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It’s a wrap!

Create beautiful gifts without waste and know how to avoid disaster

POSTED: December 23, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Can these Times employees wrap three gifts in 10 minutes?

Shannon Casas and Keith Albertson face off for a gift wrap challenge: They need to wrap three gifts each in 10 minutes.

/Times staff photo

When it comes to gift-wrapping, the proper presentation is everything.

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Gifts themselves are nice, but presentation is everything.

The wrapping is the first thing your loved one will see when you give them your present, so make it count.

Bill Cosby drove that point home on an old episode of "The Cosby Show," where he played the role of Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

In this particular scene, Cosby's character made his potential son-in-law's mouth water when he described a porterhouse steak dinner, with all the trimmings. The imagined dinner is ruined when Huxtable tells him the wonderful meal is being served on a trash can lid, fresh off a bin of garbage.

"It's in the presentation," Huxtable said.

For most Americans, pretty gift presentations means hitting the store for rolls of fancy wrapping paper and shiny bows. Americans generate 25 percent more garbage than average — an extra 1 million tons a week — during the holidays, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Most of that waste is gift wrap and bags.

According to some crafting communities with an eye on Earth-friendly materials, forgoing traditional wrapping paper doesn't mean you have to be a Scrooge and skip the wrapping altogether.

Rather, it's an opportunity to create one-of-a-kind gifts. A piece of jewelry or a few buttons can add sparkle and elegant touches to the outside of a package.

Gifts can be enhanced with sweet touches of whimsy, including a muffin cup bow, doilies, a rhinestone brooch from the thrift store and clothespins to attach homemade gift tags.

Other Earth-friendly wrapping to consider: pages from an old calendar, blueprint paper, old newspapers or sheet music. Consider recyclable options, such as newsprint, butcher wrap or brown paper grocery bags.

If you have children, involve them in the wrapping process by having them decorate the paper with finger paints.

You may even want to consider skipping the paper altogether. What kid wouldn't want to find a bubble-wrapped gift under the tree?

Other non-paper wrapping options include fabric scraps, aluminum foil, burlap or tea towels. Consider using the gifts themselves for the wrapping.

For example, wrap a gift with a dress shirt and necktie. If you really want to get creative and resourceful, think outside the box.

When looking for container for your gifts, check the kitchen pantry. A cereal box can be turned inside out and adorned with garden cutting fastened with recycled ribbon.

Clean takeout containers, shoeboxes and even a Pringles can wrapped in recycled paper or fabric will also store gifts nicely.

No matter which route you take, completely repurposed or brand new materials, think about how you can keep your materials out of the landfill.

When buying gift bags or wrapping paper, choose solid colors or less holiday specific prints. That way, you can use them all year long.

While you are wrapping, save "scrap" pieces of paper to use on smaller gifts or to create gift tags.

After your presents have been opened, see what boxes, ribbon and gift bags can be saved and used again.

If you must use gift-wrapping paper, avoid cheap, thin paper — you're asking for a tear. Be sure your scissors are sharp to get a good edge, and use small pieces of tape. Fold over edges on prints so the pattern matches up. And creasing the edges will add a crisp, polished touch.

Men vs. women

Too much tape, not enough paper and forgetting to remove the price tag are but a few of wrapping's cardinal sins. And women know most men are notorious for committing them all.

So which gender is better at gift wrapping? We at The Times decided to put it to the test with a Wrap Off.

Times staffers Shannon Casas and Keith Albertson went roll to roll in a 10-minute test to see who could produce the prettiest wrapped gifts.

Both were given 10 minutes, comparable gifts and supplies and a little Christmas music to get them in the mood.

The verdict: While some men have a finesse for presentation, most would be better off bagging it.

MCT Information Services contributed to this article.


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