Unique & sustainable ways to wrap gifts - here are our top 10

Panic, without wrapping paper what will you do?

You need to wrap your gift, disguise it and make it look stylish, creative or even unique. Or do you?

  1. Just how did the tradition of gift wrapping evolve? 
  2. Why do we wrap gifts at Christmas?
  3. Can you show me some tips and techniques to go green this year?

    Here is your guide to a cheerful and sustainable gift giving season.  

    Do you wonder if in time we will look back at our annual paper, tape, and ribbon purchases with complete embarrassment? As yet another habit that used our worlds precious resources for an unnecessary task the we then threw into landfill, year upon year.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, gift wrapping sales in U.S. alone totalled $9.36 billion in 2010 (more than the combined GDP of Africa’s 9 poorest countries). In the UK, per one estimate, people throw away 226,800 miles of wrapping paper over the holidays alone -- enough to stretch nine times around the world.



    Wrapping presents is first recorded in Ancient China, dating back to 100BC. Up until the early 1900s, brown paper was typically used as wrapping paper for gifts and purchased goods.  2 brothers running a stationery store ran into a problem during the 1917 holiday season: According to Mental Floss, business had been so good at their Kansas City, shop, and they'd run out of their standard tissue paper. They panicked but realised they still had a stack of fancy French paper meant for lining envelopes. Quick thinking, he placed the lining paper in a showcase and priced it at $0.10 cents a sheet. The paper sold out instantly. The next holiday season, they offering the 'fancy' paper again. Again, it flew off shelves. By 1919, the brothers had decided to print their own special paper for concealing presents, and the gift wrap business was born. The brothers? J.C. and Rollie Hall. Their store? Hallmark. With a new industry born, it wasn't long before lounge floors around the world on a Christmas morning are a scene of mayhem.


    Did you know that recycling wrapping paper can be difficult?

    Shiny, sparkly ones are often dyed and laminated; it can also contain non-paper additives such as gold and silver colouring, glitter and plastics; and often has sticky tape attached to it.  Also, many of the fibres used in the cheaper types of paper are not strong enough to recycle.  

    Even if you are careful and reuse when you can, it can really only be used once or twice more then it's off to landfill or incineration are often the final options. 

    Historically, fabric wrapping cloths, known as ‘furoshiki’ in Japan, and ‘bogaji’ in Korea were typical, and these are a great environmentally friendly alternative. These video links show you how easy it can be. Have fun with different fabrics. Don't use your Christmas table cloth anymore? Chop it into squares and you could have many of your gorgeous gifts wrapped in minutes. Search Op Shops for tablecloths, patterned sheets or old napkins / scarfs etc.

    Can gift bags be reused?

    Gifted tins or metal boxes now adorn many kitchens and provide great knick knack and craft storage. Fabric bags are a clever and stylish way to 'wrap'. Your surprise is uniquely hidden, and now the gift and the bag are both presents that can delight the recipient. Clever you!

    Re-purpose items from your own home. Wrap presents in:
    • kids art,
    • old maps,
    • pages from torn books or old sheet music
    • old dress patterns (often found in op shops)
    • saved tissue paper from your last online purchase
    • wallpaper scraps - even try covering an old shoebox to hold the gift
    • finished calendars, often have gorgeous pictures
    • or try using part of the actual gift like a tea-towel, blanket, scarf or tee-shirt
    There are plenty of green ways to wrap your presents that still scream out special occasion. If you really can't stray from traditional wrapping paper then look for those made with recycled paper, or consider decorating plain brown packaging paper. Shiny ribbon can be replaced with 100% cotton twine. Widely available, comes in a range of colours and is biodegradable. 
    Creative ways to use the wrapping paper you can't recycle or reuse; here are some useful tips for how to use it in your own home:
    • stuff it - top up your sagging ottoman or beanbag
    • mush it - paper mache anyone?
    • stuff old stockings or long socks with paper to make boot shapers. Simply slide inside your boots
    Show you care, and do your share this gift giving season x

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