Guilt-Free Gift Wrapping
Creative ideas for pretty holiday packaging that will save money—and the planet
In a perfect world, we'd carefully unwrap gifts and save the paper for reuse next year. But tearing apart wrapping paper is about 98 percent of the fun, isn't it? Still, gift wrap accounts for much of the 25 percent spike in waste during the holiday season. Meanwhile, according to The Use Less Stuff Report, reuse of just two feet of ribbon per family would save enough of the trimming to tie a bow around the entire planet. That's a whole lot of ribbon.
If the mounds of colorful wrapping paper on your living room floor make you feel a little guilty—wasteful, even—here are a few creative reuse ideas to ease your conscience.
The repetitive patterns of wallpaper are very similar to that of wrapping paper. Check your garage or closets for wallpaper scraps or samples you may have leftover. Create a reusable "Hollywood box" by wrapping a lid and box separately, or cover an old shoebox to put your gift into. Your box will be so pretty that the receiver is sure to reuse it to give another gift, or as a memory box or coupon holder in the off-season.
Proud parents keep stacks and stacks of finger paintings, colorings, drawings, and other kid-created art. Wrapping gifts for grandparents and teachers with the pages is both eco-friendly and very thoughtful.
The art on wall calendars can reflect everything from cute puppies to beautiful landscapes. Too bad they expire at the end of the year. Give them a second life as wrapping paper. Provided you haven't scribble appointments into the grids, those pages can make an interesting wrapping paper patterns, too. You might even consider marking uniform red Xs in date boxes to convey the countdown to Christmas, or circle birthdates for a personal touch.
Old sheet music makes a great wrap for CDs, LPs, or just about any other gift. A festive red bow against the swirls of musical notes makes for a beautiful package.
Magazine covers, advertisement pages, newsprint, and especially the funny pages can all make great wrap. Tie the paper to the gift you're giving by using the cover of entertainment magazines for DVDs and the covers of food and home magazines for host gifts. Like sheet music, you can offset the black and white of newspapers with bright bows and sprigs of holly. Consider padding fragile packages with shredded pages, instead of buying packing peanuts and bubble wrap.
Eliminate waste altogether by shrouding gifts in practical fabrics. Gather holiday cookies, a few mixing utensils, or a coffee mug into a colorful dish towel tied with a bow. Consider wrapping gloves in a scarf, or a picnic basket in a tablecloth. Be creative.
Out-of-date road and subway maps make for an interesting wrap. Consider using the stuff to wrap passport holders and luggage tags for the travel-enthusiasts on your list this year.
This stuff is no stranger to wrapping…leftovers. But, lightly used, wiped-clean aluminum makes for a shimmering wrap. The more wrinkles in the sheet, the shinier the package. Your gift will certainly stand out under the tree.
Brown shipping paper is another all-purpose wrap that you can jazz up with artistic folding and embellishments. As wrapmaster Jane Means demonstrates here, you can create a striking package wrapped in leftover shipping paper that is worthy of a special hand delivery.
Many wrapmasters relish in a fresh new roll of paper for the holidays. You can buy new the eco-friendly way by considering biodegradable Blooming Wrapping Paper, which you can plant for a wildflower bed come spring. At about $20 for three 24 x 40 sheets, the wrap itself is a gift for the gardener's on your list.
The Greenfield Paper Company offers bright fun contemporary patterns (shown) made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based inks. A roll of two 22 x 33.75 sheets costs about $8.
This nostalgic packaging idea breathes new life into cardboard paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Place irregularly shaped, small gifts (like jewelry) inside the roll and conceal the present with one of the colorful, guilt-free wraps in this gallery.