Christmas is around the corner, and folks are busy shopping and wrapping gifts. Before you spend money on gift wrap and bags, I thought I would share some ideas for creative ways of wrapping.

Wrapping paper and gift bags are pretty wasteful. They are pretty, but cutting down all those trees, using tons of petroleum products in the inks, processing, transportation, just so packages look pretty and then go in the landfill. Let’s rethink this.

Let’s start by going through closets, drawers and anywhere else you might have some fabrics. If that old shirt, sweater, jacket, or tablecloth has seen its last days put it in the pile. If it’s red, green, white or Christmas fabric, add it to the pile and you get bonus points.

The newspaper editor, Jeff Fox, shared this one with me. Several years ago, his family gathered up all of their unused Christmas fabric items cut them up and made fabric bags out of them. His wife sewed them into bags of all sizes, adding a drawstring at the top. You could even make bundles of these cloth bags, in different sizes, and give them as gifts. They are a cheap, very Green, and very re-usable gift.

You would not have to sew the fabrics, I have seen packages wrapped in linens, boiled wool, and all kinds of fabric wrappings. You can tie them with an old necktie, ribbons, even twine. One of the big box stores has gotten into this and has very nice flannel bags in Christmas colors on their discount racks for this very thing. They sell out fast, so you have to grab them early!

One of my favorite things is to wrap gifts in paper grocery bags and tie them with twine, or jute, with a sprig of pine. They look incredible and very woodsy. You could even take leaves, pine cones, turkey feathers, or other natural items and press them into an ink pad; or paint them and press them onto the paper making your own creations. Have your kids add their special flair to giftwraps for Grandma or Grandpa, starting them on their own Green pathway. (Don’t use songbird feathers, however. That’s against the National Migratory Bird Act, and carries heavy fines.)

Now for gift cards: Keep those Christmas cards that friends and family send you. Get out your decorative scissors and cut around the designs on the cards. I’ve been doing this for years. You can cut around just the snowman, the gingerbread house, the nativity scene, whatever you like. The perfect Green gift card for your package! You can even collect holiday cards at work for this re-purposing.

There are lots more alternatives to presenting your gifts in a Green way. It just takes some thinking outside of the box. In the meantime, I’m dreaming of a Green Christmas!

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at