Skip to main content

21OAK may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Wrapping paper is terrible for the planet — this is what you should use instead

The holidays are here, which means it’s time to start thinking about gifts, and with gifts come wrapping paper. According to, in the U.S., “an additional five million tons of waste is generated over Christmas, four million of which is wrapping paper and shopping bags.” If people recycled that paper, it would be less of an environmental issue, but the problem is that most wrapping paper cannot be recycled.

Most wrapping paper isn’t only paper — it’s lined with plastic or covered in glitter, making it non-recyclable and a pollutant. Much of the glitter and tape from gift wraps end up in the oceans, polluting the water and killing wildlife. So what can you do to help reduce the wrapping paper waste this Christmas season? Keep reading to find out some of our best ideas.

Related Videos


If they aren’t already in a box, most gifts end up in one because it makes wrapping easier. If you’re thinking about cutting down on waste this year, the question soon becomes, why do you have to wrap the box?

Also, most of us have boxes on hand from items we had shipped to our door or gifts we received previously. You can reuse these boxes for Christmas gifts. You can also repurpose cereal boxes into Christmas gift boxes (and your family will soon figure out that they aren’t receiving a giant box of cereal).

If you’d still like your gifts to have a presentation, you can invest in decorated Christmas boxes that you reuse year after year.

Person wrapping gifts in blankets instead of wrapping paper.

Fabric wrapping

You can use tons of different fabrics to wrap gifts — tea towels, blankets, bandannas, scarves, T-shirts, or scrap fabric from other projects. The best part about using fabric for gift wrap is that the wrap becomes a bonus gift. Sure, you won’t get the crisp lines and seams you get when wrapping gifts in paper, but you will accomplish the goal of concealing the present, and you’ll be helping the planet. If you want to get extra fancy, look up videos on how to wrap gifts in fabric, and you’ll be a pro in no time.

Recycled packing material

Most of the items ordered online arrive stuffed with kraft paper. Instead of tossing this paper in the recycling bin, save it and turn it into wrapping paper. Kraft paper is recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable, which means you can get rid of it in an eco-friendly way when you’re finished with it. Also, kraft paper is a blank slate, meaning you or the kids can have fun decorating your gifts with markers or rubber stamps.

Jars or tins

Small items that fit into a jar or tin make a beautiful gift. If you like to gift food items, tins and jars are the perfect way to present them to the recipient. You can also get creative and decorate the jar or tin with biodegradable paint or use a non-toxic mod podge to collage photos on the outside.

If you’re not the DIY type, tying a sprig of pine around the jar or tin with butcher’s twine will also look great. If you drink a lot of tea, save the tins and use them as gift boxes when the holidays come around.

Person decorating gift with rubber stamp.

Eco-friendly wrapping paper

If you can’t help yourself and insist on using wrapping paper for your gifts, consider using post-consumer recycled wrapping paper. Post-consumer waste paper is made from paper reclaimed from office or home recycling. Be sure to choose non-metallic and glitter-free paper, or it’s not really eco-friendly since you can’t recycle it again. Closing the recycling loop is key to helping the planet and doing your part to cut down on waste.

The holidays bring togetherness, food, family, presents, and unfortunately, lots of waste. Surprising your loved ones with the perfect gift is half of the joy of the holidays, but the wrapping paper waste is noticeably excessive. Fortunately, there are several creative ways to ditch the traditional wrapping paper and use more eco-friendly alternatives.

When considering your options, get creative, and don’t worry if your gifts aren’t the prettiest of the bunch. Your friends and family will learn to expect the unexpected from you on the holidays, and you may even convert a few of them. Besides, the wrapping paper shouldn’t be the best part of the gift — what’s inside the wrapping is what counts (unless you wrap your gift in a personalized tin or hand-knit blanket). No matter what method you choose, your loved ones will be grateful that they received a gift and that you’re doing your part to cut down on holiday waste.

Editors' Recommendations

Why your home should have an areca palm (and how to care for it)
Tips for properly caring for an indoor areca palm plant
how to grow areca palm decorative near white brick wall

Your indoor plants should reflect your unique style and integrate seamlessly with your home's decor. Indoor palms are a joy for anyone wanting to bring a piece of the greenery from warmer climates into their interior design. If you're looking for a bold, tropical addition to your indoor space, an areca palm is a perfect choice. With their substantial height and sharp, feathery foliage, these palms add a fresh and bright statement to any room.

Is the areca palm a good indoor plant?
Not only does an areca palm bring a mood-lifting splash of the tropics into your home, but it also offers numerous health benefits. This attractive palm can improve indoor air quality by removing toxins and adding humidity to the air, which is great if your indoor air tends to be a bit dry. Caring for a living thing, like this palm, is also a mood booster.

Read more
The hidden costs of charging an electric vehicle nobody is talking about
Are there hidden costs to charging an EV? We've got the scoop
can teslas raise property values charging modern electric car on the street which are

The popularity of electric vehicles is on the rise, and almost 50% of the population is in support of phasing out gasoline cars completely. You may be among the many people who are considering an electric vehicle (EV) for their next car purchase. You likely won't be disappointed — a recent J.D. Power study found that the majority of first-time EV owners are reluctant to go back to gasoline-powered cars.

But before you take the leap into EV ownership, it's best to familiarize yourself with the prices of electric cars themselves, as well as how much charging your electric vehicle will cost you on a monthly or yearly basis. To prepare for your new electric life, check out this guide on the real EV charging costs.

Read more
We found the absolute best places to buy affordable midcentury modern furniture
Interior of a house. Mustard yellow velvet loveseat. Living room with midcentury modern furniture. Concrete floor. Vintage carpet. Eclectic living room.

Furnishing a home or apartment can get uber-expensive, especially when you’re all about creating a stylish, cohesive look in your place. In that case, you’ll want to know where to buy cheap midcentury modern furniture, which is in fashion right now and shows no signs of going out of style.

Cheap midcentury modern-style furniture can be hard to come by in a typical, big-box furniture retail store. This style will only be a small part of their vast collection, and normally at a high cost. But there are many other ways to find the chic pieces you’re looking for. Lo and behold, we present our guide to buying affordable midcentury modern furniture.

Read more