3 Ways to Reduce Waste When Wrapping Presents

I learned a startling fact that I felt I had to share with you all – not all holiday wrapping paper is recyclable. Think about how much wrapping paper you and your family use every year and then multiply that by the amount of people celebrating the holidays by exchanging gifts…I don’t have exact numbers but I think we can all agree it is A LOT. I would even go so far as to say WAY TOO MUCH. I was always under the impression that all this paper was recyclable – it has paper in the name after all!

In the United States alone trash production increases by 25% during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day – this turns out to be about 1 million extra tons of garbage per week. One major offender during this time is all that wrapping paper, “wrapping and tissue paper is often dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver colored shapes, glitter, plastics etc. which cannot be recycled. Ribbons and bows can get wrapped around the equipment and shut the whole process down, plus they are usually made with non-recyclable plastics. Styrofoam from boxes and other gift packaging is also not recyclable and should be thrown in the trash.”

So what is a holiday gift giving person to do? Luckily there are a lot of fun ideas!


First, use up old wrapping and materials you have, you already own so no use in it going in the trash before being used at least once. But once that’s done you can start exploring fun sustainable options! Before recycling any old newspapers, magazines, or even brown paper bags! use them for wrapping up gifts! We use Who Gives A Crap toilet paper, a sustainable toilet paper that comes wrapped in fun individual papers that can be used to wrap gifts (if you haven’t look this amazing company up check them out here!) If you have any glass salsa or pickle jars waiting to be recycled they can make fun gift containers too – fill them up with someone’s favorite snack or cookie making ingredients.


We found a huge roll of brown recyclable paper at Menards (linked here!) that will be used for many gift giving occasions to come. This way the paper can be used for anything! And it is a blank slate for creativity – it could be stamped or drawn on. Or just plain for a more minimalist look.


You can always find baskets or containers at a thrift store. They can be reused for whatever the gift receiver needs or they can pass it on to the next person as a gift in a beautiful cycle of sustainable giving. Another fun option are bandanas, scraps of fabric or thrifted scarves! There’s an ancient Japanese gift wrapping art called Furoshiki – google that and you will find a plethora of beautiful wrapping inspiration. I’ll link a helpful how-to video for this here!

Small changes can have huge impacts, "if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet." Choosing different options or just using less could keep TONS of waste out of landfills.

And if that all sounds way too overwhelming there are great eco-friendly gifts that require no wrapping at all – or maybe just an envelope! Experiences are always an option – tickets to a concert, play, or sports game are always fun – and allow you to make memories together. A great cost-effective way to give certificates to a loved one is to make them! Maybe your partner gets a coupon that is “good for one back massage” or friends that have kids get a coupon that says, “one night of babysitting.” Get creative! And if you’re totally out of ideas and are a part of the 60% of Americans that receive unwanted gifts or the 70% of Americans that would welcome less emphasis on gift giving/spending then just ask someone what they want this year – we aren’t all mind readers – why not gift something they will love, cherish and NEED for years to come.

Whatever it is you gift this year, taking a few minutes to think a little more sustainably can make a huge difference to our world.

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