Save some cash (and the planet!) with these guilt-free gift wrapping ideas

In a perfect world, we'd carefully unwrap gifts and save the paper for reuse next year. But tearing apart wrapping paper is about 98 percent of the fun of unwrapping holiday gifts, isn't it? Still, gift wrap accounts for much of the 25 percent spike in waste during the holiday season. Meanwhile, according to The Use Less Stuff Report, reuse of just two feet of ribbon per family would save enough of the trimming to tie a bow around the entire planet. That's a whole lot of ribbon.

If the mounds of colorful wrapping paper on your living room floor make you feel a little guilty-wasteful, even-here are a few creative reuse ideas to ease your conscience.

The repetitive patterns of wallpaper are very similar to that of wrapping paper. Check your garage or closets for wallpaper scraps or samples you may have leftover.

Create a reusable "Hollywood box" by wrapping a lid and box separately, or cover an old shoebox to put your gift into. Your box will be so pretty that the receiver is sure to reuse it to give another gift, or as a memory box, or coupon holder in the off-season.

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Proud parents keep stacks and stacks of finger paintings, colorings, drawings, and other kid-created art. Wrapping gifts for grandparents and teachers with the colorful pages is both eco-friendly and it may even come off as thoughtful. Go figure.

Old sheet music makes a great wrap for CDs, LPs, or just about any other gift. A festive red bow against the swirls of musical notes makes for a beautiful package.

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Eliminate waste altogether by shrouding gifts in practical fabrics. Gather holiday cookies, or a coffee mug into a colorful dish towel tied with a bow. Consider wrapping gloves in a scarf, or a picnic basket in a fun, checkered tablecloth. Stuff an oven mitt with baking utensils. Be creative!

Brown shipping paper is another all-purpose wrap that you can jazz up with artistic folding and embellishments. As wrapmaster Jane Means demonstrates here, you can create a striking package wrapped in leftover shipping paper that is worthy of a special hand delivery.

For even more green-wrapping ideas, see Guilt-Free Gift Wrapping at