Before you wrap up those Christmas presents and nestle them lovingly under your tree, consider this: Wrapping paper is one of the most wasteful products used during the holiday season, and we humans discard up to 4 million pounds of it annually. Despite the fact that wrapping paper is slightly eco-friendly—it is composed of unbleached wood pulp and natural and synthetic dyes—it’s not designed for long-term use, so you can only really reuse a sheet up to two times before it’s trashed. Because of the way it’s dyed and laminated, it often contains plastic, glitter and fibers, making it impossible to recycle the same way as normal paper.
While studies and seasonal PSAs have long warned against both the excess amounts of trash produced and the number of trees used to make wrapping paper (up to 50,000, according to a 2006 Guardian study), consumers still willfully purchase cheap, brightly decorated wrap. So to avoid another year of waste production while still keeping up the festive tradition of wrapping presents for loved ones, here’s some cool ideas for what to use instead:
• Plenty of online sites advocate for using colorful, used magazine pages to wrap gifts, but that’s equally wasteful. Instead, use 100 percent recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, old newspapers, toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes or butcher paper. Any tissue paper used to line gift boxes is also unrecyclable, but it’s totally reusable for future presents or crafty projects.
• Skip paper altogether and use fabric from old clothes or scarves, tote bags, tea towels or fabric bags.
• For small gifts, use mason jars, decorative tins, baskets or plastic containers.
If you caved and already wrapped your gifts with wrapping paper, save it for craft projects. Try making origami, paper beads or book covers, or use it to line drawers or cupboards. Using your imagination to save more waste from a landfill is a gift to Mother Nature in itself!