It’s no secret that looks and presentation is extremely important to me. I live to decorate! However, there is something else far more important to me than decorating – our planet.
I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount of trash leaving my house each day, and Christmas gift wrapping has been something I’ve been tinkering with for the past few years. Trust me, I’m no angel – for years I bought foil covered wrapping paper, guilt broiling in the pit of my stomach as the cashier rang it through, because I knew exactly where it was headed in a few short weeks. But, for years, I pushed that feeling down, because ‘it’s not Christmas without new aesthetic wrapping paper to match my home decor!’
One of the main reasons people have a hard time giving up shiny foil wrapping paper and plastic curling ribbon, is how festive it looks! Look, I get it – it’s hard to give up the things we consider tradition, and harder still when the alternatives aren’t visually appealing to you. Plus, excitedly tearing open the paper to reveal the gift, and swishing around piles of discarded wrappings as the ‘designated trash-picker upper’ goes around with the garbage bag (whilst light-heartedly laughing about how many presents we received) has been ingrained in us as ‘all part of the magic of Christmas!‘. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
But let’s face the hard facts: Canadians alone create 540,000 tonnes of waste each year from non-recyclable wrapping paper, tape, plastic curling ribbon, plastic coated gift bags, and foil or plastic coated gift tags. Here is a handy article to help you learn what is trash and what is recycling when it comes to your holiday wrapping. Waste management workers unanimously agree that there is far more trash and recycling to pick up during the week of Christmas and New Years.
It’s time to look at better alternatives, don’t you agree? Here are 4 ways I’ve come up with to reduce waste, that you can use over and over again each year. Yes, with some of these ideas you will still have a little waste afterwards – but far less than normal! And I think you can agree, there is no feeling of ‘poor me’ when under the tree looks like this:
Let’s get started!
YOU WILL NEED:
- plain brown Kraft paper (make sure it’s uncoated, some come with a wax coating that is NOT biodegradable or recyclable)
- fabric (cotton, velvet, or jersey all work)
- Kraft paper gift bags (or any paper gift bag that is made of plain, uncoated paper)
- uncoated recyclable tissue paper (no foil designs or glitter embedded)
- cotton or jute bags/pouches
- cotton, silk or velvet bows
- silk, lace or cloth ribbon in assorted colours and widths
- pom pom garland ribbon
- artificial greenery (such as dusty miller, lamb’s ear, holly, pine needles)
- decorations (like the gold and ivory berries I’m using – you can also use ornaments and toys)
- reusable gift tags – the cardboard or paper kind you attach with ribbons, not the stick-on kind.
Before we jump into the ‘how to’, here is a closer look at the specific elements I’ve chosen, and and why:
Any kind of fabric will do, and you can also buy or make reusable bento bags if you like. But this tutorial will show you two ways to wrap with fabric that don’t include sewing.
Save up the bags that regularly come with your small shop purchases throughout the year, or buy a set you can reuse.
In an adult’s only family, sign everyone’s tags from ‘Santa’ to make it easy to re-use the tags every year. This is my third year with these tags. If you have children, have a special set from Santa that you reuse each year, and a family set from you.
When choosing bows, go for velvet, cotton or silk in neutral colours. That way, you can use them year after year and they’ll always match your decor. Same goes for ribbons.
PRO TIP: use a flat iron (on a low setting) to make your fabric ribbons look like new again every year! Do NOT do this on plastic ribbon though.
Add earthy elements, ornaments and toys to take the gifts from ‘boring’ to ‘elegant’ in a snap!
Brown recycled paper is a good alternative to foil and plastic coated Christmas wrapping.
YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
- sewing pins
IDEA #1: KRAFT PAPER WRAPPING
This is the easiest swap when you’re first trying to go green. Make sure you use the raw, uncoated brown paper. The kind used to ship packages. Not only is it recyclable, it’s also made from recycled paper, AND it’s biodegradable. This is best for those with small children that still enjoy the ‘tearing open’ part of Christmas morning. You can decorate the packages with silk ribbons, pom pom garlands, reusable gift tags, and florals.
Feel free to use brightly coloured ribbons, and colourful Christmas ornaments to make this more appealing to children! And don’t forget to make your ‘home set’ and ‘Santa set’ look different, with different tags and writing style.
IDEA #2: FABRIC OR VELVET WRAPPING
Cut rectangles of fabric and wrap exactly as you would if you were using paper – except use pins in place of tape!
Use this method for adults and older children’s gifts to avoid poking small fingers.
For smaller children, use an oversized piece of fabric and tie it closed with ribbon like a ‘candy’!
IDEA #3: REPURPOSED FABRIC OR JUTE BAGS
If you regularly order things from small businesses, you’ll notice a lot of them come in these jute bags. Save them up and use them to package your presents!
Add ribbon, bows and tags to dress them up.
IDEA #4: KRAFT OR PAPER BAGS
Sometimes a plastic gift bag from the store is mighty tempting when you’re in a hurry to wrap a last minute gift. Swap your plastic bag for a paper one, and add a pretty tag, a bow and a leaf to instantly take it from ‘Womp womp’ to ‘Wow! For me?’.
And there you have it! 4 extremely easy ways to reduce the trash under your tree. If you follow these steps, you’ll only have a bit of paper to recycle, and the only thing ending up in the trash is a few pieces of tape. Be sure to remove all ribbons, bows, greenery and ornaments, and gently store them away for next year.
There will be NO ONE saying ‘your poor family’ when under your tree looks straight out of a magazine! Just sayin’. A lot of folks lean heavily on the assumption that eco-friendly = boring, and un-festive. Not at all when it looks like this! They’ll be more likely to say, ‘Wow, how did you do that…?’ instead!
Did you enjoy this tutorial? Let me know in a comment below!
Now more than ever, it’s important to start making the changes that will help our planet in the long run. You don’t have to be perfect the second you start. It’s much better to practice eco-friendly imperfectly than to not start at all. Perfectionism is overrated!
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