Green Holiday Gift Wrapping

All this talk of green holiday gifts got me thinking about the wrapping. As an admitted packrat, I’m loathe to throw away gift wrapping anyway, especially papers with pretty patterns or textures. And, if opened and stored carefully enough, the paper can usually be reused. (I know there are those who advocate for the joy of tearing open the wrapping. I get it, but I’m just not one of those.)

But there are alternative wrapping ideas worth exploring, and with so many people yearning to reduce, reuse and recycle, there are more options to choose from than ever. If you have a large present, this can also simplify your wrapping efforts, leaving you more time to enjoy other activities than trying to figure out how to stuff a down vest into a box, where to get a big enough roll of wrapping paper to cover it, and how to make the whole thing look festive, instead of formless.

Plus, according to earth911 and other groups, as much as half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans consume every year goes toward packaging, wrapping and decorating goods. Wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S., and the vast majority of that is generated during the holiday season.


The Japanese have long been fans of wrapping gifts in cloths known as furoshiki. Presents are wrapped in lovely fabrics, ranging from traditional Japanese fabrics and designs to silk, cotton and designs that are modern and retro, all of which can be used over and over. The wrappings and decorations themselves can also be quite elaborate and pretty. This method requires no cutting, only wrapping and knotting, so that it is also practical and sturdy. You may have scrap fabric you can wrap with at home. This Furoshiki site has lots of great fabrics to choose from, in a variety of prices, including fabrics by San Francisco design studio, Chewing the Cud.

This video provides a fantastic Furoshiki tutuorial (thank you to Recycle Now). Once you learn this technique, it’s very easy to do. (Click on “Furoshiki gift wrapping”):

Furoshiki gift wrapping from RecycleNow on Vimeo.

My friend, Molly, at The Fabric Society, also offers wonderful inspiration, tips and fabric for wrapping with furoshiki. She also recently posted this lovely piece about Slow Textiles in general, which is not to be missed. It really sums up the role fabric plays in our history, sustainability, community and beauty.

If you don’t want to go the wrapping route, there’s still time in this holiday season to buy (or perhaps even make) reusable bags. These fabric bags from Lucky Crow are super-cute and come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. They really solve the problem of wanting to use recyclable wrapping materials, without going the route of a grocery-supplied bag. They work for party favors, too. The Portland, OR-based company also sells its bags in stores. Check their web site for details.

On the paper front, Sunday comics from the newspaper make a colorful, distinct, recycled and recyclable wrapping. Recycled wrapping papers can be found in many stores. Gift tags can be homemade from construction paper and stickers/stamps/drawings, or from recycled holiday cards from years past — if you’re a packrat (I mean recycler) like me, you’ll have those on hand.

Photos: Kelvin Kay, Katorisi, Lucky Crow

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One Response to Green Holiday Gift Wrapping

  1. These recycled wrapping ideas came from a creative New Zealand mother/daughter pair on my Facebook page. (http://www.facebook.com/slowfamilyonline?ref=ts — please join us):

    Intact paper dress patterns, out of date maps, material scraps, and old music sheets. All very clever, original, useful and lovely!

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