Gift wrapping is fun and necessary for many occasions, but there are the environmental costs of resource extraction, manufacture, and waste disposal to be considered. You can create attractive gift wrap yourself by reusing paper, fabric, or even using the Sunday comics. If you prefer buying gift wrap, look for recycled content gift wrap paper whenever you can find it.
Fabric Gift Bags
Fabric gift bags make beautiful, personal, and unique gift wraps for all gift-giving occasions. Even better, they’re reusable and made of recycled materials.
To make your own gift bags, start by gathering all the scrap material you can lay your hands on. Thrift shops are a good source, as are the “discontinued” bins in your local fabric shops. (Sometimes the most garish fabrics which wind up in the discontinued bins are great for gift bags.)
The gift bags will look richer and last longer if they are lined, so collect any fabric you can get your hands on, no matter how plain, for the inside of the bag. Old cotton bedsheet material works well for this.
Simple to Make. Here’s How:
- Cut two pieces of your fabric and two pieces of the lining material all to the same size. Any size, any shape rectangle will do. A variety of sizes is useful, and square or "close to square" rectangles are the most versatile shapes.
- Put each fabric piece on top of each lining piece, fold over the top edges and sew. Just the top edges. Now you've hemmed the opening edge of the gift bag.
- Stack both sets of fabric with the lining (inside) faces to the outside. The decorative fabric pieces will be facing each other on the inside of the "sandwich". Be sure the hemmed edges are both on top. Sew the three un-hemmed edges with a simple running stitch, 1/4" in from the edge.
- Turn inside out. Set a generous length of ribbon about 2" down from the top, and tack it to the bag with a few stitches in the middle of the ribbon length.
Comic Strip Wrapping Paper
If newspapers still come to your door, save those Sunday newspaper colored funny sheets! These large sheets of color comics are perfect for wrapping kids’ gifts. They look fun and colorful, and add an extra touch of interest to the gift. (They’ll be read and re-read, and passed around for others to enjoy.)
If you want the wrapping to look more ‘finished’, put a piece of clear cello over the comic sheet wrap. Of course the price is right, and the discarded wrap is still recyclable.
Calendars, Wallpaper and More …
What to do with last years’ calendar? If it’s a large size calendar, cut out the pictures and use them for gift wrap. The pictures are bright and interesting, the coated stock is glossy and finished looking, and the weight of the paper makes the wrapping extra-deluxe.
One of the very best sources for wrapping paper children’s art. Children are prolific artists, and they love to see their work acknowledged. Over the course of the year, save your children’s artwork (especially large pieces) for use during the holidays and other gift-giving occasions. Use your children’s’ artwork, with their permission, to wrap gifts for the holidays. The relatives, especially, will love the personal touch.
You can also collect the ‘discontinued’ books of wallpaper samples from your local paint and wallpaper shop. The pages are large enough to provide great wrapping paper for small and medium sized gifts.
Another wonderful source for gift wrap is old maps. Road maps, topographical maps, out-of-date aeronautical and marine charts all work well and can be ‘matched’ with the gift, e.g. a topo map to wrap a gift of outdoor gear, or an old marine chart for a boat-related gift.
Recycled Gift Wrap
How about re-used gift wrap for gift wrap? Be a little careful when opening large presents and you can reuse the paper. It will need to be cut down to clean up the taped and torn edges, but enough good paper will remain to be useful for wrapping smaller presents. Also, high-quality ribbon, especially fabric-ribbon, can be ironed flat to look like new.
Ask at the office of your local newspaper for newsprint roll-ends. These roll-ends are usually picked up for recycling, but often the people at the office will let you have a couple rolls for a few dollars each, or even free. These rolls are usually about 36″ wide, and even a “thin” roll-end can have a lot of paper still left on the roll.
For gift wrap, you can cut an oversize piece for the gift and decorate it with crayons or felt markers or even rubber stamps. Water-colors can be used if you don’t mind the paper ‘puckering’ a bit from the water.
Simple, diagonally-laid lines or ‘squiggles’ make a good pattern, especially if you use a variety of colors. Don’t worry about the edges or the uniformity of the pattern: it all looks good once the gift is wrapped.
You can also decorate the paper after the gift is wrapped, but you may want to use two layers of paper so the colors you apply don’t bleed through to the gift.
Finish off the gift package with a ribbon or bow, and the result is a unique, personal gift – and the paper is still recyclable.
Natural Finishing Touches
A short walk through the forest, a nearby park, or even your backyard will provide you with plenty of natural materials to use in trimming your gift package.
Pine cones, fir or cedar branch tips, dried oak or maple leaves and other small natural pieces can be tied together with twist-ties and secured to the package. Avoid using berries, as they can easily fall off and be potentially toxic to small children and pets.
For a more festive look, the pine cones can be brushed lightly with glue and dusted with glitter. A bright red ribbon can also be used as a tie at the top of the pinecones.
Gifts trimmed with green materials, such as evergreen branch tips, should be wrapped within a few days of giving. Green branch tips will dry out; they should not be used for gifts being sent through the mail.
The effort and imagination evident in a personally designed gift box can be as appealing as the gift within. A package decorated with natural materials not only spares you (and the environment) the cost of manufactured trims; it’s also a subtle reminder of the beauty in even the smallest bits of our natural world.
For practical gift-giving ideas, visit Eartheasy’s online store.