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DIY Your Way to Zero Waste Christmas Wrapping Paper

DIY Zero Waste Christmas
Written by Julia Eden

The holiday season is officially upon us, and with it, the incredible increase in waste, much of which is the result of some spectacular gift-giving! Extending your sustainability efforts to include the thoughtful sentiments you give friends and family this Christmas is not difficult, and it does not have to be expensive. Lack sewing skills? Not really a “creative” person? Don’t count yourself out! There are many ways that you can use zero waste Christmas wrapping paper.

Wrap with Fabric

There are a couple of ways to approach using fabric in place of wrapping. One is to buy reusable fabrics that have a specific purpose. Another is to re-purpose fabric that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

  • “Wrap” artisan kitchen accessories in nut milk bags, or cheese-making kits/books in cheesecloth bags.
  • Lingerie bags make for beautiful presentation of presents, with the added bonus that they extend the life of any delicate garment.
  • If you have even the most basic sewing skills, you can turn an old pillowcase into a gift bag, but I would especially recommend using them as wine bags. Hot Tip: The hem makes a perfect ready-made drawstring casing!
  • Upcycled bedsheets will wrap presents of all sizes, are easily and cheaply obtained (often saving them from landfills), and can then be reused as stuffing, rags, or to wrap other presents. Hot Tip: either sewing a hem or simply running a zigzag stitch along the cut edges will help extend the life of the fabric.
  • Many companies discard off-cuts and sample fabrics as the pieces are too small to be useful. Look around online or place a call to companies that use fabrics you love and it won’t be long before you have a pile of wrapping paper. Hot Tip: Extra buttons are easy to sew on and can turn a basic wrap into a keepsake fabric box.

Make Your Plastic Work For You

I know we’re all trying to phase plastic bags out of our lives, but I suspect many of us still have that tell-tale pile just waiting to become….something else. With only an iron and some parchment paper, you can turn your plastic bags into fabric. Add a few extra layers and you’ve got the stiffness appropriate for a laptop sleeve. If you have some basic sewing skills, shop your closet for zippers, buttons, and snaps. You can really step up your wrapping game. Tutorials are pretty easy to find, but I like this one.

Decorate Smart

Of the all of the added waste around the holiday season, I’m sure a measurable part of that is just the ribbons and bows. The “yay” news is that there’s decoration everywhere. Some of it functional, some of it merely pretty, but all of it is either compostable or reusable. Sprigs of dried herbs can add a pleasing scent, as well as a simple aesthetic quality. Flowers and leaves don’t have to leave a lasting impression, but a thin coat of clear-drying glue and a small hole and you’ve made a keepsake ornament. If you’re thinking a little more long-term investment, rubber stamps and seals with sealing wax can be fun ways to decorate as well. Many vintage shops, both brick & mortar and online, sell used stamps and seals, helping you keep that waste down to zero.

Zero Waste Decor

Find an Alternative Paper to Wrapping

This method is perfect for those that love some messy fun! Used paper from magazines and newspapers are a good starting place but will probably require some extra decorating. Rubber stamps on newspaper can actually look tres chic.  Try a single pop of color on black and white newspaper for a modern look. Or if you have kids, you must have a metric tonne of their art cluttering the house! Kid’s art especially makes a great keepsake for those family members you don’t get to see very often.

For double eco-points, using upcycled paper to create ornament boxes is just so next level! You can use this template, find your own, make your own, or grab a digital download from Etsy like this one. And don’t forget about all that kid’s art lying around; no better decoration for the tree than a reminder of family! The basic premise is to make a themed box that’s big enough for the gift, with a ribbon atop tying it closed – once the present is unwrapped, use the ribbon to affix the ornament to the tree.

Make The Wrapping The Gift

Sometimes the container can be the gift. I love this method for more generic presents like office Secret Santa and White Elephant. Find a fun mug, intricate chalice, vintage beer stein, ceramic travel cup, and rather than wrap it, fill it. A small sachet of potpourri or a selection of truffles can be presented beautifully without any additional wrapping.

Don’t Buy Into The Physical

Don’t forget that sometimes the best gifts are not things, they are ideas, thoughts, experiences. Finding that special something you have in common with someone is often best expressed in alternative ways.

  • Donate to causes in their name or buy chickens and wells for small villages
  • Book a horseback ride along the beach or plan a special day in nature snowshoeing, hiking, snowboarding
  • Finally splurge on that new eco-salon that you’ve been wanting to try
  • If the only thing you care about is time together, find an opportunity to volunteer for a cause that matters to you both

Zero Waste Gift-Giving

The True Meaning

This list is not meant to be comprehensive – there are infinitely more ideas, some of them still locked in your head, some of them in other articles, and some of them floating out in the nether regions of the interwebs. The idea is to escape the commercialism that Christmas has become. It doesn’t have to be about buying; the act of giving can be affordable and fun, inspiring and green. Rather than letting corporations dictate to us what Christmas should be about, let’s take it back to the true meaning. Paganism.

Just kidding! But jokes aside, I believe that Christmas, no matter your religious beliefs, should be about giving back. Give to your friends, your family, your community, those less fortunate, animals, the earth…but don’t forget, it’s the thought that counts.

About the author

Julia Eden

With a passion born in rivers, Julia Eden has spent the last decade crusading for the environment. Educated in fashion design and English Literature, and skilled in dance, she is dedicated to finding the information needed to live a new and better life. While not quite a Luddite, she would very much like to live in a cave with a wolf and an internet connection.

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