Gift wrapping with an eye toward sustainability goes down much like anything else in the realm of zero waste – use a heaping dose of common sense, restraint, and recycled / compostable materials. :) I like the challenge of making beautiful packages from castoff materials, and the added bonus is that they tend fit my design sensibility better than conventional gift wrap, too.
Above are some of the materials I gathered together this weekend to start wrapping a few gifts. The soap and reusable cotton rounds were my contribution to the gift exchange at a zero waste holiday party I hosted this weekend.
To wrap them, I gathered up a few reused and upcycled materials from around the house. Tissue paper that I'd saved from a past purchase, wool yarn scraps from knitting projects, and a few sprigs of eucalyptus. The tissue paper and longer strands of yarn can be reused, while the rest can be composted. Although I have a stash of old ribbons that I sometimes use when wrapping gifts, I've come to prefer using yarn because I think it looks cozy and lovely, and because it can be composted if it's made entirely of natural fibers. Score.
I've been trying to move away from using tape, which is plastic and not recyclable. (But so convenient, no?). My way around it has been to leave the sides of the paper extra long, so that when folded in they can be tied with string and still stay securely.
After I'd tightened the first layer of yarn that held the package together in lieu of tape, I decorated it with some extra scrap yarn and the eucalyptus. Done!
There are so many variations you can make on this simple theme. Use reused brown paper, old newsprint, or even catalog pages in place of the tissue paper. Reused twine, ribbons, or baker's twine can replace the yarn if you don't have any on hand. For decoration, I gravitate toward eucalyptus, pine, holly (but careful, it's prickly!), or even branches or twigs - anything that seems cheery and seasonal and can be foraged or purchased sans plastic.
I also like the idea of wrapping your gift in something that can be reused, which can sometimes be a nice additional gift itself. Below, I used a cloth bento bag to wrap a gift, which couldn't be easier - just tie the ends and you're done! You could also tie your gift up in a new handkerchief, cloth napkin, tea towel, furoshiki, or cotton bulk bag, or place it in a glass jar; these are all things the recipient can use again and again.
Of course, too, you could also choose to skip gift wrap entirely. Pull the present out of your purse or tote or jacket pocket and hand it straight to the recipient, sans packaging. When I do this, I like to hype it up a bit first: “Okay, I have your present! Are you ready?! Are you sure?!" But I guess I do that even with wrapped gifts, too. :)
I'd love to hear how you approach low-waste gift giving and wrapping. And, if you share any photographs of your wrapped gifts on Instagram, tag me in the comments so I can see them! Happy almost holidays, friends.