Melanie Boschaert has one goal for Christmas: “I want my children to be special and feel special.”
So Ms. Boschaert, who works for an insurance company and lives in East Bethel, Minn., doesn’t just search for the perfect gifts for her four adult children, their partners and her two grandsons. She also buys wrapping paper they won’t forget.
Last year she stumbled upon Gift Wrap My Face, a website that allows you to superimpose someone’s mug amid menorahs or dreidels or on an elf’s body, a gingerbread man or a Christmas tree.
Even though she thought her gifts were pretty good — a gift card to a speakeasy for one of her children; a NASA flying experience for another — Ms. Boschaert, 58, said each recipient was most excited about the paper that featured their face.
“They took time to unwrap the gift because they didn’t want to rip it,” said Ms. Boschaert, 58. “I was like, ‘That’s a $100 gift, and you’re focused on the wrapping paper.’”
She plans to make it a tradition. “I am buying it again this year,” she said.
Gift wrap has been getting a glow-up; in uncertain economic times, it can be a relatively inexpensive way to dazzle a recipient before they even get to what’s inside.
Given the economic climate, “we expected sales to be down this year, but they are up 20 percent,” said James Green, an owner of Gift Wrap My Face.
People may be paring down on extravagant gifts, “but nobody is skipping Christmas,” he said. “Even if you are spending less, you still want to find a way to make your gift stand out.”
“You can wrap up a pair of plain old underwear and put it in wrapping paper with their face on it, and it’s special,” he added. A roll of personalized wrapping paper costs about $19.
There is also, of course, the waste of it all. A 2021 study by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit, showed that Americans generate 23 percent more tons of waste in December than in other months of the year.
Meagan Downey felt guilty about that. “I tend to go overboard for my daughter’s birthday or special occasions, and there was always this horrible feeling of guilt,” she said.
So in the fall of 2020, Ms. Downey, who lives in Shelburne, Vt., started selling the Shiki Wrap, a reusable, machine washable fabric gift wrap made from recycled plastic. The fabric, which is inspired by furoshiki, or traditional Japanese wrapping cloths, is also stretchy, which means it can fit around oddly shaped presents. “It’s so easy — you can just bunch it up,” Ms. Downey said.
She estimated that the company has sold about 4,000 wraps since its start.
Patrick Kling, a theme park designer, also hated how he felt the morning after Christmas. “It always bugged me that we put all this trash into a black garbage bag, and we don’t even know if it’s recyclable,” he said. (It is, unless it contains chemicals, laminates, dyes, plastics, metals or glitter — which many papers do.)
So he teamed up with Patrick Feeny, a longtime friend who worked in music touring, to create Giftiply, a sustainable wrapping paper made of recycled newspaper with soy-based ink; 33 percent of proceeds are given to charities such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. They started selling it in August.
The company commissions artists to design the paper (a QR code on the paper links to information about the artist and the charity). Jess Goldsmith, an illustrator in Brooklyn, hopes her designs will inspire people not to trash it. “This could be a cool opportunity to use the wrapping paper to repurpose it further,” she said — either as household art or as, say, a paper airplane (all of Giftiply’s packaging comes with instructions).
Not surprisingly, brands that make other products want in on the gift wrap game. Kendall Jenner’s liquor company, 818 Tequila, offered a roll of its own for $35, which sold out.
Chili’s, the restaurant chain, is selling wrapping paper decorated with peppers and burgers ($32 for two rolls). “They are a hot seller,” said George Felix, the chief marketing officer.
Caitlyn Davison, 39, who works for a nonprofit and lives in New Gloucester, Me., is wrapping all her gifts this year in Giftiply. “I kept asking myself, how do we bring something that feels more authentic to our family to our holiday giving?” she said. “We want it to reflect our values.”
One of her favorite features of the paper was that it arrived in flat sheets, rather than a cardboard roll, which only creates more waste.
Additionally, it’s less likely to be weaponized by her children. With rolls, “they will find them and bash them and roll them out,” Ms. Davison said. “I like this wrapping paper much better.”