25 November 2011

Green is the New Tinsel: Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas

 Did you know? Although it's paper, gift wrapping paper is generally not easily recyclable, if at all, as it is produced with heavy inks that reduce the quality of the paper. The chemical dyes also contribute to water pollution. Furthermore, it is likely not made from recycled paper or wood sourced from sustainable forests. 

 Paper that is best for recycling is light-coloured, non-shiny and doesn't contain elements of plastic, metal, metal inks and sticky tape residue. Foil and metallic papers, plastic wrapping and paper with non-paper ingredients such as glitter cannot be recycled. 

 As you can see, recycling is therefore not the ideal solution for your Christmas waste. But never fear, we have come up with these reusing and repurposing ideas to add some eco-friendly flair to the festive season. With a little bit of imagination, you can easily eliminate waste while adding some DIY magic to your gift-giving:
  • No longer the sole domain of penny pinching grandmothers, reusing last year's Christmas wrapping is the ecologically responsible thing to do for a resource-stressed planet. It seems ouma was ahead of her time! Why not spruce up your package with a few layers of matching gift wrap and a hand-made card?
  • Take a leaf out of the Japanese's book and wrap your gifts in cloth that can be reused as scarves, table mats, wraparound dresses or something else. The traditional art of Furoshiki has seen renewed interest in Japan and around the world as environmental protection has become a concern. 
  • With a few added decorations, everything from newspaper, maps, calender pages, old sheet music, blueprints, etc. can work great as gift wrap. Use ribbon you have saved, dried grasses and flowers or the tree decorations you're not using anymore to add a special touch.
  • If you've got a sewing machine, you can sew together pieces of leftover fabric to make a drawstring bag that can be used again for grocery shopping or lending books from the library. If you haven't been blessed with domestic skill you can always buy a reusable shopping bag from Woolies or elsewhere - you'll find that they're often less expensive than printed gift wrapping paper! 
  • Get creative and think inside the box! Yes - inside the box. Most of us have cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes stored in a closet or the garage. If you wrap the boxes and lids separately (with last year's wrapping paper), they can be reused again and again (tautology used for emphasis ;). Wooden crates and wicker baskets decorated with raffia will work well too, especially if you like that rustic look. Or make a basket from strips of used brown paper bag (see photo).
  • If you're giving a secondhand book as a gift, why not wrap it in another book's dustjacket that has got separated from its insides? Or make the accompanying card by cutting out the image on a dustjacket and pasting it on a piece of folded cardboard. You could probably find something really vintage-looking from your local hospice shop or church book sale. Inside the card you can write a quote from the book you're giving to hint at what's inside the parcel. 
Plain colour wrapping and used string

Biodegradable decorations

Baskets made from brown paper bag strips

Used books make great eco-friendly gifts to go with your sustainable wrapping! Have a look at the Books4Change Holiday Gift Guide for our hand-picked selection of great rare and special secondhand books to give to the whole family. Also have a look at our African themed, eco-friendly Christmas cards and gift tags that you can plant after use to grow your own herbs and flowers!

Please share your ideas for eco-friendly gift wrapping with us in the Comments box below. 

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