Each year at around this time, Canadians purchase mountains of gift wrap, lovingly cover their gifts with it, and then unceremoniously dump it out. In Canada, the holiday season leads to a massive increase in waste, and wrapping paper is one of the main offenders. It tends to serve just a single purpose, and it usually gets trashed once it’s been used once.
The first way most of us seek to alleviate our conscience in this matter is to put used paper in a blue box, but it turns out wrapping paper is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to recycle. “The traditional Christmas wrap has extremely high ink content,”Jason Sherband, Thunder Bay’s manager of recycling services, has told the CBC. “It contains things like plastic and glitter and it also has a really low fibre content and it’s those things that mean it holds minimal value in the recycling process.”
According to the Regional District of Nanaimo, Canada’s annual waste from gift-wrap and shopping bags is about 545,000 tonnes. But there’s an easy solution. Instead of using un-recyclable gift wrap, why not make a simple change in your wrapping habits? There are lots of cute and practical ways to wrap gifts that don’t harm the Earth. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try your own wrapping methods. Your friends and family will appreciate the extra effort and your compassion for the planet. Need help? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Brown paper bags
When you bought your gifts this year, were they given to you in a plain brown paper bag? If so, you already have everything you need to get wrapping! Brown craft paper doesn't have to be boring. You can add ribbons, use a stamp to create a custom design, add little adornments (as seen above), or draw your own patterns on it. We also happen to think there's something quite charming about a gift in plain brown paper. It's a throwback to a time when holidays were about warm fellow feeling rather than fancy paper. Plus when Tiny Tim unwrapped his gifts, this is probably what they looked like.
In Japan, there is a longstanding tradition of wrapping gifts or goods in cloth, and there are a surprising number of techniques. You can buy special cloth particularly for this purpose, or you can reuse everything from old pillowcases to beloved t-shirts. Or wrap gifts in a blanket, giving two gifts instead of one.
Do you still want the satisfying tear of paper, and the glossy shine of gift wrap? Then it's time to start pulling apart old magazines. Wrapping gifts in magazine pages can be really fun, as there are all sorts of images and styles to choose from.
Do you have an ancient atlas or out-of-date map you don't know what to do with? While your old map may not help you find the current borders of the Netherlands (they swapped portions of land with Belgium this year), it can help you make your gifts some of the most striking beneath the tree. Maps are just as beautiful as gift wrap, and more recyclable.
Cereal box gift bags
Looking for an alternative to gift bags? Instead of buying a single-use gift bag, try making some yourself out of cereal boxes. These gift bags are a little more hardy than your average bag, and you can cut them to your preferred size. Remember pulling a prize from the bottom of a box of cereal as a kid? These gift bags will give your friends and family the same thrill.
Plantable gift wrap
We've been focusing on gift wrap that you can reuse or recycle, but what about paper you can plant? There are a few varieties of plantable gift wrap out there. This biodegradable paper is full of seeds, so once you've unwrapped your gifts, you can work it into some soil and receive another gift—the gift of a living plant—soon after. Want to try it? Get it here
There's something satisfying about receiving a gift wrapped in burlap. This material adds a nice rustic touch under the tree.
A vintage tin
A vintage tin already has an aura of intrigue, but when you fill it with goodies, it takes on a feeling of even greater importance. Best of all, the person who receives a gift contained within a retro tin is likely to love the container as much as whatever is inside.
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