It’s holiday shopping season and according to statistics, Canadian shoppers are planning to spend an average of $1,507 each this year. When it comes to giving, 46 percent of shoppers will be buying tangible gifts and topping the trend lists this year are apparel, toys, and personal electronics.
All those gifts — given traditionally each year while celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, and Kwanzaa — are usually hidden behind wrappings, ribbons, and bows that are not able to be recycled. That’s right: in Peterborough and many other municipalities, plastic and foil wrapping paper, bubble wrap, ribbons, and gift bows must all go into the garbage and are trucked off to our landfill.
The majority of nearly half-a-million tonnes of holiday waste that goes to landfills each year is made up of discarded gift-wrapping and shopping bags. But isn’t the experience of watching a loved one tear back the paper to reveal their holiday gift all part of the fun? And doesn’t everyone love the excitement of finally opening the greatly anticipated present that’s been sitting under the tree?
Rethinking gift-wrapping does not mean you have to forgo the excitement, anticipation, and surprises. In fact, it’s actually an opportunity to personalize your gift, to have some fun, and be creative in the process.
In the spirit of The Sound of Music, go simple and wrap up your gifts into brown paper packages tied up with string! This is likely the most recyclable option. Rolls of brown craft paper are available at postal outlets and many department stores. Personalize the paper with seasonal stamps, or set the kids up with markers and paint to add some artwork to your wrappings.
VIDEO: DIY Holiday Gift Bow
Old books can be repurposed into decorative envelopes for smaller gifts. Simply pull out some of the pages from a book you might otherwise donate, or pick up some large-paged coffee table books from the thrift store. Fold and glue pulled-out page edges, punch a hole in the top, thread a ribbon through, and you have a lovely envelope for a card, or a piece of jewellery. An added bonus: it can be hung on a Christmas tree.
One very convenient way to wrap gifts is with pre-decorated reusable holiday boxes and tote bins. A few years back, I ran out of wrapping paper on Christmas Eve. With no time to purchase more, I grabbed the decorative boxes used for storing my ornaments throughout the year, added some tissue, and placed them under the tree. Now I do this every year. Once the ornaments are hung, the boxes are empty so I use them to wrap up some gifts.
Fabric gift bags are another great reusable option. They are perhaps the simplest sewing project for the beginner sewist, and a great way to practice sewing straight lines. Make them from old sheets, t-shirts, or fabric scraps. If sewing is not an option for you, you can pick up homemade fabric bags in a variety of sizes at the GreenUP Store.
Reusable paper gift bags are plentiful for purchase in most stores. Some stores will actually provide you with a gift bag upon checkout. Depending on what bags are made from, they may have to be discarded in the garbage, but don’t toss them out — you can reuse them too! For years, my sister and I have passed our holiday gifts back and forth using the same gift bag. Our family gets a good laugh at this each year.
Once your gifts are wrapped, you may want to add some final touches. Try making your own bows from newsprint, comics, or recyclables. Coloured string and fabric ribbons look lovely tied around gifts; they can be reused many times, whereas plastic ribbons are more difficult to repurpose and will need to be placed in the garbage.
Add a tag made from a card you saved from last year, or write decoratively directly onto the package with coloured pens. Make some additions from nature! Adorn your gifts with pinecones, sprigs of evergreen and Sumac berries, or small sheets of birchbark, which simply decompose after their use.
Wrap it up the green way this year and you’ll be doing your part to reduce excessive waste that Canadians generate during the holidays.
For quick and easy solutions, visit the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer Street in downtown Peterborough where you can put together an entire eco-friendly gift along with a card and green wrapping, all in one stop. Visit greenup.on.ca/greenup-store for more green gift ideas.