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Fabric Bags Are A Good Way To Go Green During The Holidays

540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags are thrown out each year in Canada.
_curly_ via Getty Images

Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s (almost) daily guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.

Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Every Monday through Friday, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.

Today’s habit: Make fabric bags in lieu of buying gift wrap for your Christmas gifts.

For whenever you’re feeling: Like you want to stop creating more waste; like you want to make a unique, homemade gift.

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What it is: Fabric bags used as Christmas “wrapping” isn’t a new idea, but it’s something people are thinking about as we learn more about the effects our waste has on the planet.

When I was a kid, my mom used homemade fabric bags to wrap my and my sister’s Christmas gifts, and although at the time I wished they were wrapped with the “fancy” gift wrap, over time I appreciated the thought my mom put into being eco-conscious. Plus, the bags were really cute and festive.

Now that I have a kid, I’m trying to be more conscious about my carbon footprint. So, starting this year, I’m sewing fabric bags to wrap my Christmas gifts in instead of buying wrapping paper and gift bags.

WATCH: Eco-friendly gift ideas. Story continues below.

How it can help: According to Zero Waste Canada, 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags are thrown out each year in Canada. And many holiday items, such as gift bags, tape, ribbon, and wrapping paper that contains mixed materials such as foil, glitter, and plastic can’t be recycled.

According to the Toronto Star, Winnipeg doesn’t recycle any kind of wrapping paper, even if it’s made of plain paper.

To put it in perspective, it’s estimated that each Canadian throws out about 50 kg of waste over the holidays; about a 25 per cent increase in that time period compared to the rest of the year.

So, even using a few fabric bags instead of store-bought wrapping paper and gift bags is a good start to help cut down on that waste.

How to get started: All you need is extra fabric you have lying around the house — maybe it’s a silk or cotton scarf you haven’t worn in years, or old sheets or clothing, or if you’re a sewer, fabric scraps. If you don’t have fabric, visit a thrift store or your local Value Village, which will most likely have tons of fabric for your perusal.

If you want new materials, find a local shop in your neighbourhood (we love Fabric Spark’s holiday fabric) so you don’t have to have it shipped to you.

Next up is to find a cloth wrapping style you like. One of the easiest ways is the Furoshiki method, which involves a square piece of cloth used to wrap items such as gifts, groceries, books, bath products, and more.

If you own a sewing machine and have basic (and I mean basic) sewing skills, you can sew a drawstring fabric bag. Pinterest has many free patterns, or if you want to support a local artisan, you can buy a cheap pattern on Etsy.

All you need is a sewing machine, about a half yard of fabric, ribbon, a ruler, sewer’s chalk, scissors, an iron and ironing board, a dozen sewing pins, and two safety pins.

Depending on your skill level, they should take between a half hour to an hour to make. And when it comes time to wrapping the gift, you don’t have to deal with folding and taping paper. Just toss the gift in the bag and you’re ready to give!

Where you can do it: I like using my sewing nook at home, but if you’re not sewing, fabric bags can be made anywhere, but it’s probably easier to wrap them while sitting at a table or on the floor.

How it makes us feel: I love sewing, so making fabric bags feels really satisfying, but it also puts me in a festive mood. Plus, knowing that I’m helping lessen my carbon footprint makes me feel even better.

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And that’s your habit of the day.

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