I thought I needed a variety of bags in different colors/sizes and different rolls of wrapping paper; I used to save all the tissue paper and stick on bows we received…but the majority of it never got completely used up. I wondered about trying something different this year:
One roll of recycled brown paper, and one roll of 100% cotton ribbon.
I ended up really liking this for 4 reasons: sustainability, simplicity, safety, and storage.
I always reused traditional gift wrap supplies like bags and stick on bows, but once they get worn out, they still end up in a landfill– most bags, gift wrap, and bows have metallic or plastic elements mixed in and so they aren’t recyclable.
“Wrapping paper, from an ecological point of view, is a pretty worthless use of trees. Each year in the United States, 4 million tons go from logs to landfills to make wrapping paper and holiday shopping bags.” – Clean Air Council, quoted in the Washington Post
Recycled brown paper is sturdier than traditional gift wrap which can tear easily; brown paper can be reused and then go in the recycling bin when it’s worn out. 100% cotton ribbon can be reused many times, and if it gets worn out, it can be recycled at Goodwill or H&M (which takes many types of cloth textiles for recycling).
Plain paper works for any gift occasion– you won’t have to run out and buy a birthday bag just because you don’t have a bag that says “Happy Birthday” on it. You don’t have to buy a new gift bag just because you don’t have one in the right size.
There’s no need to buy gift tag labels- since plain paper doesn’t contain plastic, you can write a recipent’s name right on the paper and the ink will actually stick and not smear.
You can also use plain paper year-round for craft projects or kids’ art projects.
When I cleaned out my gift wrap drawer, it was full of glitter in the bottom. This stuff finds its way into everything. “No more glitter!” would probably be my husband’s #1 reason to switch to plain paper gift wrap, haha!
If you have a young child or pet, with plain paper and ribbon there’s no need to worry about them swallowing staples from stick on bows, or worry about them eating the paper. You don’t have to think about a toddler peeling off a name label and trying to eat it (I don’t know what it is about labels, stickers, and band-aids, but they all end up in little kids’ mouths!).
“Wrapping paper may contain lead, synthetic inks, plastic film, chlorine or metal-based foils.” * There’s really no way to tell what’s in traditional gift wrap supplies because there’s so many components- the plastics, the dyes, the bleaching agents used for the paper, whatever makes up the glitter and sequins and metallic shine. You probably don’t want to incinerate it in your fireplace as a way to dispose of it.
I had an overstuffed drawer devoted to gift card boxes, stick on bows, plastic ribbon rolls, tissue paper…and a large plastic tote of gift bags in the garage. I would periodically go thru and downsize the collection, and it still always seemed to multiply. Plus, after being stored in the garage, the glue in the gift bags yellowed and they looked bad. One roll of paper and one roll of ribbon takes up so much less space!
Holidays can be complicated enough, but even simplifying a small aspect of them like gift wrap can be beneficial.
What’s your favorite way to simplify during the holidays?
(For some great ideas about how to cut down on holiday waste, check out Stanford University’s Holiday Waste Prevention guide.)