Wrapping paper cannot be recycled. The glossy and glitter surface is made of plastic material. Moreover, countless softwood trees are made into pulp, bleached, and dyed with both synthetic or natural dyes. Recycled paper is not any better. It still goes through a bleaching and dying cycle, which as far as I can see is a bit of greenwashing. To me, wrapping paper is both an energy waste for the planet as well as for myself.
When you think about it, traditional gift wraps, contrary to popular belief, were actually made of cloth, bark, and other natural materials; and yes, you can always reuse gift bags.
Here are some alternatives. I have been wrapping gifts this way for so long, I had to chuckle since this isn’t an “alternative” but rather, a normal way of life for me.
When I was a child, I was fascinated by National Geographic’s ethnographic maps of different ethnic groups. These maps uncover colourful topography, agriculture, history and backgrounds. It was a wonderful exploration for me as a child of curiosity. The maps can also be used as wall art after unwrapping. I heard these vintage maps are rare and worth saving.
Containers are fast, and easy reusable vessels to store gifts. Vintage tin cans are beautiful, especially collectible lithograph tins, or handpainted or crafted wooden boxes.
Cloth is a great malleable gift wrapper. A linen table cloth, a silk scarf, a batik sarong, dish towel, bath towels, etc., make great reusable wrappings.
Furoshiki (in Japanese) or Bojagi (in Korean) is the art of cloth wrapping. In both Furoshiki or Bojagi, nothing else is used to secure the parcel inside the wrap. It is secured with the art of knot tying from one piece of cloth alone.
Reusable Printed Paper:
Old newspaper from different languages makes particular interesting wraps. So do old music sheets, crossword puzzles, and comics. Kraft paper from shipping packages are also ideal. I love paper wrappings with actual kids’ drawings on them. I have some a few in hopes of gifting them back to the young artists when they become adults.
Sometimes Less is More:
For awkwardly shaped gifts that may be too easily identified, or when you have enough of wrapping gifts, simply place the items into used cardboard boxes. Done. Writing down to who and from whom is tedious after the umpteenth time. On the computer, copy and paste numerous photos of the people you are gifting to onto a sheet of paper. Print. Literally cut and paste onto the present. This way, you save on purchasing tags as well. You could reuse the same photo again if possible. I don’t think you will need to write who it is from. People usually know it is from Yours Truly.
But the best gift of all is the love you give and receive. Many Blessings and Joy to YOU & YOURS!
Rachel conducts gardening, culinary and fermenting workshops/retreats at her home on 100 acres in Northern Ontario, Canada, where she lives in creative harmony with nature. Rachel’s mission is to ensure the wisdom of our ancestors is preserved for future generations.
Images ©2002-2023 Rachel Thoo