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The red wine unopened bottle, glass and blossom flowers in the white basket

Are you dreaming of a green Christmas?

According to the Washington Post, 4 million tons of trees are wasted each year to make wrapping paper and holiday shopping bags.

Sparkly and festive holiday wrapping paper might be fun, but is it worth the toll it takes on the environment?

Why Go Paperless?

Paper is biodegradable, right? So how does using wrapping paper affect the environment?

According to Kayla Dunn, the founder of the eco-friendly wedding planning company Pineapple Union, it starts with the trees they have to harvest to create that paper.

“An estimated 30 million trees are cut down just to produce gift wrap, and it’s difficult to recycle due to the dyes used,” says Dunn. Many wrapping papers, like the ones made with foil or plastic, can’t be recycled at all.

Not only does this devastate forests, it also contributes to often-overflowing landfills.

Paper Gift-Wrap Alternatives

It may seem like wrapping paper is the only option to wrap gifts. It may be a common choice, but it isn’t the only option. Here are five alternatives to wrapping paper:

Use Fabric

5 Paperless Gift-Wrapping Solutions for the Holidays - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: Pineapple Union

There are several ways you can use fabric to wrap a gift.

First, you can use a scrap piece of cloth, a head scarf or a tea towel. You can wrap these around your gift and tie them in the front, creating a little knot. You could also place your gift in the center of the cloth, gather the extra cloth at the top, and tie it with a string or ribbon. These look cute, and the recipient can reuse the fabric! It’s like a gift within a gift.

Reusable tote bags or other fabric bags can work just like a traditional paper gift bag but they can be reused after and can encourage more eco-friendly practices, according to Dunn.

Make a Gift Basket

Who doesn’t love a well-curated gift basket? Sure, you could get one of those meat and cheese baskets at the grocery store, but you could make something more personal instead.

Fill a basket with a few of your giftee’s favorite things or a couple of items on their wish list! And while you’re personalizing, you don’t have to stop with the gifts.

Baskets are great, but consider opting for something more suitable to the recipient. An assortment of kitchen goodies can go in a mixing bowl instead of a basket. A storage container makes a great basket for toys, and even a vintage suitcase would work for toiletries or fashion items.

Put It in a Jar

5 Paperless Gift-Wrapping Solutions for the Holidays - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: Pineapple Union

One of Dunn’s favorite alternatives to paper gift wrap is assorted jars. Think mason jars, reusable tins, coffee mugs or water bottles.

“I like to keep the holidays simple and stick to the basics, so I bake cookies for my family and craft ornaments,” says Dunn. She often places them in tins or jars and ties the handmade ornament around the container to trim the package.

For items like water bottles or mugs, Dunn suggests filling them with things like a gift card or money. You could also put socks or another small accessory in the jar with some treats or a gift card.

Stuff a Stocking

Consider using a stocking to hold gifts. Just like with a traditional stocking, you can fill it with little gifts and trinkets or make it more themed like you would with a gift basket.

For small stockings, think of small or thin gifts you can place inside, like gift cards, candy or jewelry. Typical size stockings can fit things like small tech gadgets, perfume, mugs, Blu-ray Discs and books. You can even buy over-sized stockings for bulkier gifts like sweaters or small appliances.

Hide It in Another Gift

You can do that? Sure! It’s like the nesting dolls of gifts, and who doesn’t love that?

What kind of gifts can you hide something inside? You can hide makeup in a new makeup bag or case. Got a sports lover on your hands? Hide tickets to a game inside of a collector’s box or cup. Does your giftee like to stay active? Put new gym clothes or an activity tracker inside a nice gym bag or a membership to their favorite yoga studio rolled up in a new yoga mat!

The options are endless – it just takes a little bit of creativity.

Paperless Trimmings

One of my favorite parts of gift wrapping is trimming the package in ribbons and adornments. If you’re going paperless and don’t want to use foil ribbons or paper name tags, how can you make your gifts feel a little extra special?

Dunn suggests using seasonal items to decorate your packages: “The best way to trim any selection of wrapped gifts is with dried fruit like lemons, oranges, or apple slices, cinnamon sticks, or sprigs of rosemary or herbs that can be used again in the kitchen or composted.”

She also encourages using fabric ribbon instead of the plastic or foil alternative.

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Options

5 Paperless Gift-Wrapping Solutions for the Holidays - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: Pineapple Union

If you have a hard time thinking of using something besides wrapping paper to wrap your gifts, some paper options are still easier on the environment.

“If paper is necessary, hemp or bamboo paper should be considered. Both hemp and bamboo grow at a much faster rate. While a tree can take 10 – 30 years to mature, bamboo can take less than five years to mature and typically grows three to five feet per year,” according to Dunn.

The eco-friendly event planner also suggests seeded paper. “I love seed paper which can be planted directly into the ground and will produce wildflowers from the seeds within it,” adds Dunn.

The downside of seeded paper is that it’s more expensive than the other options. Dunn suggests using it sparingly, for something like holiday cards, if you’re looking to stay on a budget.

Give the Gift of Sustainability

However you decide to go green this holiday, giving with a sustainable wrapping option can help encourage those practices with your friends and family.

Going completely paper-free isn’t practical for everyone, but you can likely still think of ways to incorporate green elements where possible.

If you have tips for paperless gift-wrapping, share them in our comment section.

This Post Has 62 Comments

  1. I wrapped just the top of sturdy gift boxes with good wrapping paper, and we just pull the top off each year. We have boxes that are over a decade old.

  2. I bought gift boxes years ago. I reuse them each year, all I have to do is put the gift in and tie a ribbon around it- we save those too. I also bought large gift tags they are reused too. If a gift is too big for any of my boxes I just put a cute note inside and they guess what the gift is as I’m going to get it!

      1. You can use grocery store/other stores resusable bags for your gifts…the bag
        is part of the gift as they can use it for shopping…store have lots of neat looking

  3. I have used all of these ideas at one time or another. Fabric bags, recycled ribbons & bows, newsprint, & paper bags etc…. A few times I used old mylar balloons cut just wide enough to slide in the gift and tied shut with ribbon or cording. Sometimes I would wrap individual items for a person in tissue paper and wrap in a box or put in a stocking. I liked the idea of the gym or make up bag. All of our tissue paper has been re-used in our house for years. Gifts going outside the house usually get the tissue paper and/or ribbons ironed before re-using. I usually use old Christmas cards as gift tags.

    1. Hi Cindy:

      I love your idea of using mylar balloons to wrap gifts. And, ironing recycled wrapping materials is a great tip! Thanks for sharing!

  4. i love to recycle any chance i get. throughout the year when i attend showers, birthday parties, etc. i always ask if may keep the paper. the tissue paper if flatten & fold for another time. the actually wrapping paper if it is torn can at least be a great fire starter by stuffing it into the roll of toilet paper. gift bags of course i save and reuse them over and over.

    1. Hi Renee:

      It’s so great that you ask your friends if you can keep and reuse paper to wrap gifts. What a wonderful way to encourage them to use sustainable wrapping options! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I work at Trader Joe’s and our paper bags are holiday themed this time of year. Lots of our customers know to reuse as wrapping paper. I’m new here and a customer told me about it. I guess it been a “thing” at TJ’s for years!

  6. My kids have been getting gifts in the same bags with the same tags for over 4 years now… when I do wrap I use brown paper for packages… this year I am recycling the tissue paper and not buying more. Next year, I think no brown paper. Hemp or bamboo or none at all. I recycle the ribbons too

  7. A friend and I have been passing the same 2 gift bags that I decorated back and forth to each other for years. I think we’re on year 6 or 7 now! Yes, they are getting a bit ratty now, but it has become a tradition and makes us laugh

  8. We use the comics from the newspaper for birthdays and maps for Christmas wrapping! Brown paper sacks work well too! Just use colorful ribbons and bows!

      1. It’s so nice that you have neighbors who are willing to share! Wrapping gifts with newspaper comics is such a fun idea! Happy Holidays!

  9. I have a box of beautiful brocade fabrics cut into squares that I use to wrap all the gifts I give to my husband. I tie them with satin ribbon, and usually put a fabric flower on them. They end up looking kind of like old world Japanese.

  10. Wrap a gift in an old map!!! No one uses them anymore with GPS. My mother did that years ago for my cousin who was moving to Paris to study. She also folded the map a cool way because she ran out of tape.
    She also would re- use paper towel cardboard tubes. Small items fit inside nicely.

  11. I started putting the gift in a tote or reusable shopping bag. You can find some cute ones. I also reuse gift bags and ribbon. I’m hoping they use the tote when shopping instead of plastic bag. I hope that is not rude.

    1. I love the idea of wrapping in a reusable tote! Especially those that fold down into a tiny pouch. It’s easy for the recipient to tuck onto a purse of pocket for easy access 🙂

  12. I wanted more than ribbon to wrap my gifts. I learned how to make a 3 dimensional star. There are many orgami shapes, and they work as a name tag.

  13. We do what I think many people do save the bags and paper and reuse them. If it is within family things are reused a number of times. It is still paper but has a number of lives.

  14. I’ve used several of these ideas over the years. When my kids were young, we would go to the newspaper office and collect the end rolls of paper. Yes, this was paper, but it would have been thrown out otherwise. We would then dip objects in paint and decorate the paper before wrapping.

  15. Using pillow cases of all different colors or themes, even personalized would also add another Christmas tradition. During the year they could be used daily or on special occasions. Resting their heads, dreaming of Christmas past, present and future.

  16. If you can find inexpensive pillow cases, they can be used as fabric gift bags and tied shut with a fabric ribbon in a pretty bow, and the pillow cases themselves are a good gift. And you may be able to snag half-priced holiday themed pillow cases and ribbons in the days after Christmas for use next year.

    1. Dollar Tree stores often carry pillow cases. At least ours does. I am thinking of doing this for next year for some of the people I buy for. I am thinking of making Santa Sacks from fabrics for the rest of them. They are easy to make and washable and reusable.

  17. I gave up using wrapping paper about 5 years ago. Instead, I use gift boxes and wide wired ribbon. I collect the boxes and ribbon after gifts have been opened and reuse them year after year. I have used small amounts of wrapping paper for the odd gift, but will try to use some of the above ideas for these gifts, especially the cloth bags.

  18. Using plastic plants is not very environmentally friendly, IMO. Neither is new yoga mat or some of the other suggestions. Also, consider buying used plastic toys, then donating them when play is finished. New unused toys are nice and shiny but I’d rather leave a cleaner world for my grandson.

  19. Newspaper, especially the funny sheets for children (can be used for birthdays too) old brown paper bags like they get at the grocery stores with colorful ribbons or burlap ribbon.

    1. I used newspaper this year. Tied a sprig of cedar (from the burn pile at a tree farm) with cotton twine. Also made ornaments/nametags from wood pieces leftover from other projects. Looks rustic Nd trendy!!

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