Unwrapping the Holidays

Dec 10, 2008 by Keana Okuda

We all love the feeling of anticipation that climaxes with opening gifts on Christmas morning.  But if we're smart about it, we can preserve the excitement and avoid the mountain of ripped paper, crumpled ribbon and trashed boxes that usually results.  Take your commitment to responsible gift-giving one step further by wrapping less wastefully, too.

Those piles of wrapping add up. Some of these facts are published elsewhere on the Kanu Hawaii website, but they're worth revisiting:

  • If every adult in Hawaii gave just five gifts without wrapping, together we would save 830 trees - about 7 acres of forest.  We would also keep tons of harmful chemicals used in paper bleaching out of our soil, water, and environment.
  • Most wrapping paper can't be recycled or composted because of coating, glitters, or chemicals, so it ends up in landfills or incinerators.  If every adult gift-giver in Hawaii gave five gifts wrapped in reused paper, we'd keep more than 69,000 lbs of paper out of our waste stream.
  • About 38,000 miles of ribbon is thrown every holiday season - enough to tie a bow around the Earth. Ribbon is made from treated textiles, nylon or plastics through an energy-intensive manufacturing process.  So, cutting back on ribbon cuts down fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions along with trash.

Wrapping Paper Trash

Our simple decisions about wrapping have a huge impact on the environment. If you want to reduce the burden of wrapping on our islands this holiday season, place gifts inside beautiful totes or photo storage boxes and make the wrap part of the gift.  When giving to an incontrovertible "trasher" (e.g., your two-year-old nephew), go for reused paper or the comics section. If you're inspired to be green as you can be, gather ti leaves and make a traditional statement.

We'd love to see everyone get hands on with this, but if you're not a do-it-yourself-er then here are some companies that are dedicated to fulfilling your green gift wrapping needs.

Lucky Crow
This chic little company specializes in "Stylish and Reusable Fabric Gift Wrap." Available in organic and non-organic fabrics at LuckyCrow.com. Shop a variety of sizes and fabric designs, ranging from $4.49 to $13.49. Lucky Crow Fabric Wrap

Wrap Sacks
WrapSacks produces reusable fabric gift bags (drawstring style) but they also offer clever, reusable gift cards. Available in all the colors of the rainbow and multiple sizes. Prices range from $4.49 for a card to $9.99 for the largest bag. On their website WrapSacks.com, there's even a bag tracker where you can enter in a bag's "code" and see where it's been and what it's gifted.

Lagniappe Gift Wrap
For the holiday season, this company offers the most festively designed cloth gift bags. My personal favorite is the "Santa Blowfish" (pretty funny). The best part is that they offer "Organic" and "Redux" collections. Find them in six different sizes, from $3.49-$8.79, at LagniappeGiftWrap.com.Lagniappe Gift Wrap

Available in colors and designs that are perfect for the holidays, these reusable totes will keep giving. Find them in three just-right sizes at RuMe.com for $8.95 to $28.50 (note: the link currently redirects customers to Delight.com for purchasing in the U.S.).

Though these fabric squares are easy to make, some of us just don't have the time. This site, unfortunately, offers a limited selection at $25 a piece. The nice thing about the site is that it offers a gallery, videos, and links all dedicated to the traditional Japanese art of gift wrapping with textiles.Furoshiki Fabric Wraps

Another more traditional solution with a twist of eco-ness, is this "Hemp Wrap." Paper made from a blend of ten percent hemp/flax and ninety percent recycled post-consumer fiber then printed with vegetable-based inks. Get it at Paporganics.com for $4.99 per two (24"x36") sheets. Paporganics is also a great source for 100 percent recycled tissue paper, whitened without the use of bleach. Eight (30x20) sheets will cost you $2.50.

Fish Lips Paper Designs
If you absolutely can't give up the paper habit, at least use recycled wrapping paper. At the top of the list is the paper you gently peeled the tape off of last year. If you are new to this, you probably don't have any paper to reuse, but, hopefully, you saved the ribbons. Match them up with these brilliant, never-before-used paper designs made from 100 percent recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks. Find their papers at FishLipsPaperDesigns.com for $4. This is the kind of paper you won't have to tell someone to save.

Peaceful Valley
At PeacefulValleyGreetings.com you can find tree-free greeting cards, greener wrapping papers and 100% biodegradeable ribbon. Made of non-woven natural cotton and colored with soy-based inks. Peaceful Valley is also a member of 1% for the Planet.

It's more about attitude than (un)wrapping ability. Disconnect from the single-use mindset and declare your green-status proudly by telling loved ones you'd rather not have your present wrapped in single use paper and ribbon. Hopefully, your commitment will get others thinking. Encourage your family and friends to look into greener gift wrapping options as well. When all is said and done, recycle the shredded paper and boxes you couldn't avoid. 

Start "unwrapping" gifts early this Christmas - even before you give them. A small change, made visible to others, can lead by example.


Keana Okuda is a guest writer for Kanu Hawaii.  She is a graphic designer, weekly columnist, entrepreneur, and founder of TheEcoBoss.com. She was born and raised on the island of Hawaii and is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.


Would you kokua and log in? All features are turned on when logged in. Mahalo!