4 types of eco-friendly wrapping paper you already have

This post is a part of A Greener Christmas Guide, a series of posts dedicated to celebrating the holidays with a lighter impact on the earth.  For more of this series, please visit A Greener Christmas Guide.

Is there anything more enchanting than Christmas morning when your family rushes into the living room to see all of the beautiful presents with their fancy bows and pretty wrapping papers?  All the paper starts flying as delighted people begin ripping into the pile of gifts.  We forget about all that packaging and focus on the gifts it was hiding.

But what if you didn’t think about the gifts one Christmas morning?  What if you thought about all the trash your family just generated in that short time instead?  And then you started thinking about how every family in town was generating garbage?  Or everyone in the country?  Americans generate wrapping paper waste to the tune of 4 million tons every year.  (insert panic attack)  I wonder how many gallons of milk that is.

I read that there’s going to be a 25% increase in the trash Americans generate during the holidays, and I decided a big change was needed.  So this Christmas, my family is fighting to decrease waste.  I told you about our greener Christmas cards, and now, it’s on to the wrapping paper.

Our Greener Christmas Challenge:

We’re curbing the flow of paper waste this Christmas by wrapping every single present in products that would have gone straight to the garbage can or recycling bin.  That’s everything from wrapping paper to bows.  (If you can think of a solution for tape, I’ll do that, too.)  The funny thing is that this challenge really isn’t going to be all that hard like I originally thought.  I just started thinking about all of the materials destined for our dumpsters, and ideas started popping into my head.  Wish I were this good at finding the gifts to go in them.

We’re wrapping all of our gifts by…

1. Reusing Products as Wrapping Paper and Bows

  • Old blueprints:

 This is the coolest free wrapping of all!  Today, blueprints are just stacks of enormous sheets of white paper printed on one side.  They’re perfect for stamping and painting as unique wrapping paper if you find unused ones… which isn’t hard.  I called up the general contractor in my hometown in the US, and they’re putting together a pile of prints for me that were never used.  Contractors throw away heaps of untouched blueprints because they get so many revisions for a project.  I called a general contractor in my hometown, and they’re putting together a pile of prints for me.  Read about how we used blueprints here.

  • Old newspapers and magazines:

So there’s the old standby of the funnies page.  But how about some German newsprint?  I think that would be cool in the US.  And Martha Stewart’s got some cool ads that could become bows.  We’ll teach you next week.

  • Fabric scraps:

I’m thinking country Christmas here – cute fabric ribbons that otherwise land in the trash, fun  scrap pompoms…

  • Old maps and sheet music:

Do you still have maps from your summer vacation or sheet music no one would want to read?  We stick to digital maps as much as possible, but there’s always the occasional map floating around, I bet.

  • Aluminum foil:

When you use foil, does it get dirty?  Or do you just toss it?  Stay tuned for some aluminum ribbon ideas.

2. Simple Reusable Items

  • Small pieces of fabric:

Homemade bags that could be used by the recipient later on – how easy and cool.  Check out this easy tutorial to make bags of your own in a few minutes.

  • Pillow cases:

My mom always makes pillowcases at Christmas, then she pops a present or two in them.  So easy.  So useful.

  • Canvas tote bags:

One of our readers, Emily, suggested this idea.  She says, “This christmas we are giving reusable shopping bags ($1.99- same price as some gift bags) to family and friends and packing the gift into the bag.”  Isn’t that an awesome idea?  Go Emily!

3. Tree-free and recycled wrapping paper for sale

If these ideas sound too rustic and the Martha Stewart look is a must, try shopping for greener wrapping products that meet these requirements:

  • made out of hemp, post-consumer paper products with a high recycled content, flax, or other renewable, environmentally friendly resource
  • no uber-gross dyes.  You want them to be plant-based, not chemical-based.
  • no chlorine.

Like with your Christmas cards, I’m not sure WalMart’s caught on to this environmental importance.  You might want to shop these places.  Their choices are to die for.  Except, you know, they’re not toxic, so you won’t actually die, and neither will any trees:


4.  You ready to spill your brilliance?

This is where you step in with a few ideas for all of us.  Pretty please, won’t you share?  Send pictures of your wrapped gifts for us to all ooh and awe at.  You’d be my BFF if you flashed us a little green thinking, you know.  And let us know about other green wrapping ideas you’ve got tucked away.  We’d love to hear ‘em.

(First image from Martha Stewart; all others from Flickr)