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King County EcoConsumer - a natural balance of consuming and conserving
King County EcoConsumer – a natural balance of consuming and conserving  

How King County residents green their holidays
A visit with Charissa Pomrehn

[+] EnlargeCharissa Pomrehn

Charissa Pomrehn writes The Gifted Blog, which provides green gift-wrapping ideas. She’s pictured here with her family, Noah (left), Nico, and husband Greg (photo by Michelle Brenhaug)

Q: How do you wrap kids’ presents?

A: I often find it a challenge to wrap my own kids' presents. Sometimes it's hard to find time away from them, other times it's such an accomplishment to procure the gift that wrapping becomes a low priority! For a last minute, no-waste solution, try a simple treasure hunt with a clue that leads to the gift's hidden location. I also wouldn't be above grabbing my son's blankie and bundling his gift up security-blanket style! I've also used a juice bottle to send a gift to my niece for a surprising and recycled touch.

Q: What about ideas for wrapping gifts with your kids?

A: I love using my son's art as gift wrap, and we've also collaborated to design our own wrapping paper using paints. For building fine-motor skills for the younger set, tear off several pieces of tape and let them tape up a gift. Using painter's tape or Japanese washi tape will let you reposition any stray pieces (or just leave them be; it's part of the charm!). Older kids who are practicing their writing skills can help label gifts. If a standard tag is too small for them, let them write directly onto the wrapping paper. I've also shared more ideas for gift wrapping with kids on my blog if you'd like to see!

Q: What inspired you to start looking for eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts?

A: I've always been drawn to gift wrapping with found objects, often items culled from the recycling bin. It feels playful to use materials I have on hand – it’s an opportunity to improvise. I’ve wrapped wedding gifts in maps, made ribbon out of ramen packages, and turned cookie boxes inside out to use as gift boxes. I was feeling a little self-conscious about using “garbage” for gift wrap when I stumbled upon a book about traditional Japanese packaging called How to Wrap Five More Eggs. Hideyuki Oka writes, “Doubtless the earliest packaging was accomplished by wrapping a given object in whatever material lay at hand.” Materials found in abundance (like bamboo leaves and rice straw) were turned into elegant packages. My own household somehow yields a “harvest” of recyclables and trash week after week, and these plentiful materials often inspire my gift wrapping practice.

Q: What are some of your favorite alternatives to standard gift wrapping?

A: Here are two examples of gift wrap I made: A bow made of netting from a bag of oranges, and a wooden box from a yard sale, tied with silk ribbon made from recycled saris. It’s satisfying for me to give a gift wrapped with something that otherwise would get thrown out.

I like to use materials that are easy to work with. Raffia, fabric ribbons and cloth are quite forgiving. These materials will look great even if you have to re-tie or adjust them, and they even travel well. As a bonus, they can be reused for future gifts and look good as new.

Q: Any more tips?

A: Christmas has the potential to be an amazing, celebratory season, but there are plenty of reasons it stresses us out. For anyone looking to make their gift wrapping a little greener, I would encourage them to make ONE small change and see how it goes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy ONE roll of recycled gift wrap (or vow to use up what you have!).
  • Decorate ONE special box to give gifts to your significant other year after year.
  • Pull ONE old scarf out of the closet to use as fabric gift wrap.
  • Switch out ONE store-bought bow for a pinecone (or evergreen sprig).
  • Make ONE fabric bag to be used for gift-giving within your family.

For more ideas, visit me at The Gifted Blog to learn how to incorporate nature in your wrapping, how to start a treasure box tradition, and for 8 gift wrap ideas that even gift-wrapping haters can get behind!

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Updated: Nov. 27, 2013


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