Bring some joy to the world Try some of these Christmas gift-wrapping alternatives that reduce all that Boxing Day waste

During the holiday season, the familiar refrain is more likely to be “deck the halls” than “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/12/2018 (1565 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

During the holiday season, the familiar refrain is more likely to be “deck the halls” than “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

However, during this season of general gluttony and excess, it’s important to find ways to cut back on waste in other areas, perhaps providing a bit of balance in a time of conspicuous consumption.

Canadians will send more than 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags to the garbage dump this year — that’s like 100,000 elephants — and Christmastime is the worst offender. Over the holidays worldwide, about 365,000 kilometres’ worth of wrapping paper gets thrown away — enough to circle the world nine times.

Despite what you’ll see overflowing from back-lane blue bins on Boxing Day, commercial wrapping paper is not recyclable; nor is tissue paper.

Gift bags, with their twine or cloth handles, glittery appliqués and high-gloss coating, are also destined for the landfill unless you save them for reuse.

So how to avoid the totally unfun and kind of Grinchy move of putting unwrapped presents under the tree?

In the sunny second-floor studio of her West End home, Reclaim Mending’s Anna-Marie Janzen has one possible solution: a collection of cloth gift bags and sheets of fabric wrapping “paper” that can be used over and over.

Made of Christmas-themed fabrics that she picks up at second-hand stores — she’s partial to the Mennonite Central Committee thrift shop on Sargent Avenue — the bags are colourful, festive and simple to use, with drawstring closures that mean there’s no need for tissue paper.

The bag or wrap can be included as part of a gift or, if it’s an inter-family celebration, saved for reuse next year.

The bags come in a variety of sizes — large, short, square, long and irregular — and patterns, and range in price from $5 to $12 (the extra-large, $15, is sold out). The sheets of gift wrap start at $4 — you can use tape or safety pins to fasten it, or simply tie items inside it.

Janzen, whose grandmother taught her to sew, sells the products via her website,, and even provides free delivery in the city.

Reclaim Mending is a one-woman company Janzen started about 2 1/2 years ago; it is devoted to repairing instead of discarding, repurposing instead of buying new.

In the corner of her studio is a rack of wedding dresses, some chic and stylish, others woefully frilly and unfashionable.

“I do alterations for brides and then I also work with Pearl and Birch, which is a consignment dress shop. I take dresses that are too old, or really outdated and I make them into more modern dresses,” she explains. “This one here used to look like it was a replica of Princess Diana’s dress,” she says, holding up a work in progress. “And this one was hideous,with weird long sleeves and beadwork, and the skirt was ridiculous, so I just took it all apart and put it back together in a way that is more modern.”

In the corner is a stack of jeans that look as good as new after she’s repaired worn spots in the seat; she also repairs holes in knitwear.

Janzen, who also offers one-on-one and group sewing lessons, points out that while it’s easy to find a tailor, few will take on mending projects, such as patching and remaking items. She’s noticed a slow but steady uptick in the number of people who are opting to have their clothing mended instead of throwing them out.

“Especially in a city like Winnipeg, I feel like we’re in a really good spot for it,” she says. “There’s so many makers and skilled people, I feel like it’s more of a cultural thing here.”

• • •

Some folks couldn’t be happier to avoid the chore of wrapping by chucking presents in a one-size-fits-all bag or tying them up in a pretty scarf, but others enjoy the tradition of slicing through paper with sharp shears, making sharp corners, tackling the challenge of oddly shaped offerings.

For those people, we offer the Fraulein Maria option: Brown paper packages tied up with string. Done with care and artistic flair, even plain brown wrapping can be one of your favourite things — and it’s reusable (if unwrapped carefully) and recyclable.

Kraft paper can be found at craft, package and dollar stores (often sold on a roll, so you can buy the length you need without getting excess packaging). Stationery stores and craft stores like Michaels sell ink pads and festive stamps so you can pattern your own wrapping paper (a potential Christmas craft day for kids). Use brightly coloured fabric ribbon or bows — tie loosely for easy removal without cutting — to give it more polish. Public General Store at 156 Sherbrook St., has some nice rustic twine that would add to the old-timey esthetic.

Good old-fashioned newspaper is also a time-honoured option (may we direct you to our subscription department at 204-697-7001?). The colour comics make for a more festive-looking package, but even the black-and-white of an editorial page can look elegant (check out Pinterest for a host of ideas on how to use newsprint stylishly). It can be jazzed up with reusable bows and ribbon, or little decorative touches such as sprigs of mistletoe, gilded leaves or feathers. Just be sure to save the decorations for reuse.

Locally, stationery store Tiny Feast at 217 McDermot Ave., sells a line of classy wrap printed on recycled paper (they also have lovely stamps and inkpads), while American company Wrappily sells beautifully patterned giftwrap that’s printed on newspaper presses from 100 per cent recyclable newprint using soy-based inks. It also sells cotton curling ribbon, hemp twine and paper ribbon.

Other paper options? Repurpose the picture pages from a 2018 calendar for smaller items or use an old map — both items are recyclable.

No matter what kind of wrap you use, remember to go easy on the tape and to remove it and any decorative items before putting the paper in the blue bin.

Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.


Updated on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 1:55 PM CST: Fixes typo

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