When I was growing up, Christmas morning didn’t officially commence until my mom, brother, and I were gathered around the tree, still in our p.j.’s, with trash bags ready to accept the imminent paper carnage. We tore through the packaging, desperate to see what Santa had brought, stuffing the wrapping into the waiting trash bags, which grew fuller by the minute. It was glorious and exciting and ultimately, really quite wasteful. [image credits above, clockwise from top left: ms living, greater goods online, the patchworkdress, green your decor, ms living]
If I’d only known then what I know now, I’d have approached my family’s gift-wrapping free-for-all a bit more mindfully. During the stretch of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans add an additional 6 million tons of waste to our already taxed landfills. More waste is produced during this period than at any other time of year. I’m finding myself increasingly inspired by those individuals who appropriate or reconfigure “waste” into something useful and beneficial. Most notably, William Kamkwamba of Malawi has enthralled the industrialized world by building a windmill in his village, generating electricity in the process. Using discarded bicycle parts and junkyard pvc, along with indigenous organic materials, Kamkwamba performed the ultimate DIY-project. One man’s trash truly is another man’s (and his village’s) treasure. You can read about his inspiring design, and ecological, sensibilities in his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind .
Knowing that trash is an abstract concept (What designates something as trash, really? It never really goes away. When does it become “trash”?), I’ve worked over the past decade at reassessing my holiday gift-wrapping (among other waste-generating habits), striving to make it as sustainable as possible. While the holidays are now upon us, if you’ve yet to wrap up a gift or two, consider these alternatives to the “haste makes waste” mentality of my youth after the jump!
CLICK HERE for the rest of “It’s A Wrap-Alternative Gift Wrapping” (including Ashley’s gift wrap ideas) after the jump!
Make your own bags:
-Gift bags found at thrift stores or purchased inexpensively at dollar stores can be used over and over again. Whenever I’m given a gift bag, I store it in a plastic bin kept expressly for that purpose. When the need arises, I just grab one out, place a gift inside, and I’m set.
-Pre-made fabric bags are available from a number of small suppliers. Check DIY retailers like Etsy . Lucky Crow has a number of vividly patterned offerings.
-Fill gift baskets sourced from thrift stores or purchase handmade baskets, such as those gorgeous creations from Basket Africa . Terra cotta pots work great, too.
-Give new life to packaging used in other products, such as cookie tins, watch and jewelry boxes, or cigar boxes. If you don’t have these on hand, many can be found at thrift or antique stores.
-Package your gift in another item of use, such as metal food storage boxes, tiffins , or canvas totes (LOVE these from Black Sheep Heap.
-For fragile gifts, wrap them in a clothing garment, kitchen towels, or warm scarf that can serve as an additional gift instead of packaging peanuts (or use real peanuts, instead of polystyrene ones).
If you do go the paper packaging route (and there are some truly gorgeous papers out there), here are several options for making sustainable paper choices:
-Look for recycled-content wrapping paper, or paper sold by charitable organizations who will use the profits to support ecological endeavors.
-Use menus from restaurants to cover boxes.
-Ditto for 2009 calenders, day planners, or maps.
-Make gift tags out of old holiday cards.
-Use brown butcher paper or brown grocery bags for packaging.
-Pages from newspapers and magazines are old standbys. Comic sections, foreign editions, or strategically placed ads or images of things liked by your recipient are always well-received.
-Consider simply reusing wrapping paper. I always carefully unwrap gifts, folding the paper back up and storing it in a safe location for use next year.
*If you do end up with packing peanuts (known professional as “loose fill”), check out Loose Fill Packaging for repurposing/returning suggestions.
I’d love to hear any alternative wrapping suggestions you have. The possibilities are truly endless! Happy holidays!