How do I minimize waste when gift wrapping?

I am a huge fan of gift giving. I’m that friend who drives you to extreme social anxiety by showing up with presents for everyone when we had previously agreed not to exchange gifts this year. I don’t care. If I see something you’ll like, you’re getting it for Christmas. So, here are a few strategies I use when trying to keep presents a surprise without sacrificing any more trees than our corporate American Christmas tradition already does. 

  1. Procrastinate – I usually do this anyway, no matter what my goals are. But, when it comes to reducing waste from holiday gift-wrapping, procrastination can actually be a good thing. Wait until the last minute to wrap gifts, and only buy as much paper and as many bags as you’ll need for the first few gifts. After that, hopefully you’ll have a ton of wrapping supplies laying around the house from overzealous retail workers or leftover from gifts YOU got at your office party. Who cares if not all of your gifts are wrapped in the same type of bag or paper? Pack hard-to-wrap gifts in boxes you got from Amazon or Harry and David as a gift.
  2. Use the tissue paper that the store gave you – So you might not have a bunch of extra wrapping stuff leftover from gifts you’ve received (not everyone can be as *lovable* as I am), but you probably do have packing materials from things you’ve purchased for other people. Last year, I got a bunch of tissue paper from Blue Mercury to keep something I bought safe, and no one noticed that I used that same paper to make all of my gift bags look nice.  Sephora did the same thing. (FYI so did Pleasure Chest, but you really don’t need to know that yes, I did do some gift shopping there.) You know I’m all about bringing reusable bags, but frequently stores will wrap stuff in tissue for you anyway, even if you protest.  

    Shout out to thredUP for giving me enough tissue paper to giftwrap for the whole family.   
  3. Be creative with wrapping paper scraps – I like to cut the useless strips of extra wrapping paper into little rectangles, fold them in two, and use them as tags for presents, writing a little message on the back side.   
  4. Put two presents in the same box – Need I say more? Sometimes the box you have lying around isn’t the right size. No one cares! Pack more stuff in there. Someone will be very excited to receive such a generous gift from you.
  5. Use birthday bags as Christmas bags by writing “Jesus” after Happy Birthday – Ok, I’ll admit that this solution is pretty tacky, but my friends all know I’m terrified of waste, and they have good senses of humor. So, last year, lots of them received Christmas presents in bags that said “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” on them, with the last two words scrawled in marker. I also gave them thank you cards that said “Thank you for being born, Jesus” on them instead of “Merry Christmas.” Who gives a ? It was unique and cute and creative, and I’m adorable, and if you disagree, fight me.  
  6. Tell kids that Santa doesn’t wrap gifts – In my house, Santa never wrapped gifts because Santa was lazy and it made a huge mess. Santa would, instead, place presents in piles, and inform my father (who had to wait up to let Santa in the door as we had no fireplace) which pile was for which child. I like to think I could have been a little more enlightened early on if Santa had said that he didn’t wrap gifts because it’s so damn wasteful and that he really doesn’t want to have to move his workshop out of the North Pole when the ice caps melt. Bend the mythology. It’s safe. Trust me, I never came home crying in disbelief that Santa wrapped presents at other kids’ houses but not mine. I was just *pretty stoked* to get presents and could not have cared less about the rest.
  7. Don’t shop online – See this post about avoiding it and why.
  8. Buy recycled wrapping stuff. I’m definitely going with Wrappily this year. Their paper is both recycled and recyclable – enough to make any eco-nerd cream their jeans.
  9. Reuse old holiday cards – This tip that I LOVED comes from a Whole Foods blog post commenter,  (excellent source, I know) Stephanie Mulford, who writes, “I like to reuse old Christmas cards and calendars – I cut them up to create colorful name tags or use them in scrapbooks.” Check out the rest of their blog for ideas from their climate denying CEO and an excuse to never visit this website again.
  10. Just don’t throw anything away, even if you hate it. I wrapped a gift for my mom in Spiderman wrapping paper that was purchased ironically, probably 10 years ago. She did not care. Like most people, she was just stoked to receive a gift. As a plus, if this gift were for a cool dude or sexy lady, they would think I am a whimsical, goofy, manic pixie dream girl who doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks of them. Joke’s on them! I’m just trying to declutter my apartment, but now they’re hopelessly in love with me, and everybody wins.

So, go forth and be merry! And keep in mind, if the holidays are the only time of year you’re a wasteful P.O.S., that’s ok too. Just do your best.