Monday, December 22, 2014

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

One thing that I used to always put off in my holiday preparation was wrapping presents. In the past I was no award-winning gift wrapper.  I had jagged cutting edges, I used lots of extra tape, and the corners that I had folded always looked a bit puffy. So a few years ago, when I started going green, I was eager to swap good ol' fashioned wrapping paper for some greener and easier to wrap alternatives for wrapping my Christmas presents.

Now although the holidays are a fun and special time, they can also be pretty taxing on the environment in how there is a massive surge in trash (gift wrap, boxes, packaging etc.). So my biggest advice in going green during the holidays is to find ways to reduce your trash by switching from disposable wrapping products to reusable ones. Below you can find a few of my tried and true favorites, as well as some new ones I'm excited to try out this year.

Let's get this green party started...

What eco-friendly wrapping looks like on Christmas morning (from a few
years back).

As you can see from  under my Christmas tree a few years back the name of the game is cloth. Cloth provides a great option for wrapping presents that is easy, quick, and that can be reused for years... no paper needed and no trash accumulated.

Check out a video version of the eco-friendly ways I wrap my presents:

No time for the video, here's a breakdown of the different ways I wrap presents...

Eco-Friendly Wrapping Idea #1: Holiday Fabric So on my first attempt of having a "Green Christmas," I went to the craft store like JoAnn's and got several yards of holiday fabric. I then cut it into various shapes (rectangles and squares mainly) to account for the various sizes of presents and then I "wrapped them by folding or gathering the fabric together. Granted, these presents look a little "rough" since I don't own a sewing machine to finish the edges off, but when kids are opening the presents, they don't really mind!

Since this fabric-wrapping method is a little different than traditional wrapping paper, the wrapping techniques change a bit. I tried making them look nice and professional, but that was kind of pointless, so I "winged it" and just made it work, the result is some unique shaped presents that although won't be winning any awards for cuteness, work just fine for wrapping presents. 

Here's one technique where I fold it over and tie it...

1. Lay the fabric out flat (I bet you can guess who those Frozen toys are for!)

2. Fold over one side of the fabric.

3. Followed by the other side and start to pull the ends together.

4. Bring the ends together at the top and tie them in a knot.

5. I cut skinny strips of an alternating fabric to act as ribbon.
*This step is key, because a lot of the wrapping techniques will
rely on something else to hold them in place,
this is where these
little strips come in handy. Here I tie it at the top of the knot to
hold it in place. Nice ribbon would also work great too.

Another technique I show in the video is called "The Ponytail"
where I lay the fabric out flat, and start to pull all the edges up to
the top like a ponytail. I then use that alternating strip of fabric
to tie it all together like a hair tie. See the green present above.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to using these cloth fabric to wrap presents, so experiment and see what techniques work for you.

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Idea #2: Fabric Gift Bags After a year of using my homemade cloth wrapping options, I wanted something that looked a little nicer for when the gift wasn't just for my immediate family who didn't mind my crafty-looking green wrap. That's when I took to Etsy and found these awesome holiday gift bags. 

Fabric Gift Bags
They were made out of fabric, have a drawstring top (talk about easy wrapping!), they have a little jingle bell attached, and they come in four different sizes to fit everything from a small present to a large one. I use a set like this one, of four for $22 from the Etsy seller: BlueAgaveStudio "Reusable Holiday Gift Bags". Some may say that's pretty expensive for just four bags, but since these are nicely sewn (unlike my fabric squares above) they will last for years to come, I know mine have and for me that's worth the investment initially. 

When it comes to wrapping them, it's simple, place the present inside the bag, close the drawstring shut and place it under the tree!

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Idea #3: Gift Bags  While not the greenest of ideas, gift bags do have the potential to be reused for several years if they are in good shape. I keep a collection of holiday gift bags I've received from others and then each Christmas I get them out and use them to wrap my holiday presents.

Traditional Gift Bags

Obviously if they are bent or crumpled up they won't work very well, but for the ones that look great, you can give them a second life by using them again. I just use a little leftover tissue paper to wrap the item, place it in the bag, and then place some more tissue paper on top.

One problem that occasionally comes with gift bags is the mark left by gift tags that have been pulled off, but below I'll show you my fix for that!

Covering up a tag mark with a new, reusable tag.
Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Idea #4: Food Tins  Okay so this is my "out of the box" gift wrap idea for this year.  Some of these tins are pretty cute and festive, so I figured why not use them to put a present in (other than food).

Food tins for presents (other than food).
I found these at Target for a few bucks and to wrap them I just put a smaller present inside with a little tissue paper to cover it and then I closed it up...easy enough right?!

Here's a Christmas gift I got myself (he he!): LunchBots Stainless SteelDip Containers ( :
Now if all else fails and you have to use traditional gift wrap, just be sure to get the kind that can be recycled (look for the triangle) and be sure to follow through with putting it in the recycling when you're done. 

Look for that triangle if you're going with traditional wrapping paper!

Eco-Friendly Gift Tags
So one area of holiday wrapping that always bugged me was gift tags. I knew they were important so you could actually know who the present was to and from, but they seemed like additional materials to use and just throw away. So it was time for a greener alternative!

Eco-Friendly Gift Tag Idea #1: Chalkboard Tags  On my first "Green Christmas" I gave these chalkboard gift tags a try and had high hopes for them. Unfortuantley I didn't account for the fact that if you touch the tag in any way, it will smudge the chalk (see the video). Now for some people this won't be a problem, but if you have kids or a large family it might make it more difficult to keep the tags looking nice/readable. 

Even despite this flaw, I do still love my chalkboard tags, they have a cool, slightly vintage look and I love the contrast of the chalk colors, so I still keep them in my "green holiday supplies" and use them for presents I will give to adults. You can find a variety of other chalkboard tags on Etsy by clicking here

Eco-Friendly Gift Tag Idea #2: Laminated Gift Tags This year I had the idea to make my own gift tags by getting already made gift tags from the store, laminating them and using wet-erase markers to write on them. This would decrease the "smudge factor" I struggled with in using chalkboard tags and I'd still be able to use them year after year. So far, I'm pleased with how they've turned out and how I will be able to use them over and over.

Here's how I made them...

1. On the left you can see the package of tags I bought from Target for $1.
 I then took them off the sheets and placed them individually
on card stock paper
(construction paper would work too). Then I laminated
. Here's a cool home laminator if you don't have one already. I didn't
just laminated the git tag sheets because the tags would have unpeeled after
cutting them.

2. I then cut out all the tags.

3. For the bigger gift tags, I punched a hole at the top with a hole puncher.

4. Then I ran some string/twine through the hole at the top and tied a knot.
I made sure to leave enough string so they could be wrapped around
the top of one of my cloth presents.

Here's what they look like once they're done.

5. Next I used a Vis-a-Vis marker (or any wet erase marker) to write on
the tags. Using dry-erase would make it more prone to smudges, that's why
I like wet erase.

6. Next I used the string and tied them to the top of my cloth/fabric presents.

7. For the paper gift bags or gift tins, I just used some Scotch tape and
taped them on.

8. When I'm done with them, all I have to do is wipe them with a wet
cloth and they are clean and ready to go again.

9. I store mine in this cute little tin so they don't get lost in all my Christmas
*Green Disclaimer* You might want to give your family or friends a head's up before opening presents that "if they could return the bags and tags to you when the present opening is finished that would be great so you could reuse them each year." Obviously the paper gift bags wouldn't be that big of a deal, but those fabric gift bags are something you would definently want to get back after they've been opened. Or if you wanted, you could just give them to the receiver as part of their gift. 

So there you have it, my favorite eco-friendly ways to wrap presents. Now these are specific to Christmas right now, but they could be used for any holiday or even any birthday for that matter if you just change the material or packaging to fit the holiday or interests of the person receiving the present. 

What are your favorite eco-friendly gift wrap ideas? Share what works for you or how you go green during the holidays! Happy green wrapping!

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