Happy Birthday: Gift Wrap On My Mind

So this Saturday was my son’s 2nd birthday party (his birthday is actually today) – we had a great time, especially after I made the executive decision the night before to purchase an ice cream cake at the grocery store, rather than attempting to bake 2 cakes on top of all the other cleaning and preparation we had to do for our 25 guests. The cake was delicious and I only felt a little bit of guilt.

He got a ton of great new toys, like a fantastic work bench from his aunt, a musical sit’n’spin, play dough, cool new clothes, a golf set, and god, I could go on… When the party was over and I found myself cleaning up that night, throwing away all the trash from the event, my heart kind of fell into my stomach. Apart from the trash that got thrown into our recycling bins (including pizza and other nasty things that made me opt to just throw it all out, rather than try to sort out the debris) and the dozen paper plates and cups that I purchased to avoid a night of dishes, there was the gift wrap and bags.

In the past I would keep all gift bags I received with the intention to reuse them – but there’s a problem with that – one, I never manage to store them very well, so they get wrinkled and ugly and totally un-presentable for a new present. Two, the ones I use for hauling my own belongings inevitably get torn and worn and have broken in my husband’s hands, making him the opposite of a fan of reused gift bags. There has to be a better way. Shopping for gift wrap can be an annoyance anyway – the prices are sky rocket high and it often seems you have to make a compromise to get something within your budget that looks how you want. And so much of it is absurdly cheap in quality – I’ve purchased numerous rolls that are literally transparent – so I have to wrap the gift twice so it’s contents aren’t immediately visible.

This weekend I talked to my husband about the idea of buying packaging paper (you know the chic brown paper that comes in big rolls) and then using fancy yarns and ribbons and our son (and other future children)’s drawing skills to decorate. For bags, I’d try to purchase a similar style of plain brown bag. It would have that timeless look that I love and be much easier to pick out and find. And if it’s plain paper it should be fairly good at decomposing even if it does end up in a landfill. I know this wouldn’t solve my problem of having to throw away gift bags from other people, but at least I’d be setting a good example, knowing I’d done my part.

Hands down, the gift wrap winner this year was my good friend Amanda, whose gift came in a black canvas bag – now there’s a bag I can reuse without my husband cringing! That is another idea I may take as my own, depending on the gift / recipient / and my budget that month. I love the idea of the packaging being reusable, but it would definitely be a slightly more expensive method.

What do you guys look for in gift wrap? Any ideas that you love? Any thoughts on my efforts to be slightly more eco savvy where gift wrap (or even life in general) are concerned? I know, I know – the paper plates and thrown out recyclables were a pretty bad idea – but sometimes sanity needs to be sought out first, right? Much like a diet, you can’t be 100% good every day. But if you are 75% good most days, it will be a pretty good start, right?


  1. Ugh, we just had a birthday party, and the trash just about killed me. I have a huge gift bag that I store all the other bags in…the sides are all taped up, but with reinforcement it’s holding up well.

    When we don’t have an appropriate bag, we sometimes recycle the comics (kids love this!), or make a fabric bag. I’m also still using up the last of my wrapping paper, and I’m hoping not to buy any more.


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