Let us picture a perfect Christmas morning / Birthday Party. Beautifully wrapped presents with bows made of ribbons and sparkly tapes. The vibe is colourful and inviting. Some gifts are wrapped so beautifully that we contemplate whether to open them or not. Excited children ripping the paper to see if Santa really got what they wanted. Grownups carefully unwrapping the paper so as to save it for future use. Such a beautiful and happy sight.
Here is what we can’t picture – loads of chemicals in the air and tiny pieces of micro plastics that we and our children inhale in the moment. Could we have ever imagined the indoor air being polluted because of something as innocent as a wrapping paper? Never. But we never imagined wrapping paper and other gift decoration items as harmful things for us humans and the environment.
Wrapping paper is lined with plastic. It contains brain-damaging lead, cancer-causing chemicals and should be kept away from small children, landfills and fireplaces. Dr. Sidney A. Katz told the American Chemical Society recently that pigments used in 17 samples of gift wrap tested contained a variety of toxic metals, including copper and zinc as well as lead and chromium. There are no regulations on use or disclosure of toxic metal content in paper pigments. Some manufacturers, including Hallmark Cards Inc., which leads the field with over 200 wrapping paper designs, describe their products as lead-free, but the assertions have not been fully tested. These claims are likely efforts to greenwash their consumers. Read more on Greenwashing here.
Further more there are no appropriate ways to dispose off wrapping papers. Any method used to dispose them (even after reusing multiple times) is affecting the environment adversely. Some people burn them in a fireplace or fire pit. This releases the harmful chemicals into the air that people around breathe in. This could result into lead poisoning, cancer, memory problems and many more depending on what chemicals were used while manufacturing. They cannot be recycled. All wrapping papers and decorations are laced with plastic. The inks used on them to make them pretty are not conducive to recycling either.
Minute pieces of glitter from wrapping paper and decorations find their way into the drains. Starting from the obvious trash disposal to the one stuck in your hair/clothes going down the drain. Eventually after find their way into the ocean, they pollute the water, get consumed by innocent sea creatures and prove fatal.
However it is hard to deny the sense of accomplishment one gets while wrapping gifts and the exhilarating thrill while opening them. Here is how you can still enjoy it.
The Japanese art of Furoshiki is nothing but wrapping in cloth. Traditionally it was used to carry things around while traveling. But now it is an art of eco friendly gift wrapping. You don’t need to buy anything (except the present itself). Upcycle a beautiful shirt, sheet, tea towel etc you may already have. Save some money and create no waste in the process.
2) Kraft Paper
There is a certain charm to the hassle-free rustic brown kraft paper. It is available in huge rolls that can be stored away in a corner till you need to use it. It is reusable and 100% recyclable. Be mindful to skip the usual plastic tape. Use kraft paper tape or a homemade glue with all-purpose flour and water. Tie it up with a jute rope or cotton thread and stick in a sprig of rosemary to add to the beauty. You can find some beautiful and festive, yet eco-friendly tags to go on here.
3) Eco-friendly gift bags
If wrapping a present in cloth is not something you are comfortable with, just use a plain reusable cotton gift bag. You can stitch a bag as big or as small as you want using an old t-shirt or pretty sheets.
4) Newspaper gift wrap
If you have some newspaper lying around or you picked some up at your local clubhouse, save it to wrap a present. It is more common than most people think.
5) Glass Jars
Bake some homemade goodies or cook up a stash of homemade gifts and fill up those glass jars. You can buy new ones or give new life to old ones. Tie a cute burlap ribbon and decorate with some pine leaves.
These tips don’t have to be limited to Christmas. Birthdays, Anniversaries, other milestones are also a good time use them. These are small steps we can take today for a greater good. Considering the number of presents opened around the year and the amount of wrapping paper and decorations that is trashed, unique ways to wrap up presents can make a big difference and save money in the long run. Every long journey begins with one step, even if it is replacing wrapping paper with sustainable alternatives. Let us take the holiday season as an opportunity to make a change and set an example to our children who are the future of this Earth.
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By Kritika Rao
Pic Credit: Lucie Liz from Pexels.