Photo by Mark Harrison | Hat by Cabin Vintage | Dress by OR
As a highly sentimental person, the holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the warm drinks, twinkling lights, and the sense of togetherness that colder weather brings. There’s nothing better than spending time with the ones you love (and giving them the perfect gift). As we approach this season of giving, I’ve been challenging myself to find better solutions with giving (like sustainable gift wrapping) to offset the tremendous amount of waste that unfortunately accompanies this magical time. That is why I rounded up 5 sustainable gift-giving (and wrapping) ideas for you this holiday season.
The Cost of Single-Use Gift Wrap
After doing some research into the biggest causes of holiday waste, I was especially struck by the amount of waste produced by wrapping and packaging gifts during this time of year, and quickly began to realize that my unique position as owner of a vintage shop (Cabin Vintage) offers some more creative ways to address this issue.
A 2017 report from Sundale Research found that people in the U.S. spent a total of $12.7 billion on gift wrap (including wrapping paper, tissue paper, and gift bags). A very small percentage of wrapping paper is actually recyclable. Much of it is lined with plastic, full of ink, or covered in glitter (a.k.a microplastics) that send it straight to the landfill. Below, you’ll find five ideas for a more sustainable season of gift wrapping, that are both great on the environment and the wallet.
Five Sustainable Gift-Giving and Wrapping Ideas
Silk Scarf by Ozma
Wrap your gift in a scarf or piece of spare fabric.
Have you ever heard of The Art of Japanese Furoshiki? Not only is this form of gift wrapping beautiful, but it’s also quick and easy (if you need any help, Youtube has a ton of tutorials). The best part? The wrapping gets to be part of the gift instead of waste that ends up in the landfill shortly after opening. If you have a vintage scarf or extra fabric on hand, this option will cost you zero dollars. Win-win!
Wine by Say When | Candle by PF Candle Co | Stone Object was thrifted
DIY your own gift basket (or box)!
Look around your house. I bet you have a basket or crate lying around you can repurpose into the perfect presentation for a gift. In the photo above, I used an antique crate a friend gave me years ago to create the perfect gift for a loved one that deserves some relaxation (and lots of wine). I used some recycled paper packing material as filler from a shipment I received a few months back. You can cater this option to just about any person: a self-care set, baked goods, items for the home, tools, etc. The list goes on!
Repurpose news and kraft paper from shipping.
Any kind of paper can be wrapping paper. It doesn’t have to be on a tube! Instead of throwing newspaper and kraft paper into the recycling bin, save it up around the holidays so you can reuse it. I always promote reducing and reusing over recycling because it keeps new items from being produced in the first place. According to the EPA, about 137.7 million tons of municipal solid waste was sent to the landfill in 2015, and 13% of this amount was paper goods. Paper doesn’t take up a lot of space, so I always suggest saving it for later!
Give a gift that doesn’t require wrapping.
If you’re looking for an option that’s easy on the wallet, schedule, and planet, this would be the one. I really enjoy giving (and receiving) plants as gifts. The plant itself makes a beautiful package, so no wrapping is necessary. Houseplants also work as natural air filters! You’ll be doing your loved one and the air they breathe a favor.
Gift an experience instead of a physical object.
Our current culture is one of excess consumption and waste. We’ve gotten used to impulse buying items that we don’t really need at the push of a button (and having it delivered immediately). Each of these aspects is harmful to the environment. Production and shipping are creating exponentially more waste and emitting more carbon emissions, year over year. Why not enjoy an experience with someone you love instead of racking your brain for a physical gift they may not need to have?
Collecting memories instead of objects also brings you closer to those around you. I love going on a road trip or a beautiful hike in nature with my partner, going to a spa with a friend, or even just spending time cooking a meal with my family. Some of my favorite holiday memories have been shaped not by the objects I’ve received, but by sharing an experience with the people I love. It prompts conversations and starts new traditions, which ends up being a gift for yourself as well!
I hope these tips inspire you to approach your list of gifts a bit differently this year as we rapidly approach the holidays! It’s easy to get stuck in the same thought process of needing the perfect THING as a gift and the perfect holiday sustainable gift wrapping to match. Mariah Carey had it right with All I Want for Christmas is You, that hit we’re all going to be playing on repeat starting yesterday. This season, challenge yourself to try to find gifts that leave less of an environmental footprint while still creating something special for those you love.
Kristine Claghorn is a creative producer and owner of the vintage shop Cabin. She lives in Los Angeles by way of Indiana, so she’s a Midwesterner at heart. She is dedicated to learning to live sustainably and helping others do the same.
Want to see more from Kristine about sustainable living? Make sure to check out her post on Creating a Minimal & Sustainable Travel Wardrobe! Want other gift wrapping ideas? See Beth’s past holiday gift wrapping guides here and here!
Photos edited with the Local Milk Instagram Preset Collection.