Traditional wrapping paper is extremely wasteful and expensive. Despite looking pretty, much of it ends up in the trash and can’t be recycled. Do your part to be more mindful and sustainable with these simple, festive and eco-friendly natural holiday gift wrapping options.
I love the holidays, I really do. I’ve always loved them. The nostalgic songs. The twinkling of white lights on frigid winter evenings. That sense of magic and anticipation that fills the days leading up to Christmas. I know I’ve talked before about the sometimes overwhelming stress and the negativity of overspending and consumerism, but now that I’m taking time to savor the simplicity of the season, and giving heartfelt homemade gifts, I’m back to loving it. It’s all so wonderful!
And yet the more I give thought to sustainability and living mindfully, the more I find wastefulness and excess everywhere. It’s mind-blowing to realize just how much people throw away with almost no thought at all. I know that it feels like once you put your garbage in the can or the recycling bin it’s gone, but it’s really not. It goes somewhere, and this time of year more of it goes there than at any other time.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans will generate an extra 25 million tons of garbage. Four million tons of that is just wrapping paper, ribbons and bows!
That’s not very merry.
What’s worse is knowing that I’ve contributed to that statistic every year, without even realizing it. Well, not this year! Now that I know better, it’s time for me to do better, and sticking to recycled and recyclable natural holiday gift wrapping is how I’m going to do it.
5 Simple + Natural Holiday Gift Wrapping Alternatives
Traditional wrapping paper is extremely wasteful and expensive. Do your part to be more mindful and sustainable with these simple, festive and eco-friendly natural holiday gift wrapping options (although please don’t feel bad if you do use regular wrapping paper. I’m not here to judge, just to give you ideas!).
As an added bonus, all of these materials can be upcycled and put to use out in the garden or elsewhere on the farmstead! Read on to find out how:
Butcher (or Kraft) Paper
Butcher Paper is probably the simplest swap for traditional wrapping paper that you can make. It’s also sometimes called kraft paper, and it is made of 100% recycled materials. It looks timeless and classic under the tree, it can be recycled, and it’s pretty cost effective, too. One roll of this will last you forever!
How to use it in the garden: Butcher paper is great for use as a weed suppressant. Roll it out between rows and cover it with compost or mulch. It will smother the weeds, feed the worms and decompose back into the earth.
I love burlap, and it’s definitely making a comeback as a popular and natural material to use in so many different ways. It’s inexpensive and eco-friendly, as it’s typically woven from the fibers of plants. If you use burlap to wrap your packages, you’ll have to tie them closed with ribbon or twine (this stuff is much too strong for tape), but you’ll end up with an elegant-looking gift. If you’re handy with needle and thread, you could also use burlap to sew gift bags out of.
How to use it in the garden: There are so many ways to use burlap in the garden. Use it to wrap and protect potted or young plants from cold freezes in the winter, or as a frost blanket for seedlings in the spring. You can also use burlap as a liner for hanging baskets, to store potatoes and onions in, and to protect roots when transplanting. Burlap is biodegradable, water-repellent and earth-friendly.
We commonly use newspaper as gift wrap for birthdays, but there’s nothing that says it can’t be used for the holidays, too. Most newspapers are made from recycled paper, and are usually printed with water or soy-based inks.
How to use it in the garden: Like butcher paper, newspaper can make a great weed-blocking mulch when layered on thickly. If you only have a handful of it from one or two presents, you could also simply tear it into pieces and throw it into your compost pile. It will break down pretty quickly. You could also use it to make newspaper seed pots (this is the tool I use to make mine).
Tea towels or flour sack towels make beautiful gift wrap! They’re also really the gold standard of reusable wrapping, as they can be used for years in the kitchen after they’ve been unwrapped. Tea towels are fairly inexpensive, come in almost endless colors and patterns, and can be made with ultra-sustainable bamboo or from 100% organic cotton. You can wrap your package with them using the Japanese furoshiki techniques (there are tons of videos showing how to do it, and you’ll be surprised by how easy it is!), or you could simply put your gift in a recycled basket and cover it with the towel. Either way it will look great!
How to use it in the garden: I would say that tea towels are most useful in the house or kitchen. I use mine as paper towel alternatives and cleaning cloths. I also find them useful when cleaning out pots, washing the greenhouse walls, as a kerchief when planting under the hot sun, or to wipe off my hands after digging in the dirt.
OK, technically paper bags are pretty much the same thing as butcher paper, you just have to cut them out, turn them over and flatten them yourself. You don’t even have to do that though, really! Keep it whole, stick in some newspaper or some tissue paper and your present into it and it’s a genuine gift bag! If the bag is printed with a store logo, you could paint over it with a water-based paint or glue on some cut-out paper snowflakes. You can get paper bags from grocery or specialty stores, pharmacies, feed stores and even from the inside of feed bags!
How to use it in the garden: You can use paper bags the same way as butcher paper or newspaper. Whole paper bags (not cut up) are also great for storing all sorts of garden stuff, including garlic bulbs at the end of the season.
Other Natural Holiday Gift Wrapping Tips
- Tie it with sisal or baking twine! Compost it or set aside to use in the garden later
- Skip the glitter — glitter isn’t recyclable (and it gets everywhere!)
- Cut out pictures from old Christmas cards to decorate your packages
- Tie sprigs of fir or pine boughs to the gift as natural decorations
So much of traditional wrapping paper ends up in the landfill, either mistakenly or because it can’t be recycled due to glitter, dyes or metallic materials. Using these and other recycled, natural and biodegradable gift wrapping alternatives is better for us, our loved ones and the earth.
Do you have any tips for using simple and natural holiday gift wrapping in the garden? What are your favorite reusable or eco-friendly wrapping materials? Please tell me about them in the comments below!
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