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“The most sustainable item is the one that already exists.” 

2018 State of Reuse Report

Canadians generate 540,000 tonnes of waste from gift wrapping and shopping bags every year — that’s the equivalent of 100,000 elephants if you need a visual. Most gift wrapping is made out of hard-to-recycle mixed materials and so goes straight to landfill.

Over the Holidays, our waste volume goes up by at least 25% — hardly a surprise to anyone who has ventured out into the streets on the garbage day after christmas. The sidewalks become an obstacle course of overstuffed garbage bins and bags nearly exploding with old wrapping, ribbon and packaging.

If every Canadian wrapped just 3 gifts in upcycled materials rather than buying wrapping paper new, enough paper would be saved to cover 45,000 Hockey rinks. So for those looking to reduce their waste this Holiday season, gift wrapping is an easy and simple place to start. Here are 12 techniques to rethink how you wrap up your gifts the wasteless way this year.

1) Furoshiki Wrapping

A series of Japanese wrapping techniques for wrapping gifts in cloth, this is a go-to for gifts of all shapes and sizes.

from journal.rikumo.com

But before you rush out and buy brand new cloth just to wrap gifts, remember that textile waste is a significant issue in and of itself – we send 81lbs of textiles to landfill per person each year in North America. It’s far more sustainable to use pieces of fabric you already have or check out local thrift stores to find second hand fabrics to use.

Check out this guide for an amazing list of the different Japanese Furoshiki folding techniques you can try.

2) Stop using tape

We’ve all grown up with tape as a staple in the gift-wrapping experience. But what if I told you – you don’t need it to wrap gifts? 

It’s just as simple – maybe simpler, actually – to fold up your gift the same as you would with tape, and then fasten it together using string. And again, bonus points for reusing string you already have. 

If you absolutely feel you must have tape, opt for paper washi tape

from trashisfortossers.com

3) Use natural greenery and foraged sprigs

Skip the plastic bows and ribbons and go foraging for leaves, pine cones, berries, cedar or pine branches instead! These are truly biodegradable and can be returned to the Earth when the unwrapping is complete.

from unsplash.com

4) Use old maps

Do you have any old maps lying around? If you don’t have a use for them anymore or anyone to pass them on to, consider using them to wrap up your Holiday gifts. 

View this post on Instagram

Last year we added a #ZeroWasteWrapping station to our annual Holiday Gift Swap with @torontotoollibrary & @makesmthng and it ended up being a hit. The blog I wrote to go with it went viral and resulted in the news contacting us to run a story on our Gift Swap this year, coming up Dec 16. We will be running the Zero Waste Wrapping Station again at this event based on the 11 techniques I included in the blog (bit.ly/ZeroWasteWrapping) These are super easy, creative and CHEAP – you will save time, money and stress by leaving the non-recyclable stuff at the store. By far my fave techniques that I tried last year were the Furoshiki Method, which uses cloth and fancy knots, and upcycling old maps, decorated with foraged pine cones, twigs and winter berries. I also made all my own cards using materials I had lying around the house. And I skipped the tape using @trashisfortossers tapeless technique (because let’s be honest, tape is an unnecessary barrier keeping you away from your present that much longer). Hard pass. Beyond saving money and cutting back on waste, the process was so much fun – coming together as a community to pool our resources and wrap gifts together was far more satisfying than going to a busy mall and buying wrapping paper. Part of redesigning the holidays to cut waste out of our celebrations is rethinking little things like this, integrating new traditions that become synonymous with the holiday spirit until we don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s just how we do things. This is how I wrap gifts now year round and there’s no going back #LETSGETWASTELESS #MAKESMTHNG

A post shared by Emily Charles-Donelson (@itsahashtaglife) on Nov 20, 2018 at 9:14am PST

5) Upcycle magazines

That old stack of magazines sitting at the back of your closet or on a shelf in your neighbour’s garage? Their glossy finish and brightly coloured pictures will make for stylish and chic looking gifts.

from janemeansblog.com

6) DIY bows out of upcycled magazines

Not only can you wrap your gifts using old magazines, you can also make bows with them! You’ll find instructions on how to do this here, here, and here. If you need a video tutorial, you’ll find a good one here.

You can also use maps.

from 100layercake.com

7) Use newspaper

Here’s an easy one: head to a coffee shop at the end of the day and grab the newspaper before it goes in the bin. Today’s news becomes tomorrow’s perfectly cute and trendy gift wrapping.

And here’s how to make the newspaper roses.

8) Use a shirt 

Check out your local thrift store for a cute shirt or find one you’ve already got but aren’t wearing anymore. You’ll find an online tutorial for how to use shirts as wrapping online here.

from Pinterest

9) DIY gift bags out of cardboard boxes

Put any cereal boxes in your recycling bin lately? Go get them out and make these cute DIY gift bags.

from the centsiblelife.com

10) Make your own Holiday cards and tags 

Reuse old cards you’ve received with gifts and upcycle them into holiday cards and gift tags. 

from goodhousekeeping.com

11) Kids artwork

Kids bring home a ton of artwork from school. You can’t keep all of it, but it probably feels bad to throw it away. With their permission, get them to select some of their drawings or paintings and use those to wrap some gifts.

from theartofsimple.net

12) Use whatever you have lying around 

I keep a little basket tucked away on a shelf where I throw cards people send me, packaging paper or string on gifts and parcels, etc. I pull this out whenever I have to wrap a gift. This saves me money and time – I don’t have to shop for gift wrapping paper and everything I need is always in one place.

Keep the magic of the Holidays, skip the waste ✌️ #LetsGetWasteless