Eco audit: reusing items for wrapping presents

I grew up with a golden rule for what to do with Christmas cards at the end of the festive season.  Turn them into tags for next year’s presents.  Ideally, cut with pinking shears to make zigzag edges for greater interest.

I can visualise my mother doing this.  The pinking shears were a particular source of interest, given that a) they were hefty and excitingly dangerous-looking and b) they didn’t appear very often.

And yes.  I still do this.  I don’t have the pinking shears.  I don’t feel the need for the crinkly edges on the tags.  But it works just fine – and you recycle the back of the card, by the way.

There was also an expectation that you would keep, and reuse wrapping paper.  I don’t know whether Mum took it and ironed it before reusing it (though I have a feeling brown paper did get ironed and reused).  No surprise – I have my stashes of wrapping paper to reuse.

When you meet your Significant Other, there are many things to work out.  Subtle ways in which families differ.  Does your beloved favour saving wrapping paper – or just rip it open?

When I have been known to open some presents with scissors, cutting the tape so you can reuse all the paper, you can imagine that some eyebrows have been raised.  (All those who wish to check OCD tendencies may as well begin here.)

Dan did however put me on to the notion of buying plain wrapping paper, in colours like red or gold, which can work for any time of year, any occasion.  Still useful.

What would my teenage environmentalist be familiar with – and surprised by?  Perhaps that there would be so many shopping services taking on the task of doing the wrapping for you.  The rise of internet shopping, leading to the growing number of Jiffy bags about.

Jiffy bags, however, do not always cross cultures.  In the UK, we’re fairly familiar with reusing these – as long as your new label is clear, you can keep sending them on, and on.

But when I tried doing this in Poland, in my second time living there, I was taken to task by the local post office.  The implication was that the parcel looked like it had been tampered with.  (Perhaps not so unknown in Communist days.) Thankfully I did get my parcel sent at last, but it was a bit of a battle.

What gives us a good half-way house is the present bag – whether bottle bag or something bigger.  These again can be used over and over – new label, new sellotape at the top, and you’re away.  And the paper is often too tricky to tear, so people just open them.

In fact, I’m not the only one who finds the wrapping paper thing tricky.  But these days, you can read craft websites that direct you in making fabric bags for present wrapping, that can be used almost indefinitely.

You can also do fancy paper reusing – the one I liked most had presents wrapped in old newspapers but tied with lovely ribbon.  (Which could itself be reused.)

Is it a big deal? Is it just me and packaging again? There again, I don’t know how many rolls of wrapping paper are sold each year – and how many are just crumpled after the present has been removed.

In the meantime, I need to find a use for the little scraps of wrapping paper that are too small to actually wrap a present – but might still have another purpose.  Any suggestions?