From Rags to Ribbons: 10+ Ideas for Eco-Friendly Gift-Wrapping
Recycled, recyclable and budget-friendly. And of course: aesthetically pleasing.
Yes, you can turn rags and very loved materials into a stunning presentation/work of art, all possible thanks to a little creativity. Hear me out. When I was about 15 years old, our ecology teacher Suzanne taught us a quote by scientist Lavoisier ‘Rien ne se perd, rien ne se créé, tout se transforme’ (basically stating that in nature, nothing is created or lost, rather transformed into new elements, or into new lives if you want to get deeply spiritual) and you might think, sure, she was talking about cells, atoms, particles, and anything but ribbons Karine. But it stuck with me and I have lived my entire life accordingly: I give a second, third life to absolutely everything.
From the older, ugly vegetables in the fridge that nobody wants to eat (Broth! Stir-fry! Smoothie!), to the wine bottle that was opened for a little too long (Risotto! Mushroom anything!), to the tiny amounts of pasta and rice left in each box that were forgotten (Mix them into an epic soup!). But today, we are stepping out of the kitchen (pause for reaction) and talking gift wrapping. I am not only utterly obsessed with the topic; I also consider myself quite crafty when it comes to wrapping or making packages look cute. If I merely know you, I have wrapped something on some occasion and presented you with a box.
Lastly, it had to be mentioned (a disclaimer!?): every single PR package I have received in the past 4 years (hundreds, gosh I love Instagram!) has been taken apart and scattered around town: the box, which I neatly folded behind furniture until needed, has been used for Christmas gifts, the ribbons for a friend's birthday, and anything inside (tissue paper, bubble wrap, any type of confetti-look-alike) has wrapped other friend's gifts. Oh and I always keep the cards. Who wouldn't!?
One, End-of-Summer Herbs
This is a 2-for-1: the outgrown rosemary stems can be both a beautiful decoration for any type of gift (ahem, not just Christmas!- although paired with a cranberry branch? Heck yes!) or, an accessory making your basic candle an accent piece for a Thanksgiving dinner table!p I just lace them upright all around the candle and then tie a nice bow with a garden rope. For the gift, I used recyclable white paper from the dollar store. An easy yes. And, at the risk of repeating myself: add cranberries for that pop of colour- and festive look!
Two, Telling a Story: Kraft Paper and Printed Pictures
I have used this concept on a few occasions: my friend's engagement party/bridal shower (each box had a photo concept: where they met, where they travelled to together, the night of the proposal, etc. It was really sweet for her to relieve those moments on an already blissful and emotional day, and it was a perfect ice breaker for people at the party- family members/cousins who travelled in, and friends, some meeting for the first time). I also used it for my boyfriend's mother's birthday. What's a better way for mothers to feel accomplished and happy with their lives than to look at the babies they welcomed into this world!? And I mean. Those smiles. Oh and duh: Kraft paper is recycled, recyclable, and can be adorned with just about any ribbon you have laying around or, in my case that day, cooking string (I use it to tie herbs and beans together in stews!). So think about it next time you receive a package in the mail: can I use this? The answer is always yes.
Three, Use Elements in Nature
For a few Christmases now, I have been using pine branches to adorn packages, paired with simple cooking or gardening ropes (ahem, and if all else fails, old choker necklaces). Yup, you heard that correctly: I reuse necklaces and hair accessories I know I can never possibly inflict on myself again. Can you spot them? Hard to, I know!
I also used pine cones from our backyard paired with burlap sacks turned into ribbons and I was very happy with the result! Rustic chic. Look down next time you walk to your car or bus stop- you might love what you find!
Four, The Dollar-Store Dollies
Not much to add. How sweet do these look on all types of square/rectangular-shaped boxes!? Also, the Kraft paper makes for a perfect combo. Highly recommend, if you can't tell yet.
Five, From Gender Reveal to Garland-ing Away
Any piece of paper can be turned into a GARLAND. From a generic 'baby girl/boy' bag (which you will typically receive dozens of in your life as a young parent) to adorable flag garlands! So don't throw those baby gender bags out, no matter how useless you might think they are : look at their colours and patterns, and cut them out!
Six, 1 Sheet. 3 Boxes.
For my friend Melanie's birthday, I found one sheet of scrapbook paper which I loved and used it on 3 different boxes, paired with recycled paper and ribbons! I also did the cake topper myself that night- it was a castle, for her upcoming trip to Scotland where her actual family crest and castle were awaiting. Article on DIY cake toppers to come. Spoiler alert: I've created TONS.
Seven, One Word: Balloons.
When I was 33 weeks pregnant and oh so fabulous, I was super excited to wrap an engagement gift for my friend with an idea I pulled out of my Pinterest daydreams: balloons on a box. Truth is, by the time we made it to brunch (oh how I miss the pre-covid days when a pregnant woman could safely enjoy orange juice in a Champagne flute with girlfriends- in public), the balloons had popped out of their scotch tape prisons and flown all around the back of the car. So I showed up with a Kraft paper box adorned with oddly shaped pink ribbon lines? But you know they had a purpose.
Eight, Tissue Paper Sheets Have Many Lives
Tissue paper: use it as wrapping paper - it cannot be recycled. I know this hurts to read. So the least you can do, is give it a few lives. If you did not buy it in the first place (I receive so much in PR packages) the very least you can do is give a fancy last (or last ten or twelve) Hooray (s). Bonus, my friend Amanda actually kept the ribbons for her hair. Ugh, I love us.
Nine, Why pay for the dots? At-home Polka Dots Paper.
Alright here's the thing. This takes practice. I would go on Pinterest to watch far more qualified DIY experts for this one. But hey, I wanted to mention it, and as this is my blog, I had to try it for myself. So a little white paint, recycled paper, and the dab of a pencil eraser! Messy chic.
Ten, Floral Arrangement
A couple of years ago, I was flying back to Paris for a lovely friend's birthday when I was hit with the ugly truth that is the list of French aviation laws. No, you cannot fly with plants. So, with a few tears coming up, I shot these pictures on my tiny balcony before stuffing these plain paper boxes between my piles of clothes neatly rolled in my suitcase (now that I think about it, it was rather daring to bring a glass of wine, but it was sooo pretty!). I like to think that everywhere I have travelled to and spent time at friends' places, they have something to remember me by. And not like, a hug red wine stain on the carpet. No no. Like a cute decor item, a wine glass, a beautiful dish.
A little something that was packaged, wrapped, and smuggled through borders with love. And that can be said for many things.
More to come: how I planned, budgeted and designed my own baby shower, my friend's birthday dinners, and how I threw a lavish surprise party on a budget (this article is already posted and linked here).