I love Christmas, I love giving gifts and I love watching friends and family open them! The joy truly is in being able to surprise and make someone happy.😊 But after the frenzy and exhilaration of unwrapping gifts is over, I usually watch in horror as the mountain of gift wrapping paper and decorations gets immediately thrown in the trash!
But it doesn’t have to be this way – so many things can be reused or recycled, or even composted if done right! I’ve put together an easy guide to eco-friendly gift wrapping, separated into three sections: wrappings, ribbons and bows + decorations. There’s even a super compact summary for you!
Once you keep these few guidelines in mind, it will be so easy to implement. On top of that, your gifts will likely stand out more for the quality and creativity!
Tip – Keep a box to collect and store ribbons and odds and ends throughout the year!
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Easy Guidelines for Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Summary
- For paper, make sure it’s recyclable – no glitter, foil, or coating!
- Use reusable bags or boxes made of tin or wood instead.
- Use fabric ribbons that can be used multiple times.
- Use biodegradable twine made of jute, flax, cotton, or hemp instead.
Bows + Toppings
- Decorate with leaves, flowers, berries and small fruits instead!
- Make bows from fabric ribbon.
- Reuse last year’s bows.
Recycle + Reuse Afterwards!
- Reuse or donate undamaged materials.
- Recyclable paper should go in the recycle bin. Tape is OK.
- Non-recyclable paper, all ribbons and bows go in the trash, not the recycle bin!
Eco-friendly Gift Wrapping Guidelines & Tips
Wrapping paper – Make sure that the paper is recyclable. No foil, glitter, velvet flocking, or plastic coating as these will make the paper the paper non-recyclable. Very thin wrappings are also often not recyclable because of low fiber content.
Rolls of solid-colored / kraft paper are so versatile for any occasion, and so trendy even! You can find them at stores such as Target, Smart & Final, office supply stores, Amazon, etc. If you don’t need that much, you may find a roll of brown kraft paper at a dollar store for $1 like I did! Ikea also has an economical roll of children’s drawing paper that works great for gift wrapping also.
Reusable bags – Bags made of cotton, jute, polyester, etc make great wrappings, especially for irregular shapes and can be gifts themselves! I found the “made in Santa’s workshop” one at Target during an after-Christmas sale several years ago and have used it every year since then! Or you can DIY and decorate one yourself! I love reusable jute bags like these from Amazon too.
Gift bags – Avoid gift bags that are made with coated paper or have glitter or foil or plastic parts though – these will make the bags non-recyclable. Unfortunately, most of the ones in the holiday section are not recyclable. Look for recyclable ones in the kitchen section, or order online and decorate them yourself!
Gift boxes – Good quality tin, wood or cardboard boxes can be reused multiple times, and often don’t need wrapping paper.
Reusable ribbon – You can often find rolls of ribbon on sale at Michael’s, Joann’s or on Amazon for just a few dollars. These fabric ribbons can be reused multiple time – just iron out any wrinkles and trim frayed ends and they’re as good as new! Make sure to keep any pretty ribbons or paper that come with any purchases you make throughout the year! I keep my collection in a plastic container to protect them.
Twine – Instead of using ribbon, why not use biodegradable materials such as natural twine instead of ribbons? You can find twine made of jute, flax, cotton, or hemp in the kitchen section of stores, in home improvement stores, and in crafts stores. Twine is usually inexpensive as well.
Gift Toppings and Decorations
Decorate with Flowers and Leaves – Leaves, flowers, berries and small fruits make beautiful and biodegradable decorations! Some are even edible. 😉 I found most of mine from my backyard, my houseplants, and neighborhood trees. Speaking of flowers, if you love them as much as I do, be sure to check out my post on the best books for flower lovers!
Use reusable ribbons – Instead of a plastic bow, why not make a pretty bow with a reusable fabric ribbon instead? High-quality ribbons can be pressed and reused many times!
Reuse bows – Most traditional bows are made with a plastic-paper composite that make them non-recyclable. But if they are in good condition, they are definitely reusable! Make it a scavenger hunt to find pretty and reusable bows if you’re at a party!
Eco-friendly gift wrapping supplies
These are all available via Amazon Prime! The holidays is a great time to try Amazon Prime for 2-day shipping.
After the Unwrapping: Recycle, Reuse or Trash
When unwrapping gifts, try to do it carefully to separate re-usable materials, recyclable materials and trash. Of course, if young kids are involved, then you’ll just have to scavenge whatever is ripped apart! For your own kids, consider using reusable Santa bags instead! These extra large Santa bags from Amazon are so cute!
Here are some guidelines on what is recyclable and what should go into the trash bin.
First and foremost, try to reuse as much as possible!
Plain wrapping paper is recyclable – tape is OK in the recycle bin. Paper with glitter, coating, foil, etc are not recyclable and need to be put in the trash bin.
Pretty and good quality wrapping paper can be reused for smaller gifts, or re-purposed as gift tags or other crafts.
Ribbons and bows should not go into the recycle bin – they can jam up the sorting machines at recycling facilities! Fabric ribbons should be saved for reuse or donation. One-time use or damaged ribbons should go into the trash bin.
If you’re at a party, go on a treasure hunt for pretty wrapping and trimmings to use for next year!
What about holiday cards? Here are some tips on purchasing and recycling them:
Printed plain paper holiday cards can be recycled.
These cards can’t be recycled:
- Shiny cards printed on photo paper
- Cards with metallic embossing (although you can tear the card in half and recycle the paper portion)
- Cards with glitter, foil, or other non-paper material