This Holiday, Wrap Responsibly


Still got a lot of holiday wrapping to do? Some tips for making your gift wrap fun and functional.

Gifts are best when they’re a surprise, and gift wrap does double duty as holiday decoration and surprise preserver. However, there’s no reason to create instant litter with expensive wraps that wind up in shreds.

Make the wrap a gift
A scarf, sweater or throw can be wrapped securely around small to medium-sized gifts and form an attractive package.  Or search your basement and local thrift shops for vintage hatboxes, picnic baskets, attractive totes, satchels, and tins that would be appreciated in themselves and hold surprises to boot. For larger gifts, a table cloth or even bed sheets can do the trick. Just be sure to keep fabric wrapped gifts far enough from the tree to avoid damage from sap.

Create a reusable gift box
This is a simple project, and you can create several at a time. Shoe boxes are perfect, but any box with a lid will serve, and it’s helpful to have a variety of sizes. Select a light -- but not translucent -- gift wrap, preferably last year’s wrap reused. Cut it to size for the lid and container, crease it around the sides for a tight fit prior to gluing, and adhere with a glue stick or rubber cement. Take care to work in a well ventilated area when applying rubber cement.

Recycle magazines, maps and other paper goods
For smaller gifts, dig through the recycling pile for images from glossy magazines that might suit the recipient or the gift itself. You may want to avoid colored newsprint images because they can smear on hands; however, newsprint is generally made of soy-based inks and should not contain the toxic metals that were a concern with petroleum-based inks. Old calendars are another attractive option.

For larger gifts, old maps provide a great decorative wrap and are usually heavy enough to be reused several times. Or take the plain packing paper that frequently comes with mail-order gifts and draw or stencil your own designs.

Gift bags
If you have a stack on hand from birthday parties and other events, reuse them. You can bury the contents beneath shredded or crumpled images from old magazines for colorful tufts. If you’re fresh out of bags, Native Leaf Gift Bags from Global Exchange are fair-trade certified options that come in small, medium and large sizes. Or try recycled-fabric gift bags from Patagonia.

Recycled-Content Gift Wrap
If other options are unsatisfactory, look for gift wraps with high levels of post-consumer fiber content indicating that they are derived from paper recycled after use. Seltzer Goods produces 100 percent post-consumer recycled gift wrap, or you might try Paper Mojo’s tree-free gift wrap made from jute, lokta or banana fiber. And, of course, remember to save and reuse all your gift wrap.

Americans send 1.9 billion cards during the holidays, which adds up to a lot of trees. But paper cards have a lot of competition from their electronic equivalents that create no waste at all.,, Hallmark, and many others offer online and emailed holiday cards, often free of charge. But if hard copies are essential, Doodle Greetings and Seltzer Goods both have lines of 100 percent post-consumer recycled cards. Global Exchange offers handmade occasion cards on recycled paper made by “young people in Rwanda who have lost their parents to conflict or disease.” What better way to celebrate the spirit of the holidays?

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