Center for Sustainable Communities hosts “Craft and Wrap” with Winneshiek County Conservation


Luther students wrapping gifts with sustainable materials. Photo courtesy of Duy Nguyen (‘25)

On Friday, December 3, 2021, Luther’s Center for Sustainable Communities collaborated with Winneshiek County Conservation to host an eco-friendly “Craft & Wrap” session. In the spirit of the holiday season , students and community members came to the event to make crafts for holiday gifts and practice sustainable wrapping. 

The “Craft & Wrap” included a wide range of activities for handmade holiday gifts, from making a gift box out of recycled paper to creating ornaments from plants to hang on a Christmas tree. Attendees sipped hot chocolate and connected with their friends and the community. 

Contacted by Birgitta Meade (‘84) from Winneshiek County Conservation, Luther’s Sustainability Fellow Kimheang Chham (‘21) appreciated the opportunity for an event that is both educational and low-waste amid the season of gift-giving.

“It’s just the right timing and I’m glad that Birgitta came,” Chham said. “When people are thinking about Christmas gifts, we try to provide ways and ideas for people to create more sustainable gifts. You know, we’ve been using materials that they’ve already had or things that can be compostable and things like that. Last year it didn’t happen because of the pandemic but this year we thought it might be good to bring it back.”

Meade is the waste reduction and recycling education coordinator at Winneshiek County Conservation. During the “Craft & Wrap,” she  instructed participants on different ways of wrapping gifts using the materials from the recycling center at Luther and Winneshiek County Conservation. She hopes community members will raise awareness about indisposable wrapping paper.

“One of the messages I really want to get out there is that you can’t recycle conventional wrapping paper at all,” Meade said. “It’s just indisposable paper content, and it can completely ruin the bail of paper for recycling because it gets rejected and ends up in the lab.”

“Craft & Wrap” was an educational event on sustainable gift-giving. Chham explained her motivation for hosting this crafting session, and believes that while gift giving is a way for us to show appreciation and love for others, it should also be a kind gesture to nature.   

“This idea of gifting is supposed to be a gesture of kindness, or sharing of love, and I think that sometimes you forget to think about that to the rest of the world or the wider ecosystem,” Chham said. “So I think that when we’re trying to show this kindness in love, but we’re also destroying our environment, then that’s not truly a gift for me.”

In addition to being educational on how to utilize recycled materials, “Craft & Wrap” also provided a space for Luther students to spend quality time with friends and create handmade crafts. Sarah Schmidt (‘25) enjoyed making plant decorations with a group of students and taking a study break as finals approach.

“I just thought it’d be a really good way to get into the Christmas mood and have some relaxing time with friends, time to just hang out and not worry about finals or anything like that,” Schmidt said. “[My favorite part of the event was] probably just getting to be creative and doing whatever my mind wants me to do. It’s not academic, so it’s just a lot more fun that way.”

Chham hoped the attendees enjoyed themselves at the event, but also encourages them to continue practicing sustainability throughout this holiday season and into the new year. 

“I hope that they see these ideas as seedlings that they bring back to the way they look at giving,” Chham said. “I hope that it’s not just like a one-time thing that people come and then nothing happens afterwards. I just hope that it’s helping to install some kind of living practices of reducing and being more conscious of what we consume as humans.”