Zero Waste Gift Wrapping


The holidays are here! We’re already working through our favorite holiday movies, we’re getting cozy in warm sweaters and fuzzy socks, we’re baking a little more than usual, and we’ve stopped thinking about the amount of sugar we’re ingesting (December gets a free pass!). We’re also hunting down the perfect gifts for our loved ones. But what we’re NOT doing, is wrapping them in glittery Hallmark wrapping paper.

When it comes to the holidays, my family is BIG on traditions. Having a colorfully decorated tree with beautifully wrapped presents underneath has always brought immense joy throughout the season. Due to tradition, of course, the look of the tree-area never changed. Every year, my mom would wrap presents so neatly and skillfully; I would painstakingly try to replicate the art, getting frustrated when the edges and corners would crinkle. The perfectionist I was would agonize over producing clean, sleek, and tightly wrapped gifts. But not once growing up, or until relatively recently for that matter, did I stop to consider how wild it was that all this paper, tape, and ribbon was serving such a brief purpose and would soon be reduced to a ripped up pile of trash.

I started thinking about the trash bags we would fill with discarded wrapping paper. And I would think about how many other households also had trash bags full of gift wrap and single-use decorations. 

So many bags. So much waste. Year after year. What are we doing?? 

At first, I eased the guilt by rationalizing that it’s paper and it probably gets recycled. But, unfortunately, this was wishful thinking and the reality is that discarded gift-wrap can be very difficult to recycle. Think of the glitter, the metallic paper, the plastic tape, and the velvet…all nearly impossible to recycle and too time consuming for a recycling facility to sort out. Heavily dyed paper and paper that’s too thin can also cause issues.* 

So now I look back on our time honored tradition of gift wrapping and tearing open presents on Christmas day with a new perspective. They’re fond memories but “when you know better, do better” (Maya Angelou). So I won’t be buying glittery gift-wrap again. Fortunately, there are PLENTY of just as beautiful, eco-friendly, zero waste alternatives that don’t create heaps of waste! Like most sustainable swaps, it comes down to just breaking a habit (i.e. a tradition!).

Replace traditional wrapping paper with: 

  • Scarves
  • Reusable bags (can be a canvas tote, cotton produce bag, Bag-all etc.)
  • T-shirts
  • Pillowcases
  • Cloth napkins or dish cloths
  • Newspaper/Magazines
  • Plain brown Kraft paper (any paper that’s easy to recycle or compost)
  • Reusable gift wrap fabric like Wrappr

Then decorate!

  • Flowers, leaves, pine cones, tips of Christmas tree branches
  • Twine
  • Reusable cotton ribbons


If you must use wrapping paper, opt for one that’s recyclable and biodegradable, like Wrappily. Skip the glitter and the velvet and avoid plastic bits. Plain brown paper is an excellent choice too! 


*Every municipality is different! Make sure you research what your local recycling facility is able to recycle. They may accept gift wrap.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published