• Manon Raath

5 Gift wrapping paper alternatives that are virtually free.

We've all been there. Where you've spent a fair bit of money on carefully chosen wrapping paper for that special gift meant for that special person and then that special person does the unthinkable... they rip off the paper without a second's notice, bunch it up and throw it on the pile of other discarded wrapping paper to get to the content of the present. And fair enough, it IS about what's on the inside that counts, right?

Well, yes and no. Most of the time what is on the inside of a wrapped gift is what counts. But think about this: you are buying paper to wrap a gift you already spent money on, just so the person receiving the gift can rip the paper off and throw it away. You are literally throwing money away. So many trees are being destroyed for a product with an incredibly short lifespan (am I sounding like a tree-hugging hippie now?).

According to a 2017 survey done by CARE Australia, Australians use 150 000 km of gift wrapping paper during Christmas, and approximately 8000 tons of wrapping paper a year!

That blew my mind. And because of the finishes used on these papers - glitter, gold foil, plastic covering for gift bags - most of this cannot be recycled.

Please understand; I love giving and receiving gifts and I love surprises. The anticipation and excitement levels go through the roof when I receive a wrapped gift. I'm one of those people who gets excited unwrapping my online shopping, even though I know exactly what's inside.

But we can do it in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way.

Reasons to use wrapping paper alternatives:

  • It's more fun!

It's a great activity to involve the kids. Grab some old newspaper or brown paper, get out the crayons and markers and make your own gift wrap!

  • It's kinder to the environment.

Because you are repurposing existing items, you are recycling and doing your bit in the war on waste. Think of all those trees you are saving.

  • It's an outlet for your creativity.

The possibilities are endless. This is the perfect situation to see the potential in any and all objects. Have an outdated encyclopedia you don't want anymore? Rip out those pages and use them as gift wrap. Are your pot plants dying? Throw out the plant and use the pot to hold your gift. You can use the saucer as a lid and top it off with a nice bow. Try to let the wrapping suit your gift i.e. use a pretty pillowcase to wrap cute pajamas.

  • It's more personal.

You know that Slow Living blog post from a few weeks ago? About how we need to be more mindful? This is the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Wrapping is part of the gift giving process, so the gift receiver will appreciate the extra time and thought that went into the complete gift.

  • It's virtually free.

The idea is to use what you already have, so no need to pop out to the shops for some gift wrap.

5 Gift wrapping alternatives:

  • Fabric - the art of Furoshiki.

Use leftover pieces of fabric, tea towels, a scarf you never wear, that band T-shirt that doesn't fit anymore... pretty much any piece of cloth to wrap your gift. Finish it with a pretty flower or twig to complete the look.

  • Pages from an old book.

Paste the pages together using double sided tape or glue stick to create a larger piece to work with. Wrap your gift and finish it off with a nice bow, leftover twine, seed pods from native trees, dried citrus slices or any other decoration you can think of.

  • Paper produce bags.

Once you have emptied the sugar or flour into a storage container, keep the paper bag it came in to use as a gift bag. Simply fold in the top edge, punch two holes each side and thread some twine or string through it to make two handles. This is perfect for presenting home-baked goods or homeware gifts.

  • Reuse any form of paper

Tissue paper, magazine paper, butcher paper, craft paper, paper patterns, paper maps, newsprint... the list goes on. Be creative and create your own print with markers, crayons, potato prints, paint or stamps. Or use washi tape to introduce some colour.

  • Glass jars

Do you feel guilty throwing away all those salsa jars? You don't have to anymore. You can try using baking soda and white vinegar to get rid of the smell if you are afraid of your gift smelling like nachos. Glass jars make the perfect container for small gifts and even cupcakes! Add a bit of twine, string or ribbon to create a festive look.

How to plan ahead:

Most of us are fairly busy and don't have time to dehydrate a citrus slice every time we need to wrap a gift. Sometimes a birthday pops up unexpectedly and you need to be ready when that happens.

  • Press and dry a bunch of flowers and store them in a box.

  • Rip pages from an old book and paste together to form a continuous roll of wrapping paper.

  • Keep your fabric offcuts in a box, already cut into squares.

  • Keep your kids busy on a rainy afternoon and let them create wrapping paper with crayons, finger paints and stamps.

  • Get into the habit of picking up interesting seed pods when you take your dog for its daily walk.

  • While your oven is cooling down after a baking session, pop in a few citrus slices to dry them. Make sure they dry out completely so they don't mould.

  • Keep all ribbons and bows from gifts that you receive yourself so you can reuse them.

  • Keep all your gift wrapping supplies in one place for easy access.

These are really creative and easy ways to start your Slow Living journey. Living a sustainable lifestyle is a lot less complicated than people think. Most importantly: have FUN!

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