I have a love hate relationship with the holidays. One of my biggest pet peeves is going outside on Christmas day to see piles of trash by the street –gift wrapping, ribbons, bows, boxes and packaging all waiting to head to the landfill.
The holiday season can be one of the harshest on our environment. We spend so much time trying to find the right gifts for everyone, it can be easy to overlook how much of an impact our “giving” has on the environment.
But, while we are trying in our house to give gifts that are focused on activities and experiences instead of consumable goods, I have to admit, I do love a beautifully wrapped gift. There is something special about receiving a gift that so much care went into the presentation. It’s part of the mystery…
So for those gifts that do need boxes, reusing, re-purposing, and creative gift wrapping can help keep some of those store-bought wrapping papers out of the landfill and off of my street!
Here are a few ideas for a unique present presentation:
Wrap your present in a vintage shirt
Not only does the person get their gift, they also get a fun, trendy addition to their wardrobe. A vintage t-shirt would be a great way for a parent to gift wrap for a teenager or college student. Button downs and long sleeve shirts are also great present wrappers. I love this example with instructions!
Truthfully, the shirt doesn’t even have to be vintage. If you’re frugal like me, hit up your local thrift store and just pick out a shirt with a cool saying, logo, pattern or texture and use that.
Along the same lines as using vintage clothes, you can also wrap with
Vintage Scarves, Fabric & Fabric Scraps
There are plenty of fabric remnants to be found if you just know where to look. Etsy has tons. There’s always that trusty thrift store again. Perhaps you have a stash of fabric scraps you won’t use, and of course, there’s the joy of raiding your mother’s or grandmother’s fabric stash.
Scarves are also perfect for wrapping. They usually come in easy to work with rectangular shapes. You can also use scarves to make great bows on ordinary presents. There are some nice examples here, here and some good tips here.
Decoupage a Boring Box
Covering an old shoe box or cardboard box with magazine scraps or fabric scraps will certainly make for an entertaining present presentation. It is a gift wrap that may take some time, but hopefully, your careful work will stay out of the trash, and become something your loved one uses for years to come to store keepsakes or odds and ends.
If you aren’t a magazine person (like us) or you do all your reading online, then it’s time to hit that recycle bin for decoupage cut outs. Food and product packaging have lots of interesting designs when you stop to examine….lots of letters to cut out and some really fun images. Junk mail, old business cards, anything made of paper is fair game.
Speaking of paper,
Keep that packing material from Amazon and online shopping!
Amazon often packs their merchandise with brown craft-type paper. I have an old wrapping paper roll stored under my desk and I just roll the paper onto the roll whenever I find brown packing paper in my packages. If you order online frequently like us, you’ll find you end up with quite a bit over time.
Sure that brown paper can be kind of boring. But it doesn’t have to be. You have to think of brown paper as a blank slate. Get creative!
Vintage trim can be an excellent way to give that package personality.
Another great idea is to sew the brown paper…. into gift bags, sew a design, sew a maze onto it. Again, it’s all about being fun and creative. And, there’s always the great standby of just letting the kids color on it (and great way to keep them busy).
The only downfall to the brown paper wrap is that, although you are re-using the paper, it is still likely to end up in the recycling bin (or worse, gasp!, the trash!).
Wrap presents with a small pouch or change purse.
I’ve seen a lot of people wrap presents with re-useable shopping bags. And, while we use our shopping bags religiously, some people don’t. And, come on, let’s all face it, it was a quick and easy wrapping job. We’ve all been there…
A version of this that I love, is to not use those dollar bags by the register in Target, but find a special or unique vintage bag or purse. I love this antique lace purse I have in my shop. It would be perfect under a tree.
The key to wrapping with these types of non-traditional items is making sure you can identify your wrapping as a gift. The best way to do that?
While it can be a lot of fun thinking outside of the box when wrapping holiday gifts, if we are over zealous in our wrapping jobs, it may be hard to identify the present as a present. Gift tags are a great way to help your present look more present like.
There is a balance. If you use something like a shirt, scarf, or vintage purse, you probably want to stick with a gift tag that identifies the present not just as someone’s misplaced scarf or purse, but as a thoughtfully wrapped gift.
Gift tags should be clear and visible, but they can still be fun and creative. Here are a few of my favorite not-found-in-the-store gift tag ideas:
A Photo of You and The Giftee
This is one of my favorite ways to spice up a dull wrapping job. I particularly love digging out childhood (almost embarrassing) photos of friends! And, Photos are great conversation starters for those holiday parties.
Use a Vintage Button
Simply write on the back of a vintage button with a sharpie and attach. It may take people a minute to see the name, but it certainly adds flare!
I think this goes great with a vintage t-shirt wrapping. You can even use the button to secure the shirt. It also works well on gifts wrapped in plain brown paper. Really, there is no going wrong with vintage buttons.
Re-purpose Old Cards
For many years I saved every birthday and Christmas card people sent me. Occasionally (very occasionally) I would look through them. For the most part, cards just took up space and I didn’t really appreciate them. Certainly a lot of those cards didn’t have personal messages; they were never meant to be a keepsake. Just a quick note to say, we’re thinking of you or Merry Christmas.
A few years ago, I purchased a craft punch like these. You can easily turn any old card into a gift tags. (Not to mention all the wonderful other craft uses these punches have!)
Comics and Newspaper
Like the re-useable shopping bag, wrapping gifts in news paper or comics is a popular gift wrapping alternative. I still love how packages wrapped in these look.
But, instead of using the newspaper to wrap the entire package, how about wrapping the package in vintage fabric or a plain paper. Then, folding the newspaper or comic to make a ribbon around the package. You can write your salutations directly on the ribbon. No need for a traditional gift tag.
There are all kinds of ways to make bows from paper. But remember, like brown craft paper, if you use newspaper and comics, these things are going strait to the trashcan (hopefully the recycling bin).
If you do want to use newspaper or brown craft paper, composting is a great alternative to the trash.
The trick to any great gift wrap is to have fun and be creative. Picking a thoughtful, non-generic, and meaningful gift can take time. Having a creatively and uniquely presented gift adds some mystery that makes the present that much more special. And, when you keep extra stuff out of the landfill, it’s even that much more special.