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Easy Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas And Ditch The Gift Wrap For Good

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Say no to one-time-use wrapping paper. Give more gifts and less garbage this holiday season by upcycling and repurposing other items.

If you haven’t spent hours watching babies ripping wrapping paper, what are you even doing with your life? (This one is a particular favorite).

While wrapping paper is really entertaining, for adults and babies, it’s no laughing matter to mother earth. Sure, it’s pretty but it also: 

  • Is expensive
  • (Most) can't be recycled
  • Is a one-time use product, literally designed to be destroyed

Did you also know most wrapping paper contains plastic? Especially paper that has glitter — actually all glitter unless otherwise noted is literally just tiny pieces of plastic. Which also keeps wrapping paper out of the recycle bin. 

Rolls of wrapping paper with ribbon strewed about

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

This season, don’t catch yourself reminiscing on the fond memories of Christmas past, preparing your Christmas presents with a gift wrap that threatens our Christmas future. You can still jump start your holiday joy with pretty little packages that won’t hurt the planet, simply by thinking outside the box!

Read on for our sustainable wrapping paper suggestions!

Get Creative With Sustainable Wrapping Paper

More Planet Less Plastic Tote bag tied with twine, a sprig, and a dried orange

Gifts are an inherent part of any celebration. Wrapped in colorfully printed wrapping papers, ribbons, and bows, they quickly turn into colorful heaps of trash moments after being given and received. Replacing conventional wrapping paper with reusable swaps means more gifts and less garbage!

Gift wrap is made to catch your eye, with its vibrant ink dyes and glossy sheen. Unfortunately, the very elements that make most wrapping papers so attractive are what make them un-recyclable. You don’t want to toss any shiny, laminated, glossy, glittery, or metallic-looking paper into your recycling bin because these bad apples will spoil the whole batch. 

Try looking for items you already have around the house and get creative with repurposing and upcycling!

Tote bags

Tote bags are being given out left and right so there’s a small chance you might have one too many. This year — keep a couple of good ones — but consider using a tote to replace wrapping paper. Add some cute tissue paper to spice it up and tie it off with twine or another sustainable material for an extra oomph. *Technically tissue paper is recyclable but it’s difficult to process at most facilities — it is compostable as long as it doesn’t contain foil, glitter, or other extras.*

Glass Jar

Create a whole gift with a glass jar! Give someone a single (or double) serving of a recipe for any baked goods, stock it with a favorite candy or chocolate covered nut, create a flower display or other homemade decoration, or even use the jar as a way to gift small items such as chapsticks, eye creams, a propagated plant, etc.

Tea Towel

A tea towel is a thin towel made of cotton or linen that is used to dry dishes or hang on your oven handle; and who couldn’t use more towels?! Use a tea towel such as these sustainable ones from Ten and Co to wrap large items. Use pins, a tiny bit of thread, or tie it together to make the wrapping sturdy. With a variety of colors and patterns your gift will look beautiful under the tree.

Unpaper Towel

The same concept as a tea towel but you can gift people unpaper towels or use another piece of fabric you have lying around. The person you're gifting can now enjoy the pleasure of using less paper towels! Choose fun bright colors or play up the accessories with these simple white ones

Create Sustainable Gift Wrap by Repurposing Other Items

3 gifts wrapped in recycled kraft paper, tied with twine, adorned with leaf sprigs and dried orange slices

Wrapping papers lead colorful, but very short lives. When you consider that Americans spend $12.7 billion each year on a product that’s thrown away within 60 seconds, it’s pretty clear that gift wrap accounts for an enormous part of our annual holiday waste – environmentally and economically!

Paper grocery bag

Next time you forget your reusable, opt for the paper bag and save it! Rip it up as needed to use as kraft paper. If you’re feeling bored or extra artsy, draw or stamp designs onto it! 

Kraft Paper From Previous Purchases

You know that recycled padding we’re proud to ship with? You probably also receive it from other brands — save it! Flatten it out and keep it tucked away as you make your purchases throughout the year. When the time comes for gift giving, get it out and see what kind of colors and goodies you’ve collected. Rumor is one of our staff repurposes the oh-so-cute TP wrapping from Who Gives A Crap

Newspaper

Have some newspapers lying around? Use them as wrapping — or stuffing — bonus points for gifting them to someone who needs to pack or move soon. Pick out interesting or funny articles to highlight and make the top of the package and have fun while wrapping. 

Button down shirt

Have an old shirt that was headed out of the door? Having trouble letting go of clothes that don't fit? Repurpose them into a sustainable wrapping paper alternative. Give it a try yourself or check out these easy instructions (with pictures) to turn a shirt into gift wrap.

Old scarfs

Vintage and second hand scarves make beautiful sustainable wrapping paper alternatives. Plus excellent gifts themselves! Use a method that requires tucking and folding to keep everything together vs a pin or clip to keep the scarf in good condition — nothing a little steam can’t fix.

Beeswax / Vegan Food Wrap

Not only can these food wraps be used for food, they’re great for keeping your bar soaps safe while traveling, and now they can be used as a sustainable gift wrap! Whether it’s something as simple as wrapping the stems of flowers, a small jar (such as a local honey maybe), or a batch of homemade baked goods, these wraps are a great sustainable wrapping alternative.

Seal It Up

Gift wrapped in red tea towel with white linen 'ribbon'

(Almost) every gift needs to be resealed. Sticking with a tape (haha) that’s made with a paper-base will keep you more eco-friendly. Traditional tape contains an adhesive that is made from fossil fuels AND plastic. Below are some ideas on keeping everything stuck together, sustainably.

Water Activated Tape

Paper Tape (masking Tape)

Water-Soluble Tape (Yes it's a thing)

Washi Tape — make sure it has a paper-base with a water-based adhesive

Sustainable Gift Wrap: Ties & Accessories

Gift wrapped in kraft paper and twine on a buffalo plaid towel

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It’s estimated that Americans throw away roughly 38,000 miles worth of ribbon each holiday season. That’s enough ribbon to wrap around the Earth once leaving plenty to tie a bow with. Ditch the disposable embellishments and switch to these more sustainable gift decorating options that you can reuse, recycle, repurpose, or compost later on.

  • Hemp
  • Twine
  • Leather chords or straps
  • Scrap fabric
  • Vintage or Costume jewelry
  • Real plants — sprigs of lavender, thyme, etc.
  • Reusable fabric bows

Some of these may be a little out there and we’ll be the first to admit that not doing the traditional wrapping paper thing feels a bit weird. But what feels even better is NOT picking up a trash bag full of paper that can’t be recycled — because let’s be serious, the glittery one is the prettiest — and feeling guilty about the waste. 

Even if you can’t do it for everything, try using a sustainable gift wrap for a few presents or one party. Start small. And it’s 100% okay to ask for your reusable wrapping back BTW! It’s going to feel a little weird if you’ve never done it before, you might get some jokes and laughs, but the feeling of accomplishing something a lot of other people aren’t willing to try AND the feeling of knowing you’re helping to keep trash out of the landfill will help you along.

Remember — Pinterest and the internet are your friends! What are some of your favorite zero waste or sustainable wrapping paper swaps? 

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