That's a Wrap! Some Tips for Greening Your Gift Wrap
Kane County Recycling Coordinator, Clair Ryan shares some tips and tricks for creative and sustainable ways to wrap gifts this holiday season.
Go for gift bags - For eco-friendliness, sturdy gift bags are better than traditional wrapping paper because they can be reused more readily. Extremely durable gift bags are available now, made of canvas and woven plastic similar to a reusable shopping bag. A word of caution about these is that they consume a lot more resources to make than paper-based bags and need to be used for many years to make up for that.
At the end of your family gifting, take a few minutes to figure out who is willing and able to store and reuse gift bags next year and divvy them up. Most gift bags come with a gift tag that probably can't be reused. That's okay - just cut the tag off and put a new one on next year (see a creative idea for tags, below). If you have bags that are damaged, they may be recyclable, but only if they are predominantly paper without foil and glitter. Handles made from ribbon or other material should be cut off before recycling. Highly adorned bags should go in the trash if they can't be reused.
Look for recyclable wrapping paper - If you prefer to use wrapping paper, try to favor paper that's recyclable. Many stores now sell wrapping paper that was designed with recyclability in mind and is labeled as green or ecofriendly. This paper usually isn't as glitzy as traditional gift wrap. That's the trade-off; the elements that make paper fancy like foil and glitter often prevent it from being recycled. Glitter is actually made of tiny pieces of plastic that contaminate recycled paper pulp at paper mills - imagine, for example, putting a pair of pants through the washing machine with a handful of glitter in the pocket!
If you're crafty and have the time, you could use plain white or brown craft paper for your wrapping and create your own pattern with some festive rubber stamps. During clean up, you can put wrapping paper that is relatively plain - no glitter, no foil and stays crumpled when scrunched up - in the recycling bin. Highly adorned paper or paper with a coating to keep it flat should go in trash.
If you have gift recipients on your list who appreciate things that are a little “outside of the box" or who really just don't care about the aesthetics of gift wrap, you can repurpose newspaper, magazine or catalogue pages, maps, or event inside out potato chip bags (cool and shiny but some washing may be required) as creative, low-impact gift wrap.
Thoughtful tags and trimmings - This takes a bit of prior planning, but you can easily make fancy gift tags from greeting cards of years past. This is an especially good use of cards that can't be recycled due to foil or glitter elements.
Simply cut the design out with scissors, use the tip of the scissors or a pin to make a small hole in the top, and thread the hole with a small piece of string or ribbon and – Voila! – you have a tag. Most decorative ribbon used to tie up gifts can't be recycled due to being made of multiple materials (usually at a minimum metal wire and fabric). However, if you have the patience and room to store it, gift ribbon can be used multiple times. It it's badly wrinkled, you can use a clothing or hair iron on a low setting to straighten it back out. You can also fancy up your gifts with biodegradable items like cotton or burlap twine and small swags of evergreen.