Let's have a great big happy thread filled with eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas.
My favourite way to wrap gifts is Furoshiki, a Japanese art of wrapping with cloth.
These cloths can be reused again and again, I've seen some that were used in a family for more than three generations. They are really great clothes for use in the kitchen (keeping flys out, covering bread, packing lunch).
It's very easy to make these from some on sale fabric from the local fabric shop, just cut a square and hem. One could even make them out of old clothing.
The challenge with this style of wrapping is that the other person may not return it next year. My original thought for wrapping gifts in Furoshiki is that I would give them something in it this year, and they would use it to wrap next year's present... only they just use disposable wrapping paper. Perhaps a little booklet or training manual with the gift (or as the gift) would be a sufficent hint that I expect them to use the cloth to wrap gifts with.
Another method of gift wrapping that I'm very fond of is to use plain old brown craft paper.
This is especially good for young kids!
I have a stamp set that I use to put their names on the gifts. They open the gifts, always so careful to preserve the paper with their name on it, admire the gift, then get the crayons out and start drawing all over their monographed paper. It's like a whole second present for them.
By using odd bits of string or thrums (leftover yarn), I need very little if any tape. In a pinch, I can cut up old paper grocery bags and use that paper for wrapping.
After the kids are board with the paper, it can be used for starting the fire or in the compost.
I'm going to share this with my sister for next year. All our presents are already sitting under the tree. She detests gift bags to the point that she begs to wrap most of the gifts in the family herself, to keep us from using gift bags anymore. (She does save wrapping paper from year to year.)
As a family we already adore using big embroidered scarves as everything from emergency dresses for toddlers, to purses, to sun shades, to whatever we can figure out. They'd be perfect for this and we already have a very large selection on hand to practice with. They're also frequently available for cheap at thrift stores.
For many years, I used to sew gift bags from cloth with a little ribbon in the side to tie up the top. It was a lot more work than I like and I would never see the bags again. I don't know if they ever used them for wrapping future gifts, or ideally as lunch bags... they probably went in the trash.
I wonder if half the trouble with reusable gift wrapping is that the humans need training. They seem so conditioned to buy new wrapping paper each year (and throw out unused stuff from last year because heaven forbid, they should use the same paper twice in a row). I wonder what we can do to motivate these people to use reusable gift wrappings? I've tried leading by example. This year, I want to do more to inspire them.
My nieces are happily practicing wrapping by wrapping scarves and Christmas themed throws over the top of the gift wrapped presents under the tree. My mother is already talking about making special wraps that they can use year after year and then leave home with. If I were trying send something outside the family (where I'm confident we can retain and reuse wrappings) I would be using items that were practical for other uses, (scarves, throws, tableclothes) so that it wasn't an item that would have to be stored until it the next gift giving occasion. In many cases (especially for woman) the wrapping itself would be part of the gift. The fact that it was another use for an already useful item we have in our house was a big part of what got me so excited when I saw that video.
I don't know it that's helpful for getting the practice adopted by more people, but at least it would reduce the frustration of making something that just gets thrown away.
I've actually received presents in cloth pouches/bags, and the pouches have all been re-purposed (one holds my kids extra clothes in the diaper bag) or used to wrap a present for someone else-so gifts of them sometimes do get used. For little items, I have sewn or felted little pouches. I make them look fancy and they act as a a second present. The felted ones also double as a cushion to help keep fragile things from breaking when I ship presents. And, since they take very little yarn, I can make them from remnants from other projects.
My extended family (parents, brother's family, grandparents) has never reused wrapping paper, but we use the same roll for years and years. Since my parents get giant rolls of wrapping paper from Costco, my children are literally getting presents wrapped in the same wrapping paper MY presents were wrapped in, 25+ years ago! I had no idea people threw out whole rolls of wrapping paper! My mom would buy specific wrapping paper for each of us and use that paper year after year. It was great, because we could always tell who's presents were who's by just glancing under the tree. My mom also used "vintage" baby shower wrapping paper from the 70's/80's to wrap current day baby shower gifts!
We also all reuse the same tissue paper (it gets folded and stored), gift bags and ribbons. What with intermittent baby/wedding showers introducing more ribbons and tissue paper to the family, we never have to by tissue paper, gift bags or ribbons. My mom actually put my grandma's present in the same box, year after year for a food 20 years. And we all give gifts in the same gift bags year after year. When we wrap something and it's not box-shaped, we just find random boxes that we've stored to put it in to wrap. Getting a glass vase inside a blender box, or a scarf in a cereal box, is normal occurrence in our family. Since everyone in my extended family is very frugal, we all love prepossessing the wrapping accouterments. My mom will make fancy ribbons on the presents out of cloth ribbon...and everyone in our family reuses them. I also save every random piece of ribbon that comes on things (like ribbons that come "wrapping" a store-bought blanket) and use those to wrap presents. I also decorate presents with extra yarn. I also challenge myself to use as little tape as possible--sometimes I've gotten by without using any!
The hard thing about wrapping presents is that you have no idea what the receiver is going to do with your wrapping. They may toss out your bags, or reuse them. They may compost or recycle brown paper, or just chuck it.
In a way, wrapping presents is an input/output thing, kind of like nutrients in our garden. We get inputs of wrapping, gift bags, ribbons, tissue, boxes when people give us presents. We can usually keep those cycling for many years in our family's "ecosystem." But, when we give gifts outside of the family, it's an "output." We don't know how those things will be used; if they'll be re-purposed or recycled. And, it's not something we can really worry about tooooo much, I think.
As far as I can tell, our options come down to:
(1) Try to reuse as much as we can of our things so they are not wasted, (reusing ribbons, cloth, yarn, ribbon, paper sacks, etc)
(2) Try to use compostable things that will break down quickly if added to a landfill and/or (using twine, cotton, brown paper, paper sacks, etc)
(3) Try to make the wrapping so nice they're more likely to want to use/re-purpose it (making pouches, fabric wrapping "paper," using towels or receiving blankets as wrapping, etc. This often takes as much money or time as buying/making the actual present!).
Thank you for sharing this! And this isn't just good for presents, it looks like the original use was for packaging things up generally. A flat square of fabric is easier to make than a bag, and in some ways more adaptable.
I have been teaching others to the concept of reuseable tote bags. And will often wrap a gift in one of those. By seeing me lug some of my custom ones around, most of the recipients now understand that the wrapping IS part of their gift.
For some I have put a nice recipe card in the bottom with a note "Your gift was wrapped with love in a durable reusable tote bag (and if it's special sized for say, two 1 gallon jugs, mention that). If you don't care to use it, gift it forward to someone else that might use it." that way they know what the outer bag is about.
My mother started using fabric bags and squares in the '70s and she wasn't bashful about letting gift recipients know that she was happy to have the wrapping returned if they didn't have a good use for it. I've always done the same. It's just like gifting home canned jams and pickles - if the recipient returns the empty jar they've a pretty good chance it will be gifted back full of one goody or another.
Beautiful wrapping! Another thing to put on my list of things to look for at the free store - cloth that I can use to make reusable cloth wrappers or bags. I like the idea of including a little note about using the wrapper/bag, re-gifting it, or giving it back to you the next year. Whichever one I use, I could put a little note on a tag, and maybe add a little history about the practice, or suggest we start a tradition of our own.
Well, a little late to be usefull this year's Xmas (though there's most of Chanukkah left, so maybe still usefull...), but my sisters and I used to use the Sunday comics from the newspaper. They're bright colourful, and it gives you something to read while you're waiting for all the presents to be given out ( we had to wait till everyone had all their presents before we could open ours). For extra Yule points, we'd try to find and save strips that were particularly appropriate for a given person, or at least, especially funny; then the package would be wrapped so that one was on the front and was easily readable.
My family used to save gift wrapping paper and reuse it year after year.
When we unwrapped presents, we did it carefully, and saved the paper so it could be reused. As the edges got worn, the wrapping paper would be cut down and used on smaller gifts. Cards were also saved and reused as well. I swear, we STILL have wrapping paper that's 40 plus years old in circulation...and we all have gotten the same christmas cards on presents over and over again through the years. lol
It actually seems foreign to me when someone just tears off wrapping paper, like somehow that's just "wrong". Some years, for larger presents, we'd use the comics from the sunday paper.
Unfortunately for decades, some of the commercial wrapping paper was so cheap and thin, the box underneath would show right through. So we'd have to wrap in newspaper first anyways to hide what it was.
I started using fabric to wrap stuff as a teen in the mid 70's, not knowing about the Gift Cloth bit. Most of the time it would be to a relative that sewed so they appreciated the fabric to use as well.
I love these gift wrap idea's. When I was a kid we used the sunday funny papers for wrap. Saved them for several months and then would cut out funnies of the same type and tape them together so the person getting the gift had several cartoons of the same type.
I usually try to make a present that can encompass the other presents as "wrapping". Cloth grocery bags, large popcorn cans that have been painted, small blankets, cloth napkins, wooden crates, etc. My sister tie-dyed towels for us one year and wrapped other stuff in them. My mom gave me mixing bowls with lids one year. Those could be used - fill up the bowls with stuff, put the lids on, stack them and give.
I am not sure if this is 100% eco-friendly, but probably qualifies as much as many other suggestions...
My favorite is shrink wrap! A basket from the thrift store, or a coffee mug, little wood storage box, a colander or kitchen bowl for folks that like to cook etc.... can be filled with little gifts/treats and some straw/filler paper and shrink wrapped with a bit of ribbon or twine.
It makes for a really nice presentation, everything looks fun and expensive after it is bundled in shrink rap with a bow. Putting in very colorfully wrapped candies/chocolates, or interesting eye catching gadgets add greatly to the appeal.