Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries are just a few of the occasions we celebrate with all sorts of surprises beautifully wrapped. Sadly both the task of wrapping and the recipient’s unwrapping create a great pile of waste. Sweat pours down our faces as we try to force just a little more waste in our basket and we began to wonder what to do about it.

Saving wrapping paper and ribbons from gifts you receive and reusing them for next year’s gifts is easier said than done. In the excitement of opening a present it is not on anyone’s mind to do it gingerly, is it? However, when we unwrap things carefully we can cut out the ripped edges and fold it for storage. Reusing these folded sheets of paper and ribbons can not only reduce, but often eliminate the need to purchase more in the future. You might even find your friends dropping by to see if you have wrapping materials for a gift they bought!

We can also get really creative and have fun with coming up with ways to resue different types of gift paper, comic strips, paper shopping bags, bits of ribbon and bows. Fabric scraps from sewing projects also makes wonderful wrapping for gifts or cover the lids of preserves, just add a little ribbon to finish off the stunning look. Fabric can be had for pennies at the local second hand or thrift shops.

But why not make the wrapping a part of the gift? Reusable baskets, plastic containers, reusable jars, and pretty tins are just a few examples of this. New dishcloths, scarves and towels can become unique wrapping.

Most of us have seen and used those decorative gift bags commercially available, be sure to purchase ones that are sturdy enough to reuse many times. Most people stuff fancy paper, or cloth, in the top to hide the present inside. Although there is an initial investment, these types of bags reduce both waste and consumerism because the recipient will reuse them. Alternatively, put a couple handles on a cereal box, tape the bottom well, and then wrap the box – to create a sturdy, stiff bag.

To go a step further, we have also saved and permanently wrapped boxes with recycled wrapping paper. If you do not have a box with a lid, make one. Begin by taping the flaps closed and with a razor knife, cut the top 3″, or so, off the box. Now you have the lid, but it doesn’t quite fit over the box. At each corner of the box, cut V slits so that when the edges are pulled together and taped, they make the top of the box small enough for the lid to fit. Now wrap the box and lid separately being sure to overlap the edges, securing with glue. When filled with a present, simply secure lid on by tying around the box.

The impacts from choosing alternatives such as these we have suggested today have a broader reach than you might think. The elderly, and those who are physically challenged, especially appreciated reusable gift bags and boxes, because they have difficulty wrapping and unwrapping gifts. The recipient of your gift saves money the next time they are about to celebrate their friend’s birthday, because they can reuse that bag, and that friend will do the same. New wrapping paper and ribbons come with their own packaging waste as well, so when we practice reuse we then eliminate this excess packaging. It really is a win-win situation.