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Remember to recycle and reuse this festive season

November 17, 2014

AS the festive season fast approaches (yikes) I’m guessing that a lot of people have started thinking about buying gifts and the subsequent gift wrapping. I love giving nicely wrapped gifts but I would also like to remind you that not all wrapping has to be bought new from the store.

If you haven’t done so before, use this year’s festivities to build up a paper and bag bank. This will consist of all of the larger pieces of paper which have not be torn by opening or damaged by sticky tape or a label. Make a habit of rolling these up as soon as you’ve opened your present as this will preserve them safely without the risk of being squashed or creased. It’s a no brainer that these can then be used by you the following year to wrap friends’ and family members’ gifts. The same can be said about the bags because those are easy to set aside for the next year.

Now, there are time when the top of the bag will be torn slightly and you’ll be tempted to throw it away because one can certainly not re-gift in a torn bag. I understand that so I’ve come up with an easy solution: Untie the string handles and cup off the top portion of the bad. Then, simply using a paper punch, punch four holes into the bag again and re-tie the handles. New bag, easy.

Something else I do is ‘make’ gift bags from other paper shopping/store bags with the addition of a picture from a magazine. Some stores, especially cosmetic and lingerie stores, give you your products in very high quality paper bags. Your first option is to not accept the bag because you have a cloth one handy, or you can take it and repurpose it as a gift bag at a later date. Gift bags are easy to present presents in because there is no folding or sticky tape so I often opt for a stores quality paper bag. To me it’s just about free wrapping. The issue is that most of these bags are branded and you don’t want to give someone a bag you clearly got from a shop – that’s no thoughtful. So, what I do is to simply go through a magazine and look for an appropriate picture or photo which is big enough to cover the store logo and stick it on. Most magazines have some features which make use of full page high quality photos which make for very attractive gift bags. Once neatly stuck onto a bag it looks really nice. I recently made a great lingerie gift bag for my sister-in-law by sticking two pics of a lavender field on either side of a black cosmetic bag. It looked sheik and served it’s purpose really well.

Another use for these big photo spreads is to actually wrap smaller presents in them. Make sure all the writing is cut off (as you should do when decorating the bag as well) and then simply use as wrapping paper. Now, there is no way to ‘hide’ the fact that this is a magazine feature once the package is opened (because inevitably there is an article or recipe on the back) but it really doesn’t matter. The present will look great before being opened and as your loved ones know the environment is important to you they’ll think it’s a novel idea.

I go through all my magazines (which I get from my mom) every two months or so and tear out all the pictures and photos with re-gifting potential so I have a stack handy whenever I need them. The magazines then go into the recycling bin but at least they’ve been read at least twice and some parts of them are going to be re-used one more time.

This year I am committing to give all my gifts in sturdy decorated canvass shopping bags. Woolworths in South Africa sell beautiful ones in aid of different environmental causes so buying there is a triple investment really: The organisations get some money, I get a handy gift bag and my family get a bag they can re-use all the time when shopping. The bags are quite big but even small presents are going in them because it matters. My presents will look nice and I hope my family and friends will learn from my example and get the message I’m trying to teach: Wasting paper on gift wrapping when you have other options available is not really acceptable.

On the flip side, if you get gifts wrapped in paper and you can’t re-use them for whatever reason do remember to recycle. It may be holiday time but popping paper in the recycle bin only takes a few seconds.

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