There are many components to wrapping a gift and each one contributes to your carbon footprint. Each roll of tape comes in a plastic dispenser, each gift tag sticker comes on a silicon liner, each roll of wrapping paper comes with a plastic wrap, and each bow comes in a plastic container. This holiday season, I challenge you to think creative and upcycle your paper waste to wrap presents. As you spend endless amounts of money on gifts, don’t spend a single dime on the packaging.
Wrapping Paper: When it comes to wrapping gifts, a newspaper can be used just the same as wrapping paper. You may get newspapers delivered to your home, or maybe you have a friend or relative who does. If you have someone in your life who cannot give up the newspaper, make it your mission to reuse it when they are done. If you want to make it look more festive, add some drawings or cut out shapes to the outside.
Bags: If you have an awkward shaped gift, it can be difficult to wrap. Many people resort to a plastic coated holiday bag but there is a better answer. First, you could make the bag part of the gift. Get them a backpack or reusable shopping bag that they can use over and over. Maybe they will use your bag when shopping and you will have made a difference in their carbon footprint as well as your own. Secondly, you could use a makeshift bag out of any cloth you have lying around. Pillow cases, curtains, clothing, sheets, anything! Just wrap it around the present and tie a bow to make it look nice.
Clothing Boxes: Those pressboard boxes should never be purchased. Over the course of a year, you must have access to similar boxes that can be saved and reused for gifts. Any cardboard box will do, as long as it fits the gift you are trying to wrap. If you work in an office or have an office at home, manila folders come in the same style box as those gift boxes, so those may be ideal. Either way, use something you have already rather than purchasing new materials.
Tape: First, channel your inner origamist and try to live without it. It may not look as pretty and clean, but that’s not the point. Start wrapping your gift, when you would normally use a piece of tape, cut a slit in the wrapping paper to tuck the loose end inside. Secondly, if tape is necessary in your life, get the tape with the least plastic waste. There are many paper tapes and rolls that do not use a plastic dispenser. Be a little more mindful at the store because one small change will always make a difference.
Tags: Gift tags can be made from many upcycled materials. Scrap papers, folders, snack boxes, etc. All you need to do is cut out your desired shape, punch a whole, and tie it on the gift. Never buy a “to: from:” sticker again. Also, if you keep your tags well, they can be used over and over again as you likely buy presents for the same people each year.
Bows/Ribbons: First, many bows are made of plastic and completely unnecessary. Try to avoid the added bows on top and save yourself some money. However, when trying to wrap presents tape free, it is convenient to have some ribbon handy. Keep your ribbon simple to make the environmentally friendly choice. My favorite choice is sewing thread. Each spool comes with many feet of string so it last a while, making the spool on the inside almost worth it. Many decorative ribbons have toxic glitter, are coated in plastic, and only come with a few feet of ribbon per package.
Also, if you receive a gift in a plastic coated bag, or in a pressboard clothing box, or with a plastic bow on top, or with fancy ribbons tied all around, save it. Although avoiding the plastic is the goal, once something is purchased, it should be used to its fullest before it is throw away. Be mindful of the gifts you give and the gifts you receive. Limiting your footprint is easy when there is so much room to improve.