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The holidays are, unsurprisingly, a wasteful time. Americans generate 25% extra waste during the holiday season, and it’s estimated that we throw away four million tons of wrapping paper and gift bags each year.
Wrapping paper is an obvious place to prevent waste. Wrapping paper itself is often impossible to recycle due to microplastics like sparkles and usually ends up in the trash after one single use. Recycling just one ton of wrapping paper would save 17 trees, 18.7 square feet of landfill space, and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity!
The good news is there are plenty of alternatives to traditional wrapping paper. Here are some of our favorite ways to present gifts while minimizing waste.
This is an ancient Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in a single piece of cloth. Its long history spans wrapping clothes, goods, and, in modern times, gifts. You can use a cloth you already have or thrift one for the occasion. Consider the cloth itself the gift that keeps on giving, as the receiver can later repurpose the cloth for a future gift of their own! Watch this video for some different cloth wrapping techniques.
A lot of goods come in a bag already – why not repurpose it and give the gift in this bag? Alternatively, if you really want wrapping paper, you may be able to find some at your local thrift store.
We consider newspaper to be the original low-waste wrapping paper. People have used it to replace traditional gift wrap for years, and for good reason! You likely already have newspaper on hand, and if you’re not repurposing it, it’s likely getting recycled anyway. This is a great alternative because it is so readily recyclable.
Also known as butcher paper, this is another recyclable wrapping paper alternative. You can give the paper some extra personality by balling it up and subsequently unwrinkling it before wrapping, giving your gift a cute, crinkled look.
Replace ribbons with foraged greenery and twine for a beautiful yet eco-friendly look. You can collect dried leaves or even search for some Christmas tree clippings and affix the sprigs with some twine. The greenery can be composted and the twine can be recycled.
What’s better than wrapping paper? A heartfelt gift presentation! Skip the wrapping paper altogether and deliver your gift with a heartfelt card or spoken message.
There are plenty of ways to make meaning of the holiday season while preventing excess waste. With a little extra care, you can still keep up your sustainable lifestyle while celebrating the holidays with those you love. Remember every little change adds up!
Looking to give sustainable gifts this year? We've rounded up a few of our favorites to help you celebrate and gift intentionally.