photo via Kanu HawiiDeck the halls with balls of paper may as well be the refrain cheerfully trumpeted by carollers as they melodically instruct us on the key points of successful Holiday decoration and gift giving. Not to be a Grinch, here--indeed, part of the thrill of receiving holiday gifts is tearing their wrappings with abandon in a treasure hunt that involves only one obstacle! However, it's this practice that creates a dramatic increase in garbage going to landfills at this time of year. In fact, a Stanford University study found that Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's than any other time of year, making about 1 million extra tons of trash each week!
Fortunately, there are many ways to retain the fun spirit of unravelling your gifts while reducing your contribution to the Holiday trash heap!
Newspaper is an easy and classic way to wrap presents, but is often seen as the cheapskate's way out. No longer! Get creative and dye it with food coloring, or paint on it with watercolor or tempera paints. Cutting out pictures from magazines, comics, or old greeting cards and gluing them on are another way to make a newspaper-wrapped box look a little more special. Use glitter to make it extra festive, or just draw on it with markers, crayons, or colored pencils! You can also use stamps to make plain paper prettier; one rubber stamp is all you need, or make your own stamp out of a raw potato (this is a great project for kids)!
You can also reuse brown paper bags in a similar way. Just cut along the glued seams and it gives you a big piece of paper to work with. This solid brown wrapping has a nice rustic look that is complimented by a simple, earthy ribbon like cotton or hemp twine.
These are awesome ways to recycle things you already have rather than getting something new only to throw it immediately away (plus, it saves you money). Of course, our very favorite way to give (and receive) gifts is to wrap it in something that is useful and will continue to be used. Put the present that you would have put in one of those glossy gift bags in a reusable shopping bag instead! They come in all kinds of cool colors and styles (we love these ones from envirosax and baggu; they fold up really small and are perfect for throwing in your purse or your pocket when not in use) and will help prevent excess trash far beyond the holidays! Other useful things that make great wrapping are pretty tea towels or cool fashion scarves. Use fun shoelaces as ribbon, or try this awesome (and easy) tutorial for cool personalized pipe cleaner gift tags.
If more traditional wrappings are just irrefutably your style, gift bags and tissue paper can be a more environmentally friendly option than wrapping paper. Simply save the bags and tissue and reuse them next year! Use festive fabric or a square scarf to try a Japanese technique of wrapping called furoshiki (video tutorial here). There are so many options beyond traditional wrapping paper! Let's do what we can to reduce our dependence on disposibility this holiday season, and say Happy Holidays to not just our friends and family, but to our planet as well!