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Sustainable gift wrapping hacks

2022-12-21 1:10 PM | Reuse Minnesota (Administrator)

This holiday season, “think outside the box” when packaging your gifts! Your home (and recycling bin) may already contain items that make great alternatives to traditional wrapping paper and gift boxes. Single-use food packaging is perfect to reuse when packaging toys or clothes. Household linens like blankets or pillowcases can easily accommodate large or bulky items. Most of the time, the whole point of wrapping gifts is creating a brief moment of surprise, which can easily be accomplished without purchasing additional single-use items and creating more waste. 

Here are Reuse Minnesota’s eco-friendly packaging and wrapping tips for you. Save money and time by reusing and repurposing supplies already in your home! Watch our video! Sustainable gift wrapping hacks video.mp4

  • Use empty food packaging containers. Rinse and reuse plastic clamshell containers or berry baskets. Take empty cereal or snack boxes and turn them into gift boxes. When you’re finished with a tin of nuts or cookies, save them to refill with homemade goodies and treats. Empty glass jars are great at disguising the wrapped item since the extra weight stumps those trying to shake presents to guess what’s inside!

 empty plastic food container on the left, same food container on the right filled with mini naan bread  empty cardboard canister next to a stack of ginger cookies  food canister wrapped up in green and red wrapping paper and a red bow on top
  • Think beyond traditional wrapping paper. Wrapping paper can rip or tear if you have an awkwardly shaped gift. Instead use textiles around your house that can serve as “wrapping paper.” Lightweight blankets, scarves, sheets, or towels all make great substitutes. Research fabric wraps or furoshiki to learn how to wrap presents with fabric, or keep it simple and toss the fabric over the item before it’s handed off to unwrap.  

light blue flannel pillowcase with reindeer and snow print being used as a gift bag tied with red ribbon leopard print scarf, navy scarf with pink polka dots, black and white fabric with red and white polka dots on the reverse side, red fabric used as gift wrap and tied with a red bow 

  • Make your own reusable fabric wrap or bags. Put your sewing skills to use and create your own supply of reusable fabric wraps or gift bags using scraps and rags. 

red fabric gift bag with white polka dots, green and red and white striped fabric gift bag with black drawstring
  • Reuse holiday cards as gift tags or embellishments. Holiday cards have the potential to be upcycled into fun crafts. Cut out or trace parts of a holiday card you’d like to reuse. You can use a roll of masking tape or a coffee cup to trace a perfect circle. Cookie cutters offer fun shapes you can use to trace too! Use your new cutouts as gift tags or decorate your package with the new embellishments.

 assortment of holiday and Christmas cards  gift tags
packages wrapped in striped paper with gift tags
  • Reuse gifting supplies you already have. Save boxes, bags, ribbons, bows, and tissue paper and reuse them the following year. It’s important to note that most recycling haulers do not accept gift wrap or tissue paper. Your best choice is to not use them at all, or reuse as much as you can. After giving a gift, feel free to ask if the receiver plans to reuse the wrap/big/tissue - if they aren’t, offer to take it to use again (that may feel awkward the first time you ask, but it shouldn’t! It’s better to not have it go to waste.). When you gather with friends and family, remember your gift wrap container and announce early on that you intend to reuse as much of the single-use wrapping people don’t want to reuse themselves. As people unwrap, fold and stash the unwanted pieces to have less to sort and clean up later.

white gift bag with pink tissue paper, red tissue paper, empty cardboard boxes, various rolls of wrapping paper
  • Plan a scavenger hunt for gifts and skip gift wrapping altogether. Carefully placed clues makes the anticipation of finding the gift even more exciting. By the time your recipient finally gets to the last clue, they may be thankful they don’t have to unwrap the gift!

green grass with a scavenger hunt map drawn with crayon

Giving gifts in non-traditional packaging encourages conversation around your intentions to use fewer resources and reuse what you already have. Not only are you giving a gift, but you’re also opening your recipient’s eyes to the possibilities of reuse and intentional lifestyle choices. You can also consider starting the conversation before giving your gift - reach out to family and friends to encourage everyone to wrap gifts more sustainably this year. It can even be a game to see who has the most creative reuse for their gift wrapping! 

Which of these eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas will you try this year?  

Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.

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