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giftsA Recycled Christmas

Make Earth Friendly Gift Wrap Every year I have the same dilemma - what to wrap my Christmas presents in that is both environmentally-friendly AND attractive?

I hate seeing those piles of torn wrapping paper heaped under the tree after present-opening time. These papers were barely used and are now ready for the trash, and the landfill. One option is recycling them - but many of these speciality papers are hard to categorize, with metallic dyes added. Are they actually recyclable? And would you want them in your compost bin if they are toxic? What to do?

Here are some options I've tried and their mixed results:

  • Buy wrapping paper made specifically from recycled content. You can feel better buying it, and can probably recycle or compost it when you are done. Buying wrapping papers from charity groups involved in saving rainforests will salve your conscience and is a nice gesture.

  • Pick up inexpensive rolls of leftover wrapping paper from Goodwill or the Salvation Army. When I stopped by Goodwill today, I saw bins full of 1/2 and 1/4 rolls for less than a dollar each.

  • Save used wrapping paper this Christmas and reuse it all next year. I did this through-out my twenties. Now I don't really care to store used paper all year, but it worked fine for me at the time. The downside: your gifts don't look very pristine all wrapped up, sitting under the tree, with the professionally-wrapped stuff from everyone else. My parents understood my recycling convictions, but still, my gifts looked 'cheaper' than the others. If you can get your whole family to save and reuse together, this option should work for you. Make sure everyone opens their gifts carefully - no frantic ripping allowed!

  • Make your own gift wrap from butcher paper, reused brown paper bags, newspaper and the funny pages. These can look GREAT! Try some raffia twine bows with the butcher paper and brown bags, for a pleasant, simple, rustic look. Or get the family together to create your own designs drawn on the butcher paper - use crayons, markers or mixed media. Make a stencil from a potato for the brown paper bags. You don't need bows, and these hand-made offerings are like another gift all by themselves. Best of all, the paper, bags, and newsprint can all be recycled or composted.

  • Buy a bundle of pretty gift bags from your local dollar store, and reuse them each year. Tie the handles together with some ribbon so gift-getters have something to "unwrap". These bags come in all designs and look very nice under the tree. They are also a boon for wrapping odd-shaped gifts.

  • Along the same lines, you can pick up a bunch of used but pretty baskets from your local Goodwill or thrift store. Put the gifts in the baskets and presto! Nothing to chuck. Everyone can use a basket or two in their lives.

  • Make lovely, reusable gift sacks from cloth material you have lying around. Fold material in half and sew up one bottom and the other side. Leave the top open, insert gift, and tie shut with a ribbon. These sacks can be as simple or extravagant as your talents/interest allows.

  • Give gift certificates this year. Place the certificates in a nice envelope, clip with hole puncher, add a bit of ribbon and dangle from the tree. The nice thing about this: there's virtually no wrapping to deal with (recycle or reuse that envelope), and the recipient gets a gift they will actually enjoy, since they get to pick it out. ;)