Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Eco friendly gift wrapping ideas

Most of my Christmas shopping is now done.  So is the wrapping.  This is down to two reasons:

1. I have limited financial resources.
2. I used the free gift wrapping offered in store.

Usually I go for a united theme in my gift wrapping so that anyone looking under the tree can tell what's come from me.  One year I spent hours wrapping everything in brown paper then clear cellophane with a sprinkling of Christmas star confetti in between, topped with coordinated curling ribbon.  They looked beautiful but made a mess when opened and there was such a lot of waste!

This year my united theme is "someone else wrapped it".

There are lots of options for this.  Many stores offer free gift wrapping as a matter of course. Sometimes you have to have the branding of the store on the outside of the parcel.  Often this is quite lovely if done thoughtfully.  The white parcel in this photo is an example of this - purchased and wrapped at the wonderful local treasure, Sedonia.
The navy and gold one is a particular favourite, not because the wrapping particularly fancy, but because of the precision with which it was wrapped.  My favourite city book store, Reader's Feast, is open again and offers this stylish and fuss-free gift wrapping.

The young man providing the service was reading a book about oceanography in between wrapping.  He was Japanese and sprang into focussed action as I presented the item for wrapping (and the receipt to prove that it was actually now mine to have wrapped).  He sized up the article and then precisely cut the exact amount of paper.  He very carefully and squarely, placed the gift in the exact spot on the paper and then proceeded to fold and crease and tape.  His head was bent very close to this work.  He didn't just fold the flap of paper over, he folded and creased and caressed with the level of attention an engineer would use to build a bridge.  The corners were a work of art in themselves, symmetrical and neat.  He quickly cut the smallest amount of tape and placed it just so.  A beautifully wrapped square.  He's probably an origami master in his other life.

I thanked him for his beautiful work and wished him Merry Christmas.  His face broke into a wide smile and he bowed slightly.  I could have watched him all day.

I guess he has it made, working as a gift wrapper in a book store.  I mean everything is going to be square or rectangular and pretty easy to wrap.  No lumpy bits, soft bits or weird angles to contend with in a bookstore.

I do love thinking of different ways to present gifts as I think the presentation of the gift is as much a part of the gift as the gift itself.  However, I just don't want to have to purchase more stuff that I then have to store somewhere for a whole year before I use it again.  And I am concerned about packaging generally as a waste of resources, so I now try to apply this to my personal packaging.

So here are my eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas:

  • Don't wrap at all.  Just present the gift. Wrapped in love of course.
  • Reuse wrapping that you've retrieved from gifts, shopping, packaging.
  • Buy reusable bags and place gifts in these.  The bags then become part of the gift and can be used over and over by the recipient.  One year I bought a whole lot being sold as a fundraiser for the Royal Children's Hospital.  They came in a range of gorgeous colour combinations and were only a couple of dollars each. 
  • Choose gifts that don't require wrapping or are impossible to wrap - plants, food, vouchers.  
  • If you're a cook and giving your goods as gifts, choose a reusable tin, cannister, bottle or other container to put them in.
  • Use the gorgeous pages from last year's calendar as wrapping.  I also use this throughout the year for birthday gifts.  It's often particularly appreciated where the correct month is used.  This is never possible in June!
  • Pillowcases make excellent Santa sacks.  I remember as a child we each had our own with a Christmas picture on it which was instantly recognisable, usually with a jolly image of Santa on a roof carrying a big sack of presents.  If you're handy with a needle and thread you could personalise these with initials, names or other appliqued images or use fabric paint and get artistic.
  • A pretty tea towel, fine handkerchief, table cloth, apron or face washer make excellent wrapping that also have useful after-lives.
  • Depending where you live and quarantine rules, big leaves can work as natural wrapping. They can be composted in the garden afterwards.

How do you wrap your gifts for giving?  Do you consider the planet?  What's the best idea you've had or seen?

Editted to add (9:20am 14 December 2011):

Overnight I thought of some other wrapping options for things that can have an afterlife:

  • sarongs
  • scarfs
  • wall paper 
  • magazine pages 
  • newspaper (thanks to Angela for this suggestion 
  • brown paper bags can be decorated (thanks Kellie) - even better if you can re-use rather than buy
  • re-purpose a shoe box (or any other box).

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