5 Ways to Wrap Holiday Gifts Without Waste
Plus an afterlife for real Christmas trees
Choosing gift wrap requires too much brainpower that could be better applied elsewhere. Because glossy wrapping paper contains plastic, it cannot go in the recycling bin. Never put any wrap slathered with glitter in there either. Metallic wrapping paper? It goes in the trash. You can recycle simple matte wrapping paper, however. Phew! But good luck finding rolls of matte paper packaged without plastic shrink wrap.
This year, consider opting for more sustainable gift wrap. The ideas below include reusables, homemade-ables and a hybrid of the two. They also happen to look beautiful.
You don’t actually have to put anything into these bags. The bags alone make a lovely gift. But of course, you can also fill them with gifts. Find the bento-style bag pattern here.
If you don’t sew, you can buy bento bags made of natural fibers from Non-Disposable Life, which popularized the bento bag. Check out Non-Disposable Life’s bento bags here.
Furoshiki gift wrap
Nestled in with the bento bags in the above picture, the small pink package on the bottom left and the large blue package above it are examples of Japanese Furoshiki wrapping. You can wrap many, many items with a piece of thin fabric. After cutting squares out of extra fabric that had sat in my stash for well over a decade (!), I finished the edges with a rolled hem on my serger for my furoshiki cloths. A zigzag stitch on a standard machine also works.
If you don’t sew, you can buy scarves to wrap gifts this way, including secondhand scarves from thrift shops.
Cloth produce bags
Like bento bags, produce bags serve as bonus gifts. Go here for a tutorial on how to make these with a standard sewing machine or with a serger. You can fill them with all kinds of gifts and not just avocados, although I would appreciate a bag of avocados if anyone wants to give that to me. Don’t sew? Buy produce bags for your low-waste loving recipients.
Brown paper packages, tied up with tape
To make homemade paper tape, first, make the glue (wheat paste), then brush that onto paper strips (the tape) and apply the tape to seal your package. You can wrap and tape gifts with newspaper, magazines, decorated or plain craft paper, your kids’ artwork, brown paper shopping bags and so on. Go here for the wheat paste recipe and gluten-free alternatives.
The wheat paste for the paper tape can also adhere paper labels to jars. Go here for information on removing existing labels from salvaged jars. Make new labels and fill your jars with homemade food or whatever else you’d like to put in them.
Bonus waste-busting tip: Bury real Christmas trees in a hugelkultur bed
If you bought an organic real tree this year and have a yard, you could build a raised hugelkultur bed after you take your tree down. Essentially, you cut the trunk into a few smaller pieces and bury them in the bottom of a raised bed (or build a tall mound). You can toss the greenery in there also. As the wood slowly breaks down, it releases nutrients and water—a godsend here in droughtstricken California—while insects tunneling through the wood aerate the new soil. With the added bulk of your Christmas tree, your bed will require less soil to fill it.
At the end of each year, I write a list of new year’s intentions or design a January challenge. This year, I’m launching something new. Sign up here to receive a daily action to address the climate crisis. Some tasks push for systemic change. Some are individual actions. We need it all.