of fabrics, and a small tub of ribbons, yarn, bows, and cheesy decorations saved from many sources to decorate packages. Any small plastic holiday doodads that come into the house go into the tub.
2. Wrap gifts in recycled papers. This will work less well with children, but adults can usually be trained to remove wrappings carefully. When I was a child, all our Christmas papers were saved and re-used from year to year. I loved getting out the basket where they were stored. Each design was like an old friend, and I had favorites that I hoped would be used to wrap my gifts year after year. If you are going to save papers, it makes sense to buy better quality paper in the first place. This solution probably also includes gift bags that can be re-used.
3. Wrap gifts in other gifts. Small gifts can be wrapped in bandanas, kitchen towels, scarves, etc. This won’t work with everything, but it’s a good idea for gifts which will go outside your home. Another idea is using inexpensive baskets with the top “sealed” with crumbled tissue paper.
4. Wrap gifts in “junk.” Make it a pop art Christmas! Use products that are usually thrown away to create wrappings, thus getting an extra use before discarding. Think of paper products that can be used as wrappings. The classic example is comic papers from the newspaper. That certainly works! Other ideas might be to save mail inserts on colored paper throughout the year. These can be taped or sewn together to make multi-colored patchwork larger sheets. Kids can do this, too. Tissue paper packing can be saved and used for wrappings. Again, kids can paint this, or stamp designs with sponges or cut potatoes, or decorate it with any other technique. Other junk items that make pop art wrappings include colorful dog food bags, plastic shopping bags, etc.
5. Instead of wrapping gifts, create a puzzle or scavenger hunt to locate them. Kids love this, but you might not want to have NO gifts under the tree. The initial clue can be placed under the tree, which will lead to another clue and so on until the gift is finally located. An alternate idea is to create a “spider web” of colored yarns. One end of each string is located under the tree with the recipient’s name attached. The other end is attached to the gift, somewhere in the house. But along the way, the string can be woven through furniture, around corners, etc. We used both of these ideas on occasion when our boys were small. One son liked such games, and one didn’t, so we had to plan this carefully, but with some customizing, the puzzles were remembered as fun.
Finally, any paper or plastic products that have reached the point where they are no longer useful should be recycled. With a little effort, any household can cut their holiday waste by a considerable amount.
Have a Green Holiday Season!