Sunday, December 21, 2008

Greenish Wrapping Dilemmas

With all the weather going on lately, I stayed home, nice and warm, and worked on my Christmas giftwrapping. And that got me thinking about one of my annual debates, green giftwrapping.

Now, mind you, I'm no purist. I try to be "greenish" about some things, but I'm by no means "perfect" by the green crowd's standards. And that's okay by me; sometimes they get a little too politically correct, impractical, and inflexible for my tastes. Still, I don't like to be wasteful either.

And giftwrapping is nothing if not wasteful. All those trees, cut down, just so we can have 5 minutes of tearing off the paper? All the energy it takes to cut down the trees, transport them, make them into wrap, and then transport it all over the country? And then afterwards, all the paper that goes in the trash instead of into recycling?

But......I have little kids. They love to tear off wrapping paper. It's one of the biggest parts of the joy of opening their gifts. Heck, at certain ages, they like the tearing of the paper better than the gift itself. Then as they age, they love the brightly-colored papers under the tree, the ritual of wrapping and unwrapping, the garish over-the-topness of it all. Take that away from them, and they really miss it....and so do I.

So for a long time, we just went ahead and did wrapping paper. We did what we could to re-use as much as possible year to year, but little kids tearing off wrapping paper means there's not a lot of re-using, and I'm not going to deprive them of that ripping, tearing joy they love so much. As they get older I show them how to slow down and preserve things a bit more, but basically there's a lot of wrapping paper in the recycling bin each year.

We have considered some of the other "green" ideas for wrapping paper. My SIL and BIL are extremely "green" so they have wrapped with comics or newspaper for many years, or have used butcher paper with kid-made paintings and prints on it. My reaction has always been lukewarm to that. I mean, hey it's nice if you want to do that, but it's really not the same at all. It's not very attractive, it's not fun, and it's just a big PC downer, frankly. Doesn't feel like Xmas at all. At least not to us.

We have saved gift bags (the kind you get in Hallmark stores) and we often re-use those for big or awkwardly-shaped presents, but I'm not that fond of these kinds of bags. Too gaudy for me, not always recyclable, too easy for kids to peek in even with a gazillion pieces of tape on them. And just no "fun" factor for the kids.

Last year, I won some cloth gift bags at a birth conference, and I've been liking those. They look prettier than the foofy store paper ones, they use up scraps of fabric, they're really practical, and they hold up really well year to year. I like mine with drawstrings at the top, and I really like the ones with beautiful and/or soft, lovely fabrics. Again, good for big or awkwardly-shaped presents, and good for the adults....but not so good for the littles, who want the actual opening of the gift to be something special too. Opening a drawstring is just not that exciting, you know?

My favorite solution ever, though, is specialized gift boxes. A few years ago Mr. Well-Rounded invested in nesting, folding Xmas gift boxes. At first I thought these were the stupidest things ever, just something to take up my precious little closet space from year to year. But now, I have to admit.....these were a GREAT idea. We have re-used them many times over in the last five years or so. And once they get too tattered to re-use anymore, they can be recycled.

They are printed with terrific, cute patterns so they look festive and nice under the tree, like wrapping paper. You can put bows on them so they look like wrapped packages. And although not quite as fun as ripping open paper-wrapped gifts, even the littles really get a charge out of taking off all the tape and opening the box. Furthermore, if you get the nesting kind, they will fold flat and nest into each other so they don't take up much space during the rest of the year. Very important if you've got limited storage space!

So now what we do is a mix of all of these. Under my tree now I have some presents in re-usable cloth gift bags, I have some in traditional wrapping paper to satisfy that ripping frenzy need in the littles, and I have a lot of them in these re-usable Xmas boxes. That seems to be the compromise that best suits our family-----as green as we can manage without being too dogmatic about it, practical and pretty without being dull and boring.

Do you have any better solutions to the green wrapping dilemma? I'm sure many other parents struggle with this too and would love to have more ideas. What does your family do for wrapping presents for whatever holidays you celebrate?


Anonymous said...

We use and reuse gift bags for adult things, but for the kids I've just given up and use the wrapping paper. We buy it on clearance after Christmas--right now I have enough to last us 2-3 years at least, yet I'll still buy more after Christmas this year, I'm sure. Or maybe I won't...depends on when my princess makes her grand entrance into the world. But anyway... We just do it. It's fun for the kids, it makes Christmas morning more special and enjoyable for all of us. I did see a tutorial online somewhere for how to make your own gift bows that look like the stick-on kind, and they can be made out of magazine pages or wrapping paper--which makes them special and customized and can be a way to recycle stuff too.

Anonymous said...

Those are some great ideas. I recycle, but I haven't put a lot of thought into making our wrapping more 'green'.

I think I'll make some of those bags for next Christmas! It'll also save a lot of time with wrapping the presents in the first place...

Anonymous said...

This year I've been wrapping with dish towels and fabric ribbon (I still have a huge bag of fabric ribbon from our wedding two years back, and I think more people think to keep and reuse ribbon than paper).

It's not appropriate for everyone, so I've wrapped some presents in paper (plain metallic colours that can be reused for any gift, not just Christmas), but the towels look cute, and are an additional present.