Keeping it greener with reusable gift wrap

I love gift wrap. The tradition of wrapping gifts goes back centuries. In the United States, the Hall family of Hallmark fame is credited with first marketing modern gift wrap in 1917.

But there’s a downside. Americans throw away a few million pounds of gift wrap and gift bags every Christmas. Undecorated paper (no glitter or flocking) and of course cardboard boxes are recyclable. And there are more and more recycled paper options available. Nashville Wraps’ Green way products are among my favorites. 

Two strategies we’ve adopted are to reuse paper and find sturdier reusables–like fabric–to wrap gifts. 

1. Reuse single-use wrapping: When I was a kid an artistic relative wrapped and added elaborate embellishments to a cardboard gift box that was too pretty to toss. Our family reused that box until it fell apart. Inspired by that early reusable, we started reusing gift wrappings. Our aforementioned Green way gift wrap purchased several years ago in a jumbo roll seems to hold up the best to reuse. We also reuse tags and we upcycle greeting cards into tags. 

2. Select reusables that will last for years: Organza gift bags also last a long time and come in lots of sizes. This year I tried a few new wraps made with cotton fabric. This first is Furoshiki a Japanese wrapping style that typically uses square-shaped pieces of fabric. (Bandannas are a good option.) This worked especially well for some heavy books that tend to rip wrapping paper and overwhelm paper gift bags. I used a pinking rotary cutter to pink the fabric edges so they didn’t fray. I also made a double-sided wrap.

Reusable fabric drawstring gift bags: These can be purchased on ETSY or DIY’ed if you are handy with a sewing machine and you are willing to put up with some trial and error on the road to your ideal gift bag. With fabric gift bags you can forego tissue and even boxes. We also started reusing all of the nonwoven Amazon gift bags we have received. Several years ago we bought personalized Santa sacks for each other. These beautiful bags hold a lot and negate the need for individual wrapping. 

This is where I admit that my first drawstring bag was a disaster. I used interfacing to give it body (I wanted to use it for a pretty hefty book) and it overwhelmed the ribbon drawstrings making the top too stiff to cinch closed. So I cut off the top and added a new top with plain fabric. That seemed to do the trick.

Then I tried this fat quarter-friendly (IYKYK) pattern by Melissa at Polka Dot Chair: Lined Drawstring Bag Sewing Pattern & Free SVG Files. I purchased her pattern for $4.50 and got a discount code to share. Well worth it! I love this pattern and her method saved my disaster bag. I don’t have a Cricut, but I love her embellishments.

Other patterns to check out: 

Final step: Changing your ways

The final step can be hard because changing our throwaway ways can be hard: reuse everything that you can and ask your family and friends to reuse your fabric bags or return them for a future gift.