Here's What You Should Replace Wrapping Paper With This Holiday Season

December 2nd 2016

Lucy Tiven

The joy of unwrapping holiday gifts comes at a staggering environmental cost.

Wrapping paper, shopping bags, and decorations make up about half of the 85 million tons of paper used in the U.S. each year, The Atlantic reported.

Christmas decorations at a store

Disposing of gift wrap in a fireplace — apparently a popular holiday tradition – poses other risks. The scraps may start a chimney fire, and certain paper contains pigments that release toxic chemicals into the air when burned, according to NPR.

Ditching colored paper in favor of a pile of unwrapped goods isn't exactly festive. Fortunately, there are other ways to preserve the holiday spirit without endangering the planet or those around you.

Here are four eco-friendly ways to celebrate without the gift wrap.

1. Use newspaper!

Whether you're a news junkie or delight in tabloids, you've likely accumulated some excess newspapers and magazines — or, at the very least, have a chance to save a few during the month of December.

These publications present ample possibilities for creative packaging.

aliens abduct cheerleaders

Some people follow a more Dada approach, combining various papers at random.

I like to stick with a theme. Pair news clippings of related celebrity scandals if you're feeling gossipy, or collage images of a disgraced politician to prank an unsuspecting relative.


Simply tape them together and wrap away. (If you want to go the extra mile, spring for a biodegradable rather than a plastic roll of tape at the stationery store.)

2. Find a box.

Who doesn't have a box lying around somewhere?


If you enjoy shopping online or frequently purchase shoes, you may have stashed quite a few in closets and under beds.

Depending on the size of the gift and the level of effort you wish to expend, a simple shoebox can be a quick and easy package.

If the box is unattractive, you can decorate it with paint, cover it with news clippings (!), or encase it in stray fabric.

The website Green Blizzard recommends adorning boxes by spelling out a message in macaroni, which children allegedly like.


3. Use a shirt.

There's a wealth of YouTube tutorials on wrapping gifts in shirts, a practice attributable to the Japanese fabric arts.

Japanese Minister of the Environment Yuriko Koike advocated fabric-wrapping in a meeting of senior government officials a few years ago as a way to reduce waste from plastics.

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment released a guide to the method, which it termed the "Mottainai Furoshiki."

Japanese wrapping

4. Give an experience rather than a physical present.

The easiest way to avoid gift wrap may be simply to give an unwrappable present: an experience, such as a massage, trip, meditation or yoga class, or tickets to an event.

Checks also tend to go over well. 😉