• Dana Sorge

Wrapper’s Delight: Waste-Free Wrapping Paper Alternatives

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

The Holidays: An endless clamoring to fill every wish on your list. Then, finally - you’ve made it! All the presents are home, ready to go… when you realize, NOPE, I still have to wrap those bad boys. We've got you and your presents covered. With our guide, last-minute mall runs are a thing of the past thanks to these happy-planet alternatives that use what you already have in your home. PJs required.


Here's the truth, and I'm not going to wrap it all up in a pretty bow:

According to a recent report from Sundale Research, the US spends $12.7 billion annually on gift wrap, including wrapping paper, tissue paper and gift bags. And it exists to be ripped to shreds and tossed within 60 seconds.


Santa is crying.


More than half of that gift wrapping can't be recycled. Check with your local recycling center for specifications because these protocols vary slightly per mill. But anything with plastic coating, specs of tape, bows, certain dyes, marker or paint gets trashed. And if it has glitter on it, forget it.


Now I hate to be a Glitter Grinch (me, of all people? Never!) but anything with sparkly specs is most offensive to the earth. Glitter is comprised of teeny tiny particles of plastic that do not break down over time. Now matter how hard you might try, you just can't get rid of it... So it sadly ends up in the seas. A glitter-filled ocean may sound so Little Mermaid (cue Ariel), but it's contaminating the plants and animals that are vital to our ecosystem.


Below are the are the top 12 ways to up your wrap game, waste-free.


You’ve Got This. Literally.

Use things already around the house as a straight-up sub for wrapping paper. Newspaper gets a second life gift-cover and can be thoughtfully curated for the gift recipient. My gifts in the first pic are for my Mother-In-Law who loves all things art and culture. Or use the sports pages for your #1 fan or charts and graphs for your business-savvy bff. Past years’ calendars do double duty for the monthly images and dates themselves. Bonus when there’s a cute doodle on a special day. Or put those preschool projects to work by upcycling them into wrapping paper. Your kids will never know they weren’t framers, and some can look super cool and abstract like what my 2-year olds did below in blue on white.


Newspaper wrapping paper

Photo: Haley Lieberman


Last year's calendar

Photo: thechicsite.com


Kids' art project brought home from preschool

Photo: Haley Lieberman



Next-Level

Next-level wrapping is the no-mess alternative to her big sister, So Extra, that I write about below. Magazines, catalogs, or even junk mail become a patchwork of the past with some strategic cutting and taping. Just stick with a color family or use the same ribbon throughout to keep the design cohesive. On these boxes I used black gaffer’s tape that I had at home instead of clear tape to give an extra design detail. I also love patch-working smaller scraps of preexisting wrapping paper together instead of tossing it like I did in the first pic. Cheap and cheerful! And I’ve been loving this mess-free art project: My toddlers and I decorate repurposed school projects on construction paper with stickers that they seem to bring home from everywhere they go. Grandparents go gaga. Side note: Do stickers procreate? Why are there always so many? Where do they come from? That’s another post for another day.


Scraps of wrapping paper mosaic'd together

Photo: Haley Lieberman


Kids' stickers on upcycled school projects

Photo: Haley Lieberman


Magazines cutout with black gaffer's tape

Photo: Haley Lieberman



So Extra

A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, I once used paper bags. My broom closet is now home to said bags, and it’s my first stop when I want to wrap something in brown paper. Cut and flip grocery bags bags inside out, and voila! Now you’re basically that mom you wish you were (you know the one… with kids' crafts neatly stacked by the "art table"?). Parents can do their own designs or help kids paint, sponge, and stamp their gifts. Love how these neon tassels looked against the brown paper when I repurposed them from a garland that we used last year for my twin’s birthday party (last pic).


Brown paper decorated by kids

Photo: jilster.de


Brown paper decorated in Sharpie

Photo: sharpie.com


Takeout bags with neon tassels

Photo: Haley Lieberman



Gift-Wrap Goddess

If you’re going to go the fabric route, you’ve reached goddess level gift-giving. This approach is truly two gifts in one. Try a vintage scarf sealed with a brooch if you’re feeling fancy, wrap a dish towel around a bottle of wine or hostess gift, or learn Furoshiki, the Japanese art of fabric wrapping. It’s way easier than it looks! Pop into any vintage/thrift shop and rescue a scarf or textile for less than $3 a pop for a present that’s truly a gift from the inside out.


Furoshiki-wrapped vintage scarf

Photo: bklynbride.com


Dishtowel-wrapped bottle of wine

Photo: mypoppet.com


Knotted fabric

Photo: chewingthecud.com


And now you're a wrapstar. Congrats, kid!


That was my first blog post ever! How did I do?

Write me at Haley@ShopTomorrows.com.

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