By Christa Adams
You wouldn’t put a big bow on garbage. Yet consider the frenzy of gift-wrapping now underway for the holidays. Everywhere you turn, something is covered in glitter and tinsel and bound by red ribbons. And while all that gloss — sheathing everything from new televisions to toys to jewelry — may look glamorous from the outside, it’s hardly a sustainable present for the planet.
From Thanksgiving to New Years, U.S. households generate 25% more waste than any other time of the year — a combination of food waste, single-use plastic, cheap gifts, wrapping paper, and holiday decor all heading straight to the landfill. So, instead of using ‘modern’ wrapping paper, get creative with these eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas. Your gifts will still look incredible, and you’ll be kicking single-use wrapping paper to the curb.
Start with the wrapping
A few simple steps will ensure your gift wrapping is both beautiful and eco-friendly. It starts with the wrapping ‘paper’ itself and works its way up to choosing sustainable gift decorations and tags. Some of these are totally optional — no one ever says you have to put that plastic bow sticker on someone’s gift — but we do tend to like special touches. So, start with choosing sustainable wrapping paper. Here are our top picks:
Use bags from last year
Do you keep your Christmas gift bags after opening presents every year? If so, dig them out and use them again this year. Imagine the lifespan gift bags could have if everyone reused them. If the gift receiver reuses the one you already reused, and the cycle continued, these bags could last a decade with good care! This is an amazing way to reduce waste this holiday season.
Try Furoshiki, a Japanese gift-wrapping style
This is such a unique way to incorporate eco-friendly gift wrapping! Furoshiki is a square cloth or fabric used for gift wrapping or transporting items in Japan. The word refers to both the art of wrapping and the fabric itself. Use old or forgotten fabric (like a scarf or an old sheet you don’t mind cutting up). Put your present overtop the fabric and try one of the various Furoshiki methods to get an elegantly wrapped gift. In Japanese culture, the fabric is kindly returned to the giver of the gift with thanks. However, you can also encourage them to reuse the fabric instead or make it part of the gift (gifting them a scarf, for example).
Wrap gifts in newspaper
If you still read the morning paper, reuse it as your gift wrapping. If you don’t have one delivered, just purchase one from the local convenience store. It’s much cheaper than regular wrapping paper and is recyclable. Looking for a cool touch? If you live in or near a major city, odds are you have access to foreign-language newspapers. These create a unique and worldly finish that will make your gift pop. So, head to Chinatown or somewhere similar and pick up a foreign newspaper to use as eco-friendly gift wrap.
Try toilet paper roll gift boxes
If you have tiny gifts, like a pair of earrings, toilet paper roll gift boxes are perfect. Keep your toilet paper rolls instead of recycling them and then fold in one end, place your present inside, and then fold in the other side. Wrap it in eco-friendly twine and it’s complete!
Use biodegradable brown paper
When in doubt, use simple brown paper for your gifts. You can purchase big rolls from crafts sections at stores. These are biodegradable and create a simplistic style for your holiday gift wrapping. The brown paper looks especially great when paired with pine twigs and other natural elements.
Add optional natural touches
If you like your gifts tied up in ribbons and bows, you still can! You’ll just need to swap plastic ribbons and bows for sustainable gift decorations. Here are some eco-friendly gift décor ideas:
Use jute or hemp twine
Make bows or ribbons around your holiday gifts with jute or hemp twine instead of plastic. These will naturally degrade in a landfill within one to two years and can be used time and time again. Plus, they give a beautiful, rustic touch which is particularly stylish around the holidays. Tie them around gift bag handles, wrap them around a newspaper-covered box, or tie them into bows and secure them with bridgeable paper tape.
Incorporate natural elements
Go au naturale and give your gifts an extra special touch! Take a forest walk and gather pine twigs, leaves, or small pinecones to decorate an eco-friendly gift. They’re free, completely biodegradable, and look great on a holiday presents. Other ideas include using dried orange slices, cotton, cinnamon sticks, or rosemary sprigs. You can wrap them in jute or hemp twine, and you’ll have a charming gift. Get creative and have fun with it!
Use eco-friendly gift tags
Instead of using sticker tags, opt for biodegradable paper tags. They’ll complete the cohesive sustainable look of your gift wrapping and provide all the final touches you need. You can even use seed paper gift tags and encourage the gift receiver to plant the tag. They’ll just need to soak the paper overnight and then plant under a thin layer of soil, watering regularly as the seeds germinate. It’s like a gift within a gift!
Be the example
While you can’t control how others wrap your presents, by wrapping your gifts in an eco-friendly manner, you can be the spark that lights the flame. If they’re blown away at your sustainable approach, it may inspire them the next time they tackle a batch of gifts. It’s not only about doing better but being an example, too. What can you do with single-use gift wrap from opened presents? If the holiday gifts you receive this year are wrapped in single-use gift wrap, check out this guide to reusing gift wrapping.
Of course, save all your bows, gift bags, and tissue paper. These can easily be reused for future holiday gifts!