All Wrapped Up

Or almost, anyway… The Hanukkah and Kwanzaa teams are not yet completely out of the woods, so for their sakes – and while I’m thinking about it – here are a few rules to wrap by if you’re keen to save a tree without having the presents look frumpy:

1. We are still waiting for the day when earth-friendly inclinations in this department are universally understood and admired. When in doubt, either go the safe route with new (recycled-content) paper; wrap the present in something else that is itself a present – a pretty new dish towel is the classic – or else don’t wrap it at all. The arts and crafts approach – using the funny papers, for instance – is as useful for saving money as it is for saving resources, so if you’re not careful it can just make you look cheap instead of green.

2. Homemade wrappings are only a good choice if you are good at these things and have plenty of time on your hands. My stepdaughter Celia makes such lovely collages out of bits of bark, twigs and old magazines we hate to open her presents, but if you’re not craftily inclined you end up with yet one more thing to do, and one more thing to feel inadequate about if you’re older than 10.

3. Reusing is more resource-protective than recycling, but it works best if you think of it before you’re sitting there surrounded by billowing waves of torn wrapping. Some tips:

* Tape is the enemy of paper, so before you start cutting and folding, stick a whole row of small tape pieces to the edge of a plate. If it’s easy to use less, you will.

* Consider reuse when buying paper. Mylar is difficult to crease, so if you don’t work at creasing it, it will come off the package looking as smooth as it did when it went on. Tissue paper wrinkles at the mere thought of being used, but tissue paper looks good wrinkled — if the wrinkling is thorough enough. Crush slightly-used paper into balls so it’s well and truly crinkly, like shirred fabric, then use multiple layers and multiple colors to give a festive effect.

* If you are, as I am, a sucker for gorgeous paper that has no redeeming social value outside of being beautiful, you can still amass plenty of green points by reusing as much of it as possible. The trick is to have a cardboard wrapper tube ( or tubes) handy at present-opening time, so you can roll up the used paper before some helpful relative folds it tightly into neat, deeply creased piles. Most of the smooth paper it takes to wrap a large box will remain completely new-looking if you rescue it in time. We keep this going until the smooth pieces are so small all you can wrap is a candy bar – an excellent present, by the way, if it’s something from Michel Cluizel.

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