christmas gifts

Now that you've done your shopping and decorated your house, it's time for the third eco cajun Christmas post, all about wrapping gifts!

Eco-friendly wrapping really allows you to get unique and creative. But first things first:

Your standard gift wrap is NOT RECYCLABLE.

Now, we'll cover green wrapping from the inside out.

The biggest way to be eco-friendly is to keep what's in good condition and reuse it from year to year. Keep good tissue paper, gift bags and bows. There are so many alternatives to buying conventional tissue paper. Cut up junk mail, weekly sale papers, newspaper, phone book pages or even scrap printer paper, and use it to stuff the gifts.

 Photo: My stash of used tissue paper and gift bags.

If you bought any gifts online and had them shipped to you, don't get rid of those boxes! Those are the easiest to use when wrapping gifts. If you didn't buy any gifts online (and first, I'll say I don't believe you!), check around your office or ask your coworkers if they have spare boxes for you to use. Most offices have leftover boxes from various shipments.

You can also keep gift boxes from year to year. If that sweater you bought your sister came with a store gift box, use it, but make sure it doesn't get thrown away after one use. If someone gives you a gift with a box in good condition, keep it and store it with your gift wrap supplies. You never know when you may need a box!

My family has always been green, even without trying, I think. We've always saved and reused gift wrap when we could, and it somehow turned into a tradition. My dad acquired this one box in the early to mid-90s and it's become the box you want to get each Christmas. This beauty of a computer program required Windows 3.0 or higher to run!

Now, to get those boxes looking pretty! Any kind of shiny, waxy paper is not accepted by recycling companies, so it all has to go in the trash. But it doesn't have to stop you! Plenty of gift wrap is made with eco-friendly, recyclable paper. Make sure it's not shiny before you buy it. Or you can buy plain brown shipping paper and dress it up either through fancier bows or getting artistic on the wrapped package. A Lovely Escape has a great post showing different ways to dress up brown shipping paper to make beautiful gifts. Susty Party also has a feature on upcycled gift wrap - with a demonstration of paper bags, tinfoil and wine corks!

Photo: Wrapping Michelle's gift with recyclable brown-paper gift wrap, green Scotch tape and twine!

You can always use newspaper or junk mail to wrap gifts, especially if they are smaller.

As for tape, Scotch Magic makes an eco-friendly tape now. It's made from more than 75% renewable or recycled materials. The boxed refill roll, including packaging, is made from more than 65% renewable or recycled materials.

And get creative for ribbons and bows. I've used fabric ribbon before on gifts, and I save the ribbon for future uses. Raffia, jute and twine are all great natural options. You can also use items like ties or scarves for an extra nice touch.

Photo: A gift wrapped in weekly sale papers and a red necktie.

If you're just not a wrapper and prefer bags, one great idea covers two bases. Use reusable bags AS your gift bag. Not only is it a greener alternative to traditional gift bags, it also helps spread the reusable cause. The bag then becomes part of the gift and encourages the recipient to use it when they need to. Off the Christmas note a bit, I've used both baskets and reusable bags as gift wrap for baby and wedding showers, and I love it because it gives the recipient an extra useful item, instead of another bag or box that would get thrown away.

Dig around your house and get creative. You might be surprised at what kind of gift wrap you have just lying around! An older shirt and a shoelace? It can work!

Beyond giving your loved ones a great gift, you're also giving the planet the gift of less waste.

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