Monday, December 3, 2012

Reusable Gift Wrap: Yay or Nay?

The Climate Crusader considers reusable gift wrap.

A number of Christmases ago I made a decision: I was good at sewing, so I would sew some reusable gift bags. It seemed like a winner of an eco-friendly idea. When I went to look at the big plastic bin containing all of my wrapping supplies, though, I realized that the last thing I needed was more gift bags, reusable or otherwise.

My gift wrap collection, a number of years ago

Good-bye Wrap, Hello Bags

As paper and plastic gift bags overtook gift wrap in popularity, I amassed a massive collection. Each Christmas, birthday, and other special occasion I only added to it. I decided, instead, that I would use all of the gift bags I had on hand, since reusing something I already owned would surely be the greenest gift wrap option. I even had lots of tissue paper, which was still almost entirely wrinkle-free after its brief trip in a bag.

The Bags Keep Rolling In

Some four years later, I still haven't used all of my gift bags. In fact, with two young children who are well-loved by their extended family, I have even more. Many of the bags in my collection are on their third or fourth go-around, having been passed between family members over the course of a number of years. Once again this year I considered sewing gift bags, and once again I opened the bin and saw that new bags are the last thing in the world I need.

Reusable Overload

I love the idea of buying reusable products rather than disposable products. This is why I used cloth diapers, why I carry a stainless steel water bottle around with me, and why I have a lot of reusable bags. However, I think it's important to know when to draw the line with buying more reusable products. For instance, this summer I had to pass along some of my reusable bags, because I had more than I could ever use. People keep giving them to me, and having a bunch of them sitting in my closet collecting dust isn't really doing the earth any favours.

When to go Reusable

I feel the same way about gift bags as I do about shopping bags. If you don't have any gift wrap, opting for reusable over disposable seems like the obvious way to go. But if you have a whole bunch of gift wrap that will just go to the landfill, it makes more sense to get as much use out of it as possible, rather than buying something new. This is why, while I try to be as green as possible, you won't catch me sewing my own reusable gift bags. Although if someone wanted to use them for my gifts, I would absolutely keep them and reuse them, along with the rest of my gift bags.  

Do you have reusable gift bags? If so, what do you do with the disposable bags that come into your home? And do you ever suffer from reusable overload, when you just have too much of a good thing?


Eco Yogini said...

hmmm this is an interesting post!

i do have bags, and I reuse them, but I rarely have too many... maybe because we don't have children yet.

I agree though, AND I really like the physical act of unwrapping- so I've compromised by wrapping using the colourful funky local independent newspaper.

My mom even wrapped our gifts in newspaper :)

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Interesting -- we receive about as many bags as we need to give away. I made reusable bags for my own family's use. I wrote about how I made them in this post (I've sewn on a machine less than 10 times total ever -- just learned how last year):

I love how easy clean up is with fabric bags. But I won't be giving any away anytime soon -- only use them when I'll get them back to use again.

Green Bean said...

I have been doing the reusable gift bag thing for a while and the last few years have even freecycled a bunch that we had accumulated. On top of the enviro angle, they just make it easy to wrap!

Rosa said...

I had the exact same experience with reusable grocery bags - had to start donating any more that came my way, because so many places (like the blood donation center!) have been giving them away lately.

For gifts, I used scarves and did furoshiki-style wrapping for a few years, with thrift store scarves, but people kept keeping the scarves. Eventually I gave up.

My family aren't greenies, but very thrifty, so have always reused gift bags and decorated boxes. They get used many times, usually with the same tissue paper over and over. In fact, there was a pretty box from Estee Lauder that circled the family many times until finally a little girl I babysat for asked if she could have it, as her gift - just the pretty box.

Asking when "green" products are better than just using up what you have is a big question. I want to support green businesses, but we're already awash in things.
Like reusable sandwich bags - I snag the ziplocs other parents around me are about to throw out when we go on outings. I wash and reuse them. Someday, we may run out and I'll maybe buy a cute fabric replacement. But not yet.


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