The other day, I was making out a shopping list for a Target run, and one of the things I wrote down was “gift bags.” Gift bags. Little paper bags that will set me back about $1.79 each and probably end up in the landfill. Surely, I thought, there must be a more eco-friendly option for prettily presenting my Christmas gifts. I’ve read “green” holiday tips that suggest wrapping presents in pages from magazines or outdated calendars, but I’ve never seen anything that addresses making your own green gift bags. And I prefer bags to wrapping paper: they make wrapping a snap, they give diminutive gifts more heft, and they’re easier than paper to save and reuse.
Then my mind went to the collection of shopping bags in my closet. Because I tend to hang on to things that may someday be useful, and also because I try to limit what I send to the landfill, I have bags full of … more bags. I don’t purchase trash bags — ever — because the plastic bags from Target work just as well. Paper grocery bags (of which I amass very few, because I take my canvas bags to the supermarket 99.9% of the time) are used to hold and transport all my recycling. And shopping bags from department stores or the mall are great when you need to tote something large. But the small paper bags (the kind you get from specialty stores such as Bath & Body Works or Victoria’s Secret) seem to keep piling up. I have dozens of them. And I realized, they’re about the same size as those Christmas gift bags I was planning to pick up at Target.
So I decided to try my hand at refurbishing some of the bags I already owned. While at Target, I picked up some spray adhesive (probably not the most eco-friendly choice, I admit, but glue sticks are messy, and I had a lot of affixing to accomplish). Back at home, I set myself to the task of tearing out Christmas images from magazines and catalogs. I’m a magazine junkie, so I had plenty of material on hand.
I approached the project with some trepidation, fearing it would be too difficult and time-consuming and I would have to give up and resort to a more commercial Christmas. It did take some time to collect the pictures, especially since I was trying to group images together in complementary arrangements. I may have to be less choosy if I have any hope of making enough bags to accommodate all my Christmas gifts. I may also have to abandon the effort to hide the fact that the images came from magazines, and just embrace the look of articles and ad copy mixed with images (which will probably actually look really cool, now that I think about it). Adhering the paper to the bags was much easier than I anticipated, thanks to the wonder that is spray adhesive (seriously, have you ever used it? It’s amazing stuff).
By the end of the night, I had completed my first bag and started on three others. I completely covered the first bag with Christmas tree scenes. For some others, I used brown paper bags from Aveda and covered only what was necessary, letting the rustic look of the brown paper show through. Now that I know how to approach things, I should be able to complete several bags at a time. I’ll be glad to be rid of my bag collection, and even happier to be taking what would have been trash and make something beautiful and useful out of it.
Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.