Gifts With a Repurpose: Creative, low cost, meaningful, more sustainable presents

Holiday gift giving has spiraled to incredible levels, taxing our time, bank accounts and the environment.

A few years ago, I started giving and asking for charitable donations in lieu of gifts, and my family has been good sports about it. (Check out the Center for a New America Dream’s excellent “Simplify the Holidays” campaign for ideas & inspiration to create a simpler, more meaningful celebration that gives more in every way.)

It’s still fun to exchange meaningful physical gifts, though. Repurposing things we don’t need, or that would become trash, into unique, useful presents is a great way to do this in a way that’s positive all around.

As a gift to creative, repurposeful, resourceful readers looking for ideas for sustainable, low cost/free, DIY presents, here are a few of my favorite creations for inspiration. (Notes: More photos here. More info/photos for the dress, made for my niece from a shirt her mom/my sister made me, here.)

Wrap it up in style, too…

Color comics and newspaper with content of interest are great for wrapping. You can also make a simple reusable bag to wrap items, encouraging reuse and resource conservation year round.

Non-recyclable paper-foil chocolate bar wrappers are perfect for decorations, like origami birds, snowflakes or stars, and you can get creative with non-recyclable packaging too (on the right: Bow/tag made from Kettle packaging I fished out of recipient’s trash and rinsed off.). Conifer cones and branch segments are always nice for an elegant, seasonal touch.

Tips for working with plastic films (like food packaging)

  • Make the material stronger by fusing the layers. Iron between two paper shopping bags and iron on low heat for 5-10 seconds, moving the iron back and forth. Test after a few seconds and iron more if needed
  • Sew pieces together by overlapping the edges and using a zig-zag stitch. A straight stitch will perforate the material

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