Dear Umbra,

Any suggestions on where to find recycled wrapping paper? I know the real environmental choice is to reuse stuff I have around the house, but sometimes newspaper, etc., just doesn’t have the right look. Any ideas where I can find recycled/tree-free wrapping paper for the holiday season? I’ve been looking around (both online and off) but all I can find is rolls of brown packing paper. I want something a little more festive.


Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Dearest Lisa,

Here at Grist, your holiday needs come first, so I called a few of my favorite paper stores, in New York and elsewhere, and sure enough, they had no recycled gift wrap. I felt badly for doubting you — until I searched Google for “recycled gift wrap” and came up with heaps of sites. It looks as if several companies offer reborn wrap online. One in Germany makes pretty designs with names like “Shakespeare” and “le bistro.” In the tree-free category, you also appear to have beaucoup de choix, including some hemp/flax/cotton paper embellished with Thoreau quotations.

Here are a few other wrapping notions for the low-impact Martha Stewart wannabes among us: 1. Engage the children in your life with scissors and glue; if an adult makes it, it’s a cheap craft — but if children make it, it’s heartwarming art. 2. Use your newspaper pages as a base for festive magazine collages. 3. Decorate paper bags and tie them with ribbons. 4. Use pieces of fabric. 5. Wrap things in reusable containers, such as canvas shopping bags, storage jars, hats, and towels. Two gifts in one! And if you were really dedicated, you could 6. Make your own paper in a blender, out of various scraps, flower, and insects you have lying around your house, and — Voila! — your very own uber-eco gift wrap.

Next time you’re looking for alternatives on the computer, I suggest you try using the “advanced search” options that most search engines provide. Using quotes around a phrase such as “recycled gift wrap” will tell a search engine to look for that specific combination of words. Such tricks can be very helpful in directing the little Internet Elves in their quest for truly tree-free gift concealment.

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