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Easy ways to green your holiday gift-wrapping

On my Christmas to-do list this year: drink lots of hot cocoa, bake cookies and watch the movie “Elf,” a holiday tradition in my house.

Like many other people, I will also be purchasing and wrapping gifts for many friends and family members. While we all purchase gifts all year long for various occasions, this is the time of year that our gift giving really kicks into high gear.

Over the years I have changed up my gift-giving style as I have become more and more environmentally aware. I have changed over to almost exclusively reusable ways to wrap gifts. Some of my favorite environmentally friendly ways to give gifts include:

• Using a cloth gift bag. Cloth holds up better than paper bags and can be reused over and over again. The bags can be passed around from family member to family member for special occasions for years to come, creating a fun tradition of passing the bag back and forth.

Beyond greening your own gift-wrapping, it’s a great way to encourage family members to gift using reusable bags, because these bags will be too nice to throw away. I’ve seen reusable bags I’ve given come back to me and go to other people. Every time a cloth bag gets reused, disposable wrapping paper isn’t being used.

Cloth bags are understandably more expensive than their throw-away paper counterparts, but it’s definitely worth the investment and can even be cheaper in the long run.

I have gotten the majority of my cloth bags after the holidays for 50-percent off or more at Christmas clearance sales. Another bonus is some of the cloth Christmas bags are plain and non-Christmas-themed enough that you can use them for birthdays and other events throughout the year.

There are also several other reusable gift wrapping options available, including fabric that you just fold over your gift and a wrapper that is kind of like a book cover that just stretches over your gift. Not only do these gift wrapping options help the environment, they also can look very classy and will save you time — no more cutting, measuring or taping.

• If you don’t have any or many cloth bags, paper bags can be a wonderful alternative. If you are like me, you have a closet full already. I never throw away gift bags other people give me, unless they are in really bad condition. Since I always collect them and reuse them, I always have some on hand. If you don’t already, you can start a collection of your own this holiday season.

This helps the planet and my wallet because I don’t have to purchase new bags for every occasion. And it helps the environment because I am giving these bags more than one time and keeping them out of the landfill. If you are going to purchase new paper bags, I would encourage you to get the plain brown paper ones that can be recycled easily or get some of the thicker sturdier ones that are able to be used over and over again.

• Tissue paper is a nice way to make a gift in a bag look really nice. I like to go with thicker more durable tissue paper options. I like to save tissue paper and reuse it, but the cheap stuff can only be used a few times before it starts looking pretty bad. When I receive tissue paper, I save it and use it again, but I try to avoid purchasing tissue paper now. There are specific reusable tissue papers you can buy, but there are also lots of fabrics that you can tuck into a gift bag that can be durable and pretty.

• Boxes, like bags, can be given over and over again. Boxes often hold up much better than paper bags for regifting. In my family, we actually have several boxes that have been given over and over again for decades. It’s a really fun tradition because every time the box is used to give a gift, we write the date, occasion and who it was given to in the lid of the box. That means that we can look back over the years and see where the box has been and when it was used. It’s really fun and helps the environment at the same time.

• You can also skip the gift-wrap entirely: I try to avoid wrapping paper because it’s really hard to reuse. I often just give a gift in a box without wrapping it. If you want to add something to make it nicer, you can use a fabric bow that is able to be used again and again.

• If you need to actually wrap a gift in paper, you can wrap it in newspaper, which is a great way to give the paper a second life before going to the recycle bin.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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