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Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping Made Easy


I remember the excitement I felt as a child while tearing paper off presents to reveal the gift underneath... I also remember the cleanup that would follow with big black garbage bags full of paper, ribbons and boxes.  While the amount of garbage didn't worry me as a child, it does now that I have children of my own and understand just how much all this waste adds up to.

"Canadians generate 540,000 tonnes of waste from gift wrapping and shopping bags every year — that’s the equivalent of 100,000 elephants if you need a visual. Most gift wrapping is made out of hard-to-recycle mixed materials and so goes straight to landfill."  Green Peace

Not wanting to deprive my kids of the same joy I experienced over the holidays, I've worked hard over the years to find creative, low-waste ways to wrap gifts.  Here are a few ideas I’ve incorporated that are easy to do (no sewing or artistic skill required!):

Repurposing Old Fabric

Local thrift stores are a great place to find old fabric and table cloths for gift wrapping. Being all thumbs with a sewing machine, I simply cut fabric into squares large enough to cover a gift.  I then cut long narrow bands out of contrasting coloured fabric to use as ribbons for decorating\fastening. 

Sound like a lot of work?  It isn't!  The first year I did this, it wasn’t any more work than cutting and taping traditional wrapping paper.  Even better, instead of throwing all the cloth wrapping and ribbons into the garbage, we threw them into a box and used it again the next Christmas.  Not only was fabric low-waste, it saved me time the following year as I had less cutting to do! Here are a few of this years presents:

  • Simple bow around folded cloth wrapping.

  • We call this one the candy wrapper: roll gifts in fabric and tie each end with a bow.

If you’d like to try something a little more formal, Furoshiki Wrapping is a popular Japanese wrapping technique using fabric.  

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

There are so many ways to get creative with items around the house or bound for the recycling bin.  Whether it’s old boxes turned inside out and glued together as gift bags, shipping boxes painted to cover logos, or thinking outside of the box altogether using things like mason jars and cookie tins, there are so many great materials around the house you can reuse.

  • Cookie tin repurposed as a gift box for books

Holiday Tin

  • Mason Jars filled with recycled paper and colourful fabric scraps for small gifts

  • Repurposed packing paper as gift wrap (this isn't one of my gifts but gives you a sense of how great they can look... photo by Erica Marsland Huynh)

  • Inevitably, we receive gifts from friends and family in store bought gift bags and boxes each year.  When we get these, we try to keep and reuse whatever we can to save them from going into the garbage. (image by Sarah Pflug)

Want more ideas?  This article is full of great ideas on reducing gift wrapping waste.  

However you choose to incorporate earth friendly low-waste gift giving this year, we wish you and your family a Healthy and Happy Holiday! 

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