I was chatting with a friend about eco-friendly gift wrapping and mentioned, “My family has been passing around the same gift bows since the 1990s!” I expected her to be impressed, or at least amused. Instead, she smirked. Her family has been reusing the same holiday wrapping paper for years.
After carefully unwrapping their gifts, my friend’s mom irons the wrapping paper and carefully rolls it up for future use. Friends, I was gobsmacked. Growing up, I thought repurposing whipping cream containers as Tupperware was hardcore, but reusing wrapping paper? That’s next level.
To be clear, I do not recommend ironing your wrapping paper (sounds like a fire hazard), but our moms had the right idea. The most eco-friendly gift wrapping is the kind you can use over and over.
Isn’t wrapping paper eco-friendly?
Yes and no.
If you’re careful, wrapping paper can be reused, but only plain wrapping paper can be recycled. If the wrapping paper has foil, glitter, or is laminated (you’ll know it’s laminated if it doesn’t tear easily), it has to go to the landfill. Glossy paper is okay as long as it’s unadorned.
Remember to remove:
Is tissue paper recyclable?
In general, tissue paper is not recyclable, because the paper fibers are very short. Even if tissue paper is labeled as recyclable, it’s important to confirm your local municipality will accept it.
Please Don’t Wishcycle
Aspirational recycling, aka wishcycling, continues to be a problem. Putting non-recyclable items in the recycle bin can gum up machinery or spoil entire batches of otherwise recyclable items. It may feel wrong to throw something away, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping
Below are a few environmentally friendly ways to wrap your gifts. Some of the links go to Amazon.com. If you purchase one of the featured products listed below, any Amazon Associates revenue earned from that item will be donated to the PADI AWARE Foundation®.
Reusable Gift Boxes
As more people seek alternatives to single-use wrapping paper, companies are making reusable gift boxes in all different shapes and sizes. Personally, I find boxes with a magnetic lid hold up better long-term, but here are a few different options:
- Patterned boxes with magnetic lid
- Solid colors with magnetic lid
- Nesting boxes (for easy storage)
- Holographic boxes for recipients who love pizzazz
No budget for boxes? Your kitchen has gift containers hiding in plain sight. Coffee, tea and biscuit tins work well — especially if the gift is fragile. They’re sturdy, reusable and easy to dress up with a bit of fabric and ribbon.
Jars (jam, pickles, spaghetti sauce, baby food) are also a good option. Here’s a helpful article about how to clean them out and remove the labels. You can wrap the jar in fabric (see below), glossy magazine pages or wrapping paper that can’t be recycled. Use stickers (I love these celestial marine life stickers) or a bow to cover up the labeling on the lid.
Fabric & Furoshiki
Furoshiki, Japanese gift wrapping fabric, is a reusable alternative to wrapping paper. As this video shows, you can use furoshiki for boxes, wine bottles — just about anything.
Furoshiki comes in a variety of patterns from Japanese-inspired cherry blossoms to doggos. Personally, I like this whale design and the good luck cat maneki-neko. If you don’t want to go the furoshiki route, simply wrap the gift in fabric (tulle, bandanas, a scarf) and tie it with some ribbon.
Drawstring Gift Bags
Anyone can wrap a gift with a drawstring gift bag. They’re also easier to store than big rolls of wrapping paper.
- Choose a holiday season assortment
- Bags with Christmas designs
- All-purpose shiny bags
- Or more understated cloth bags
Tissue Paper Substitutes
If you’re using a reusable gift box or a drawstring gift bag, you may be wondering what to do about the non-recyclable tissue paper? Good news! You likely have some tissue paper substitutes in your home already. You can:
- Shred wrapping paper that can’t be recycled or reused.
- Or cut magazine pages, newspaper or kraft paper into strips.
- Wrap the item in fabric scraps, a handkerchief, tea towel or cut up old clothes or sheets.
Wrapping Paper Substitutes
Sometimes, you just need to wrap a gift. Maybe you have an oddly-shaped object that won’t fit in a box or basket. Or maybe you have to ship the item and want to avoid using a heavy jar or bulky box.
Here are some good wrapping paper alternatives:
- Old maps
- Colorful pages from a magazine
- Children’s artwork
- Brown paper tied with colorful ribbon or string
- Clean, inside out snack bags
If your recipient is the type of person who expects traditional gift wrap, consider this environmentally-friendly wrapping paper from Wrappily. It’s recyclable, compostable and supports a Maui-based business.
Also, as mentioned above, plain wrapping paper (no foil, glitter or lamination) is recyclable.
The Best Gifts Can’t Be Wrapped
Studies show, most people value experiences more than things which means the best gifts don’t need to be wrapped at all. Share the gift of adventure with a PADI eLearning® gift card or Discover Scuba Diving® voucher from a local dive shop.