The Price of Pretty

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It's October and with that time to start thinking about the Holiday season. Cozy fires, soft blankets, couches and good books come to mind, the occasional punch or mulled wine and pretty packages of carefully selected gifts. That, at least, is how the advertisers want you to think of the Holidays.

The reality is often decidedly less charming and a lot more stressful. No need to elaborate, we all know from first hand experience ....

This blog is about one particular aspect of this pretty Holiday-picture: the lovely array of carefully wrapped gifts. If you read any of my other blogs you'll know that I am about to throw some serious shade on the idea that everything has to be wrapped up in beglittered, bedazzled, shiny, metallic gift wrap that gets torn up and discarded within seconds of the recipient holding it in their hands.

As always, I have some data for you. Let's start with money: Americans spent more than $9 billion on wrapping paper in 2010 (Wall Street Journal numbers, probably more now). That is an insane amount of money for something whose useful life is measured in minutes, hours at most. Just how much is it: roughly the same as the GDP of Ruanda or Benin or the GDPs of Bhutan, Belize and Mauritania combined. Seems absurdly wasteful when put in that context, doesn't it?

Money is one thing, waste is another. All that money buys us: about 4 million pounds of paper waste. Let's put that in perspective again: 4 million pounds of paper is enough to cover 333 million square feet or 5,787 NFL football fields. Now, I know very little about football fields - but that is some serious acreage.

The last step is to convert this number into trees. Here we go::

4 mio pounds of paper equals 2000 US tons

1 ton of unrecycled paper of the office paper type (let's just assume that gift wrapping isn't much lighter than that) requires 24 trees.

Wrapping our gifts consequentially requires 48,000 trees - every year!

Headed for the Landfill

And waste it is: most of that "paper" is headed for the landfill rather than being recycled. Why? Because of all the fancy stuff people like - the lamination, the glitter, the cool inks, the foil that makes it look iridescent - turns the paper into non-recyclable trash.

At FabMo we are all about keeping stuff out of the landfill and so this year we urge you to do a double whammy in landfill avoidance: reusable gift wrapping (landfill avoidance #1) made from rescued FabMo materials (landfill avoidance #2).

Here are some ideas:

  • Cute little gift boxes made from FabMo wallpaper. Bron our resident creative genius shows you how to do it in this Youtube video. These little treasures can be kept and reused for the next gift giving occasion.

  • Next, you can switch right over to another couple of Bron's videos and learn how to make adorable fabric pouches and cookie (or anything smallish) bags. Both can be reused several times.

  • Wine bottles look a lot more elegant in a fabric bottle holder. They are easy to make and will also be on sale at the FabMo Boutique. Reusable many times over - just tell the recipient about the designer fabric that went into making the bag.

  • Larger gifts can be wrapped in fabric. In Japan this is called Furoshiki and looks elegant, modern and green - all in one. If you google "Furoshiki gift wrapping" (Furoshiki alone gets you a bunch of stuff about a brand of shoes called Furoshiki) you'll get 637,000 results in 0.45 seconds. That should give you a good idea of how to do it.

  • Our newsletter in October is full of ideas on how to use wallpaper to make beautiful flowers and other decorations that can spice up a simple gift wrap made from recycled paper or even newsprint. Pretty doesn't have to be environmentally bad.

This picture and more info can be found at

This picture and more info can be found at

Last but not least, if you really want/need to use store bought wrapping paper: simple does it. Stay away from the shiny, glittery stuff so that it can at least be recycled.

One last thought: reusing gift wrapping paper is totally doable and okay. If you are a baby boomer or like me grew up in a country where being green has been a thing for several decades now (and to parents who were, well, frugal) you know how it works: carefully open the present, avoid tearing the paper, unwrap the gift and put the paper aside, carefully layering the sheets as flat as you can. Roll them up and keep them.

Think of it as the equivalent of slow food: slow unwrapping - drawing out the moment of suspense before noticing that all that pretty package contains is a pair of navy blue sock.

GreenTina Baumgartner