Sustainable Wrapping Paper: Do’s & Don’ts

Gifts wrapped in pretty, festive wrapping paper are a highlight of the holiday season for many. Unfortunately, modern wrapping paper is often tossed into landfills – even when it could have been recycled. Each year, approximately 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper ends up in landfills in the US alone. Luckily, you have options! 

First, it’s important to note that even “conventional” wrapping paper can be recycled. To determine if your municipality accepts recycled paper, go to the municipal recycling website in your area to learn more. In Maryland, these expectations vary by county. Washington, D.C. residents can access guidelines here. A good general rule of thumb is that, for many municipalities, glossy or regular paper can be recycled, but paper containing glitter or foil is often a no go

Regardless of your wrapping material, be sure to remove any tape or ribbons from the packaging before you recycle in order to reduce contamination. 

If you’re looking for a wrapping material that requires less resources than new wrapping paper, consider these options. 

1.  Brown “filler” paper

This is my personal favorite choice, since I effortlessly accumulate more of it year round when I receive packages that I’ve ordered online. Filler paper is easy to fold and store, and it allows you to wrap gifts using the same techniques you’re used to with conventional wrapping paper. The used brown paper can be either recycled or composted after removing any tape. We recommend recycling plain paper like this unless it’s too small to be recycled, it’s wet, or it contains some kind of food or oil waste. 

2.  Fabric 

Fabric scraps have been used to wrap gifts for centuries. In the 1600s in Japan, Furoshiki originated as a methodology for wrapping gifts in fabric. Although this method is not as commonplace in America today, Furoshiki is growing in popularity in the States due to its positive environmental implications as well as the beauty of the practice. Once gifts are unwrapped, fabric wrapping materials can easily be repurposed for a variety of uses, making this type of wrapping the easiest to upcycle. 

3.  Paper or plastic bags 

By deconstructing paper or plastic bags that you already own, you’ll give new life to something that may otherwise be discarded. The most time-consuming element of this option is separating the bags and reconnecting them to wrap your gifts. That being said, this option allows for easy recycling due to the fact that paper bags can be recycled in your regular recycling stream, and plastic bags are often accepted at drop-off locations such as regional grocery stores. 

4.  Newspapers or magazines

If your family receives hard copies of any print publications that you’re no longer utilizing, this is another opportunity to collect your wrapping materials all year long. The large size of newspaper pages make them useful for covering larger gifts, but the thin paper can rip easily while wrapping – so exercise caution! Conveniently, newspapers and magazines can both be recycled easily with other paper products. 

5.  Glass jars 

Much like the fabric option, using glass jars to wrap gifts provides an opportunity for the wrapping medium to become part of the gift. This is an especially great idea when it comes to gifting homemade goods like food and bath items. 

Once you’ve selected your optimal wrapping paper medium, don’t forget to decorate! Fresh or dried sprigs of plants, t-shirts or upcycled cloth cut into string-like strips, stamps, dried orange slices, and re-used ribbons or bows are all great choices when it comes to sprucing up your gift in a sustainable manner. 

When it comes to making the holidays more sustainable, repurposed wrapping methods like this are only one small piece of the puzzle. During the period between Thanksgiving and New Years, waste increases 25% in the US annually, and it’s important that we all work together to decrease this waste. Be sure to let us know about all of your sustainable holiday plans, from wrapping paper to upcycled gifts to your holiday feast! 

By: Sara Mack, Marketing Manager