Green Gift Wrapping

Christmas Tree with Wrapped Gifts UnderneathIs there such a thing as green gift wrapping? I enjoy wrapping gifts but realize it is not an environmentally friendly practice. The holiday season seems a good time to address our (my) gift wrap habits. We have pared down our gift giving thus reducing the volume of gift wrapping we use, so I think that is worthy of some green credit.

When I was a kid, every year before Christmas, shipping boxes arrived from northern California with gifts from my maternal grandmother. Inside we would find an array of beautifully wrapped packages and decorated gift boxes. I was enchanted and thus began my love of gift wrapping.

From the time I could wield a pair of scissors and use tape, I loved everything about wrapping presents—finding the right size box, selecting paper, ribbons and bows, wrapping the present, and writing gift tags. I was often asked to wrap gifts for family members and still do.

My paternal grandmother was the first green gift wrapper in our family. When opening a present, she would remove and wind up any ribbon, set aside bows, carefully peel off the tape, remove and fold the wrapping paper. She saved gift wrap materials and redeployed them on future presents.

Green Gift Wrapping

Let’s stipulate that any kind of gift wrapping will have some environmental impact. Manufacturing new and recycled paper generates greenhouse gases and pollution. Growing fiber for cloth bags uses water and possibly pesticides. Manufacturing, transporting, distributing, and disposing of gift wrap materials uses resources and energy. The key is to be informed and think about one’s choices.

Newspapers and Magazines

Almost every website mentions using old newspapers or magazines as gift wrap. Really. Like many people nowadays, I don’t subscribe to a national paper newspaper or magazine so lack a pile of used paper. Even if I did, old newspaper and magazines don’t strike me as attractive wrapping paper.

On the upside, for those who do have old newspapers or magazines, using it to wrap gifts is greener than new wrapping paper and hopefully, recipients will recycle it.

Kraft Paper and Brown Paper Bags

We take reusable bags to the grocery market so only have a couple of paper bags left. For those with Kraft paper or bags on hand, reusing them is not without merit and Kraft paper can be recycled or composted as long as it isn’t decorated with glitter, sequins, or plastic stickers. Dress up the plain paper with soy-based ink stamps, reused ribbons, or water soluble markers.

Reusable Gift Bags and Boxes

Gift bags and boxes are easy to use and reuse. I smooth out and reuse the tissue paper that invariably comes stuffed in the top of the bag. Up the green factor by using bags and boxes that are made out of recycled material, and can be recycled or composted at the end of their life cycle.

I recently received a gift in a fabric bag with a drawstring and will definitely use it again. Fabric holds many possibilities for those who sew and there is always remnants for those who don’t.

I like reusable bags and boxes because there is a huge variety of sizes, colors, and patterns available thus enabling us wrappers to still be creative and have some fun.

Ribbons, Bows, and Decorations

High-quality ribbon, bows, and decorations can be used over and over. The notion of using flowers, sprigs of holly, leaves, and other natural materials to adorn gifts sounds good; however, they may not survive shipping and waiting to be opened.


According to many posts, tape is not necessary. One merely folds the paper ends tightly and wraps the package with twine or ribbon to keep the paper sealed. As a veteran wrapper, I think I’m qualified to say this sounds easier than it is. I’m going to try greener tape and use less tape.

Scavenger Hunt

When our kids were little, we sometimes employed the scavenger hunt technique for gifts that were large, difficult to wrap, or just for fun. My spouse is a good illustrator so clues actually looked like the things they were meant to represent. Nowadays clues or riddles would be drawn or written on the back of used paper and then recycled. Scavenger hunts involve no gift wrap and only a small amount of paper so score high on the green gift wrapping list.

Moving Forward

As an adult, I used to buy most of my gift wrap through school fund raisers. I keep and reuse ribbons, bows, boxes, gift bags, and tissue paper. In our old house, one hall closet was devoted to my box collection. The kids grew up and we moved to a house without a suitable box closet so I downsized. We will continue to deplete our stock of wrapping paper, ribbon, and gifts tags while experimenting with eco-friendly green gift wrapping materials.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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