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12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Green Gift Wrapping

With all this attention to green holiday gifts, it seemed time to address the wrapping.

The practice of wrapping gifts in paper began modestly enough, as people around the world utilized cloth, brown paper, even wallpaper, to disguise their gifts. Hallmark is credited with creating the current gift-wrap industry, which earth911 tells us accounts for as much as half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans consume every year. 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. In addition, they note that the act of recycling wrapping paper presents more challenges than we might think.

Now, the good news: There are lots of alternative wrapping ideas worth exploring, many of which are as creative and fun (some perhaps more so) than traditional wrapping.

Green Wrapping Ideas

Furoshiki — This long-time Japanese practice of wrapping gifts in cloths. 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.

The Fabric Society also offers wonderful inspiration, tips and fabric for wrapping with furoshiki.


Clothing – This is really thinking outside the box — why not wrap a present in a fun recycled shirt?

Recycled Paper Items – Fun wrappings can be made from old paper maps, Sunday comic pages, sheet music or tissue sewing patterns. Feeling especially artistic? Decorate paper bags, or easel or other artist paper that you already have on hand. Color, paint, stamp, sticker, create collages from other papers or magazine pictures, dip old cookie cutters in paint to create a unique stamp, or create a decorative paint roller: Glue yarn or string onto a coffee or other can in striped or zig-zag patterns, let dry, paint the string, and roll the wet-painted can onto the paper.

Reusable Bags – 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.

Just as with the wrapping, there’s no need to buy new gift tags. Make your own by cutting rectangles of construction paper and folding them in half. Decorate with paint, stickers, stamps, drawings, glitter, or other items you have on hand. You can also cut up from recycled holiday cards from years past. Tape to the gift or punch a small hole in one corner and tie on with ribbon.

You might also like these Green Holiday Gifts:

Gifts that Help Others
Butterfly Girl Dolls
Homemade Cookies
Root Viewer Garden Kit

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Katorisi, Philip Friedman/Studio D (three photos), Lucky Crow

 

Dye Eggs like the Ancients with Plant Dyes

The ancient Romans had a saying, Omne vivum ex ovo, “All life comes from an egg.” In spring, we celebrate new birth and spiritual rebirth, much the way people have been doing for centuries — from Persia to Polynesia, India to Africa, Central Europe to Central America — and much of the ritual centers on the egg.

In a wonderful piece on spring rituals in the Huffington Post, Donna Henes writes that, in spring:

It is as if the great egg of the whole world has hatched.

The ancient Persians may have been among the first to dye their eggs, which were used in springtime festivals almost 5,000 years ago. Ukrainians and other Slavic people, in Eastern Europe, were also among some of the first ancient people to decorate eggs and use them in their sun worship and spring ceremonies.

The Ukrainians created especially elaborate designs for their eggs, which are called Pysanky. ¬†This is a wonderful¬†history of Pysanky, an ancient practice that lives today and influenced other cultures to decorate and give eggs — from the Medieval Europeans to the 1800s Pennsylvania Dutch, who brought egg-dyeing from Europe to the U.S. and in turn influenced druggist William Townley to create commercial egg dyes for his Paas Dye Company, which is still in business today. (The word Paas stems from Passen, the Pennsylvania Dutch word for Easter.)

Below, decorated Ukrainian Pysanky:

1880s customers clamored for William Townley’s egg-dyeing tablets, but of course the ancients used natural dyes from plants, roots, coffee and tea, and those are still wonderful and fun to use today. They also result in stunning, natural colors.

My friend Molly de Vries at The Fabric Society wrote a beautiful post about dyeing eggs using natural plant dyes. She used onion skin, turmeric, blueberries, cabbage, and grape juice. I’ve gotten nice results with beets. She includes complete and simple instructions for making your own dyes and creating festive dyed eggs. Her site is also filled with inspiration and pretty pictures about this and other projects.

The DTLK Kids site also has lots of ideas for unusual egg-dyeing projects and ways to create patterns and designs on your dyed eggs.

If you wish to take egg-dyeing to a whole other level, this is a terrific how-to site for exploring elaborate Ukrainian Pysanky designs, which are often created with layers of different colors, using small bits of candle wax where you don’t want the color to penetrate — a technique that resembles batik.

Enjoy your celebration of spring.

Dyed Egg Photos by Molly de Vries.

Ukrainian Egg Photo – Museum of the Pysanka, Kolomiya, Ukraine. Photo by Lubap.

Read Part 2: Egg Dyeing Workshop

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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