Sustainable Gift Wrapping Guide
The holidays can be an extremely wasteful time of year. Amidst the excitement of gathering with the people you love, terrible (yet somehow the greatest) christmas movies, mulled wine, and twinkly lights, there is typically quite a lot of waste produced. Think shopping bags, wrapping paper, packaging from decorations, packaging from gifts, leftovers that get thrown away, burnt out strings of lights... the list goes on.
In Canada, an estimated 545,000 tonnes of waste is produced from just gift wrapping and shopping bags alone. But don't feel discouraged- it is also estimated that if each Canadian family cut down on their holiday waste by just one kilogram, it would save 34,000 tonnes of garbage from landfills.
It can be quite daunting, thinking about reducing your waste. It's easy to feel guilty and hopeless. But it's about the little things we do- if you can just change one habit- just one small thing, it really does make a difference. Change comes in numbers, and if everybody did these three small things this coming holiday season, it would really make a difference!
Save What You Can
Growing up, my family was always a 'save the wrapping paper' kind of family. This meant that when my brother and I were excitedly opening our gifts on Christmas morning, we had to be careful not to rip the paper, carefully removing the tape. The wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbons, bows, and gift bags were then sorted into piles: 'use again', or 'recycle'. There were some sheets of wrapping paper that we used for 3 or 4 years over and over again!
Since then, whenever I am opening a gift I do so carefully, and salvage whatever materials I can to be reused. We keep just one drawer in our apartment for these types of materials: any old gift bags, bits of string or twine, tissue paper, or any packaging we might be able to reuse to wrap gifts in the future. Throughout the year I save any brown paper that might come along with online orders or any other types of shopping bags that I might be able to reuse.
Once you've carefully sorted through the piles of discarded paper, it's also important to recycle those materials that can't be reused. Most regular wrapping paper is recyclable, but you should double check before putting it in your red bin. Tear a little piece off, and if it tears like regular paper would, it's recyclable! If it has any bits of wire, or is plastic based, it (unfortunately) doesn't belong in the paper recycling bin. Your best bet is to check with your local recycling authorities to make sure you are properly disposing of your holiday waste.
One of my favourite ways to wrap gifts is in some sort of reusable material, like a tea towel, scarf, or blanket. I love how it looks with the variations in texture, and there are a ton of great tutorials out there on how to decoratively wrap gifts this way. Plus, it's almost like giving a little bonus gift! You can even use any scrap pieces of fabric you might have laying around- whether you're into sewing or crafting, or if you just have that basket of old clothes you haven't made it to goodwill with just yet (and you know we all have one of those!)- you just might have the perfect piece of fabric ready to be repurposed.
If you are a fan of bows and ribbons to spruce up a wrapped gift, try decorating your packages with greenery, flowers, pinecones, or any other natural decorations. It looks festive and lovely, and you can return the decorations to the earth when you're finished with them.
There's a lot of little things you can do to reduce your waste this holiday season- and these are just a few of them! I know this post is coming pretty close to Christmas, if you celebrate it, but I think these are a few simple things to live by (and gift by) all year round.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend, filled with whatever things make you feel the coziest!