Holiday wrapping hacks to minimize waste and maximize joy

Who doesn’t love a beautifully wrapped present? That is, until you’re in your third hour of wrapping them… or looking for the scissors to help your children cut off those perfectly curled ribbons… or considering the waste! In the U.S., we throw away four million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags every holiday season, and some of the prettiest packages are the worst for the planet — think foiled and glittered papers that can’t be recycled, won’t biodegrade, and are covered in microplastics. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to put beautiful packages under the tree with less impact on the planet (and less frustration on Christmas morning)! Here are a few of our favorite ways to wrap gifts with a smaller ecological footprint and a quicker path to playtime fun.

Wrap gifts in reusable boxes.

A sturdy set of decorative paperboard boxes can provide you with many years of holiday use, and you can usually find them in a variety of designs and colors to complement your decor at your local home goods or craft store. A quick wrap of baker’s twine or cloth ribbon keeps the lid secure until it’s time to open gifts. As an added bonus, they make it much harder for curious kiddos to figure out what’s inside — and you can say goodbye to cleaning up wrapping paper!

Make your own gift bags.

Not every present fits in a box, but cloth drawstring bags are multipurpose, reusable, and can be made in any size, color or pattern to fit your needs or taste. If you have a sewing machine, they are also incredibly easy to whip up using this DIY cloth gift bag tutorial from AppleGreen Cottage!

Upcycle your shopping bags.

Good quality shopping bags don’t need to go to waste (or sit in your closet collecting dust). There are plenty of ideas online for upcycling bags or turning them into wrapping paper or bows. Even plain brown paper bags can become beautiful gift packaging!

Unbox toys ahead of time.

Even the simplest toys seem to come excessively packaged, and it can be a headache to get them opened up and assembled on Christmas morning, especially with “help” from eager little ones who are excited to start playing. For younger children, unpackage toys and do any necessary assembling, add batteries, etc., before wrapping them in a reusable box or bag. You’ll have time to ensure that packaging materials are properly recycled rather than swept up with a mountain of wrapping garbage, and the gifts will be ready for playtime the moment they’re opened.

Wrap a gift… in a gift.

The most useful wrapping “paper” isn’t paper at all. For double impact, incorporate a cloth wrap into your gift. Using folding and knotting tutorials online (and a little bit of trial and error), you can wrap beautiful gifts inside tea towels, scarves, play silks, aprons… with a little creativity, you could probably even figure out how to wrap a sweater or princess dress inside itself!

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