Choose eco-friendly holiday gift wrapping and cards
Wrap your holiday in style—eco-style that is. With so many environmentally friendly ways to dress up gifts, send cards, or invite guests—whether for Christmas or Hanukkah—you’ll have a hard time choosing! We’ve got heaps of resources to help get you saving money and cutting holiday waste—everything from reusable gift wrapping to e-cards to gift tags to homemade gift boxes to natural ribbon. Just remember: there's a lot of greenwash out there! So if you want to be secure in your eco-friendly purchases, look for certifiably-green products whenever possible.
Ideas for eco-friendly giftwrap, cards, and invitations
We consume and discard enormous quantities of wrapping paper and ribbon as we tear into the treasures left for us by family and friends. But choosing reusable or recycled options can significantly reduce our consumption and save us money! In fact, by wrapping just three gifts in recycled paper from around the house, our combined efforts would save enough paper to plaster 45,000 football fields with the stuff. Similarly, if US families reused a mere 2 feet of ribbon every holiday, it would amount to enough ribbon (38,000 miles) to tie a bow around our globe!
Wrapping paper, ribbon, gift boxes, and bags
Inspire even the staunchest non-wrappers in your family to get in on the gift wrapping action by trying these great eco-friendly wrapping ideas.
- Fabric gift bags: No more 2 am wrapping parties! Whether you make your own or purchase store-bought fabric gift wrapping and bags, you’ll save money and time with these stress-reducing options. In fact, these fabric wraps and bags are so much quicker and easier than wrapping with paper, even un-nimble fingers won’t mind the work.
- Reusable bags and boxes: Earth-conscious gift givers can wrap their presents in an eco-friendly fashion by purchasing reusable gift bags or boxes that can be passed from gift recipient to gift recipient—they may even find themselves halfway around the world! Many are made with sustainable ingredients like recycled cotton or paper.
- Recycled and tree-free giftwrap: If you’re still interested in using old-fashioned paper to dress-up your gifts, go for paper made with post-consumer recycled content. Tree-free options also exist, and are made from bamboo, kenaf, hemp, cotton, and even sheep poo!
- Renewable, biodegradable, and recycled finishing touches: When thinking about how to finish off your gifts, consider resilience and recyclability. A lot of ribbons and bows found at your local store are made using petroleum products which means they’re not sustainable nor are they recyclable, but many renewable or recyclable options do exist. If you’re going for longevity (a great idea if you want to reduce waste), then choose long-lasting ribbons made from organic or natural fibers such as cotton, silk, hemp, or bamboo. Less durable options also exist, such as recycled paper and biodegradable crepe paper. Don't forget the biodegradable tape!
If you’re handy with scissors and craft tools, you may wish to fashion your own items for bundling up your gifts:
- Sew fabric gift bags: Whip up some homemade reusable gift bags to use from year to year by repurposing old sheets, pillow cases, scraps of fabric, or even holiday-themed sweaters and T-shirts. But if nothing around your home inspires, try purchasing good quality, eco-friendly fabrics made from organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, or even silk. Get all kinds of patterns online: Craft Stylish, The Artful Crafter, or Furoshiki to name a few.
- Recycling paper for wrapping: Wrap up those gifts in paper found around your house, like old maps (for the traveler), comics (for the humorist), or children’s artwork (for parents). Last year’s holiday wrapping (ironed out) and used paper bags also work nicely as home-grown recycled options.
- DIY gift boxes: Found items—holiday greeting cards, cereal boxes—from around your house can also be reused to make gift boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which’ll save money and reduce trips to the recycling bin.
- Give two useful presents instead of one: Wrapping a gift within a gift. For example, tuck cooking utensils in an apron or "package" gifts in a jewelry box, flower pot, or basket.
Gift tags, cards, and invitations
The US Postal Service estimates that they deliver more than 20 billion pieces of mail between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, nearly 300,000 trees are cut down to serve as raw material for the approximately 1.9 billion holiday cards sent each year—enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. You can reduce the trash associated with cards and invitations by using tags and cards that relieve the earthly load.
- Growing gift cards and tags: Use gift tags that go on to live second lives in your recipient’s flower garden. These unique touches contain paper embedded with flower or herb seeds that can be planted straight in the ground, so that no card trash is leftover!
- Reusable gift tags: Make your own reusable gift tags or buy some that you can use from year to year. Some come with smooth surfaces which can be written on and wiped off many times over; others are more durable and meant to be permanently addressed to a particular recipient and reused for that same person in years to come. These’ll keep saving you money long after you’ve purchased them!
- Recycled or renewable content gift tags and cards: Pick up some gift tags made from recycled paper or make your own from used paper, file folders, or cardboard. Other alternatives include tags and cards made from hemp, kenaf, or bamboo fibers. And you can even repurpose last year’s holiday cards as gift tags!
- Electronic invitations and cards: Need to send family newsletters or invitations to your holiday bash? Try out evites and cards to save paper, stamps, and money! Or create your own family newsletter in your word processing software, save it, and send it as an attachment using your regular email program. You can still send paper invites and cards to those few non-emailers on your list.
Recycling used giftwrap, cards, and tags
Regardless of what you’ve used for your gifts, you’ll likely be left with some non-reusable items. Just be sure to safely dispose of it all, whenever possible.
- Reuse old cards: When the holiday’s over and you’ve got a stack of cards leftover, reuse them for bookmarks, postcards, and kids crafts. Or save them for stylish decorating options next holiday season!
- Recycle boxes, Styrofoam, and plastic packaging: Don’t forget that many new gifts come wrapped in layers of cardboard, plastic, Styrofoam, and more. Ensure that your holidays are waste-free by searching Earth 911 for ways to recycle these materials (or avoid them altogether by choosing the eco-friendly packaging option whenever possible).
Find it! Eco-friendly giftwrap, cards, ribbon, and tags
Stock up on eco-friendly paper, cards, tags, and more with these green gift-finishing options.
Made from 100 percent post-consumer paper, soy-based inks, and organic pigments, this handmade, silk-screened wrapping paper contains a robust mix of seeds that should bloom anywhere in the country when planted.
Decorate your gifts or holiday table with these handmade plantable gift tags which come with planting instructions (seed germinate 6-8 weeks after planting). You can customize paper and ribbon color and coordinate these with their wide range of holiday cards.
With a variety of eco-friendly ribbons from which to choose, you can customize them all (bulk ordering, mostly). Some are made with organic cotton, some with a cotton/hemp blend, and many printed with soy-based natural inks.
Avoid synthetic ribbon and use hemp twine instead for natural looking tree-free gift-giving. Global Hemp Store's hemp twine is twisted and waxed to be smooth and flexible, making it easier to tie up packages. Colors include natural, black, red, orange, green, and turquoise.
Get your 100 percent recycled giftwrap here and you’ll be buying into paper that’s made with post-consumer materials as well as soy-based inks. Comes in several unique and interesting designs. They also carry plantable holiday cards, invitations, and note paper.
Lagniappe reusable cloth gift bags are made from 100 percent organic cotton and colored with eco-friendly dyes. They’ve got traditional Christmas prints, winterscapes, and Hanukkah-themed wrapping as well.
Finish those packages with 100 percent non-woven cotton fiber curling ribbon made in the USA. Comes in a range of solid, striped, and dotted colors and can be curled or even shredded for a variety of eco-friendly looks.
Natural Elements' handmade giftwrap is created from mulberry tree bark. Harvested annually, the bark grows back the following year, stimulating tree growth. Giftwrap features a cloth-like texture and comes in many designs.
Add the perfect touch to your gift wrapping with this ribbon made from eco-safe recycled paper and natural vegetable dyes. They’re hand-twisted and although they can be reused, they are totally biodegradable. Comes in a variety of colors.
Of the Earth offers many wrapping paper designs. All paper is tree-free, made from the Daphne bush, which is harvested as a sapling, but isn't destroyed. Rather, it regenerates from the root.
Made from strands of cotton coated with water-based adhesive and dyed with soy-based ink, this ribbon is 100 percent biodegradable. Ribbon comes in several colors, including artichoke, baby blue, baby pink, and barn red.
This hemp/recycled giftwrap comes in multi patterns for every occasion, from holidays to birthdays to baby gifts. The paper is made from a melange of fibers—hemp, flax, and post-consumer recycled paper fibers.
Made from the bark of banana trees, this giftwrap is known for its strength, delicate designs, and sustainability. This Elephant Parade wrapping paper is just one of several designs available from Peaceful Valley Greetings.
Stitch up a truly creative costume or goodie bag using 100 percent hemp fabrics that are cozy (great for those cold trick-or-treating nights) and durable. Color options include natural, ivory, burgundy, and sage. Rawganique also carries hemp yarn.
Using unbleached cotton salvaged from the apparel and rug industries in India, these unique bags are handmade by rural craftsmen. The gift bags are perfect for hostess gifts or presents under the tree and come in a variety of holiday-inspired colors.
Feeling crafty? Why not make your own cards this holiday season using a kit that includes cards and envelopes made from recycled paper, old cotton rags, corn husks, and banana stems, as well as string and holiday shapes. The kits are made in a 125-member cooperative in Kathmandu.
This popular European transparent tape is made from biodegradable regenerated cellulose, which is derived from wood pulp. The wood pulp comes from suppliers with ISO14000 certification and extensive reforestation programs. The pulp is made via an eco-friendly, chlorine-free process.
Queens, New York-based Seltzer Goods makes a range of sassy (yet sentimental) greeting cards along with giftwrap, boxed notes, and notebooks. All are crafted with 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper and veggie-based inks. Since 1997, it's saved 375 trees, 65,914 gallons of water, and 13,357 pounds of emissions.
Although you’ll have to order these from the UK, if you act quickly you could have them in time for this year’s festivities. These humorous and sometimes silly are made from “super-fresh sheep poo” which is sterilized and then washed. The leftover fibers are used for the paper and the rich liquid is used as fertilizer!
Made from sweetpaper™ (50 percent sugar can bagasse (waste product of sugar refining industry) and 50 percent recycled fiber), these bags are reusable and sustainable. Sweet Organics also carries tree-free greeting cards, recycled gift tissue, and biodegradable curling ribbon.
Make your own treat bag, costume, or decorations using Certified Organic cotton fabric. Sold by the yard, you can order this Fair Trade fabric for all kinds of Halloween crafts. Comes in an array of Hallow-riffic colors.
Wide range of 100 percent tree-free cards made from sustainably-harvested sources such as kenaf, sugar cane, and bamboo. You'll find holiday cards with such themes as nature, western lifestyle, fairy world, and more.
These reusable cloth gift bags are hand-batiked or screen-printed using biodegradable dyes. Gift bags come in assorted sizes, including a tall size for wine bottles. Each Wrapsack has a unique number to help you keep tabs on the journey your gift bag takes as it's passed along from gift recipient to recipient.
These unique gift tags are both durable and eco-friendly. They’re made from recycled office file folders, are finished with a hemp cord tied to their tops, and come in packages of 12. And best of all, they’re recycled once your finished with them.
Choosing eco-friendly giftwrap, cards, and tags helps you go green because...
- Reusable options reduce your waste—more so the longer you use them.
- Recycled options reuse materials, save energy, and reduce waste.
- Tree-free options cut forest destruction.
Nothing ramps up your gift-giving wattage like the dazzle and shine of wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows. Unfortunately, all this pretty trim can add up to a mountain of waste and depleted resources. Indeed, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day, Americans chuck a million extra tons of trash each week, and as much as half of the 85 million tons of paper products America consumes every year goes toward packaging, wrapping, and decorating consumer goods. Wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the US.
The ugly side of giftwrap
Like most forms of paper, giftwrap impacts the environment adversely during its disposal and production alike, initially consuming virgin resources (trees, water, fuel) before ending up in landfills. Compared to other industries, pulp and paper manufacturing uses the most water per ton of product.
Add to the paper production problems the fact that most conventional giftwrap is not recyclable, and you've got waste at both ends of the usage line. Giftwrap's impact on our waste flow becomes especially noticeable during the holiday shopping season when Americans create an average of 25 percent more trash than usual, to the tune of 1 million additional tons each week between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
Local waste management centers often differ in their approaches to giftwrap recycling. For example, New York City recycles wrapping paper as part of its standard mixed-paper flow, while the city of Boulder, Colorado, accepts giftwrap for only one month each year after the holiday season, listing it as a contaminant within the normal paper recycling stream for the remainder of the year due to its high clay and ink contents.
Most adhesive tape sold in the US is made from synthetic acetate and petroleum byproducts that aren't biodegradable or recyclable. Because millions of miles of tape are sold each year, the environmental impact can be significant. 3M alone (maker of Scotch Tape) claims to sell enough tape annually to circle the planet 165 times.
As environmental standards tighten, some tape manufacturers are looking to replace petroleum-based adhesives with water-based materials, but few are yet available. One alternative, available mostly in Europe, is tape made of biodegradable regenerated cellulose, derived from wood pulp.
- About.com - Recycling Christmas Cards
- Grinning Planet - The High Price of Paper Greeting Cards, Waste, Recycling, and Environmental Solutions
- World Environmental Organization - Recycle: Greeting Cards: Ideas for reusing old holiday cards
- Sierra Club - Green Holiday Tips
- National Geographic - Green Christmas: Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday
- US Census Bureau - The 2007 Holiday Season
- US Census Bureau - Face for Features & Special Editions
- San Mateo County Recycle Works - Facts on Holiday Waste
- Recycleworks - Facts on Holiday Waste
- The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report - The Yuletide Guide
- The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report - 42 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Wasteline
- PR Newswire - Scotch Tape Awarded National Historic Chemical Landmark Designation