The gifts are purchased, the shopping is done. Now it's time for the wrapping. Gift wrap is an essential part of gift giving. Nothing sets a festive mood quite like a beautifully wrapped gift. And nothing compares to the joy in a child’s eye, as he tears into a present. But every year mountains of wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows fill our landfills—and nothing about that is very joyous. Although many paper products are recyclable, wrapping paper is often created with materials that are dyed, laminated, and contain non-paper elements like glitter, thus making it unable to be recycled. While giving a loved one a gift fills our hearts, it doesn’t mean it has to fill our landfills. Let's get creative with some of these eco-friendly gift wrap ideas, and give Mother Nature a gift too.
Reusable Fabric Wrapping
Fabric is an easy swap for traditional paper gift wrapping. It's simple to use, easy to come by, and the best part is your piece of fabric will be around long after that paper roll is used up—making it not only environmentally friendly but economically viable as well. Of course, choosing organic and natural fabrics would be the most environmentally friendly choice.
You can purchase new fabric from your local fabric store, or seek out companies that are creating reusable, stretchy fabric gift wrap such as Wrapeez. With a variety of prints and styles, you're sure to find the perfect fabric wrapping for any occasion. Or check out WRAG WRAP. They're taking eco-friendly wrapping to the next level by using plastic to create reusable fabric wrap made from 45% recycled content. You can also find reusable fabric gift bags from companies like lilywrap. Beautifully designed bags to take the work out of the wrapping, and keep the trash out of the landfills.
Prefer to repurpose something around the house? You probably have an extra set of sheets that are never used, or a sweater that never fit right. These items make great wrapping. Cut the fabric into various sizes, and voila! That unused item now has a new life. (I love utilizing this option, although, it may be something you want to reserve for use within your own home. This way you can avoid the awkward moment of asking for your gift wrapping back, or leaving the gift recipient wondering what they are supposed to do with a fabric remnant!)
For truly zero waste gift wrapping, try wrapping gifts in a usable item. By doing so, the wrapping itself serves as a gift! Here are some "bonus" gift wrap ideas:
- A tea towel
- A handkerchief
- A scarf, shawl or wrap
- A tapestry
Eco-Friendly Paper Alternatives
While fabric has the longevity appeal, there is nothing quite like tearing into a paper-wrapped gift. If you are looking to stick with paper wrapping, but still wanting to lessen your environmental impact, try some of these alternative paper options:
- brown paper grocery bags
- children's artwork
- word searches or crossword puzzles
Magazines can provide stunning photographs or interesting articles. Brown paper bags look sophisticated when turned inside out and dress it up with a simple ribbon. Or if you have children or grandchildren, allow them to decorate the bags for truly, one-of-a-kind wrapping. A gift wrapped in a child’s art—now that's touching. And using a map from a memorable place, or sheet music to a special song, creates personal and thoughtful wrap.
While traditional bows and ribbons are often made of plastic and other materials that cannot be recycled, you still have options when it comes to decorating your package. Many everyday items you purchase have a bow or ribbon attached. Find an empty drawer or closet space to save these, as they make great decorations. Take a walk outside and find some inspiration in nature. Twigs of evergreen, holly berries, and pine cones also make great adornments. Have a vintage brooch or earring that's missing its mate? Try pinning it to your gift for an elegant look. Once your imagination gets going, you will find plenty of items that can be repurposed as gift wrap, and you’ll never need to purchase a roll of wrapping paper or plastic ribbon again!
Ethical + Sustainable Gifts
Eco-friendly gift wrapping is a great way to step up your ethical and sustainable gifts. Still need a little fair trade gift inspiration? Check out our the Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Gifts We Love to find something for everyone on your list. Or shop ethical jewelry, handcrafted in Kenya from reclaimed brass.
Written by Julie Benefield