5 Sustainable Yet Appealing Alternatives To Gift Wrap

Show your appreciation to loved ones and mother earth with these sustainable, highly accessible, and appealing alternatives to the usual gift wraps. 

It’s always exciting to unwrap a present during Christmas, and for many, surprising loved ones by wrapping gifts in beautiful, decorative gift wrappers is quite the pleasurable experience. There’s no doubt that wrapping paper with intricate designs and polished, glossy finishes really add sophistication to a gift. Throw in some vibrant ribbons and other decorative elements, and you’ve got an impressive holiday present. 

Many commercial gift wraps are coated in plastic and other environmentally harmful materials that don’t recycle well
Many commercial gift wraps have plastic coatings and other environmentally harmful materials that don’t recycle well/Photo by Nick Fewings via Unsplash

However, these ornate gift wraps aren’t usually the most sustainable materials out there. To achieve a shiny finish, many manufacturers cover these papers in a plastic coating. Meanwhile, wrappers with colorful designs printed on them tend to contain synthetic inks, and metallic ones may contain traces of lead, chlorine, or metal-based foils that can release toxic compounds into the air if someone burns them, as per an article from The Washington Post

READ ALSO: Grown-ish Gifting: A Gift Guide For Your Post-Graduate Student Child

Of course, these statistics don’t have to get in the way of your holiday fun. If anything, they may give rise to more inventive, convenient, and equally-stylish gift wrapping solutions that are good for the environment too. 

If you’re looking for a good place to start, below are five alternatives you can use for your presents this holiday season: 

Fabric 

Fabric is a versatile wrapping material, you can be reuse it multiple times, cycling through gift giver to giftee. The Japanese have this down to an art with the practice of furoshiki, a traditional way of wrapping food, clothes, and presents. This results in gifts that look chic and very personal, as one can choose fabrics with different designs and colors that match the recipient’s specific tastes. 

Wrapping gifts in the style of furoshiki is a beautiful and more sustainable alternative to regular gift wrap
Wrapping gifts in the style of furoshiki is a beautiful and more sustainable alternative to regular gift wrap/Photo by katorisi via Wikimedia Commons

You don’t need to go out of your way to find nice fabrics to use, either. You can use a square or rectangle of fabric from old tablecloths, garments, and other household items that are still too pretty to throw away. 

While you’re at it, why not add a bundle of dried or fresh flowers for an added touch of elegance? The furoshiki way proves that less is definitely more. 

Brown Paper Bags

You can breathe new life into those paper bags you get while shopping by turning them into gift wrap. This is an incredibly simple alternative, yet it can yield many creative results. The brown paper bag is a great blank canvas, allowing you to decorate it as you please with different materials, from white markers to personalized stamps. 

Brown paper bags can be reused as gift wraps for an old-timey, homey parcel look
Brown paper bags can be reused as gift wraps for an old-timey, homey parcel look/Photo by Samuel Holt via Unsplash

It’s also good to save the various ribbons and strings that came with previous gifts you’ve received. This way, you can reuse them to add more flair to the brown paper bag gift wraps. 

Cardboard Boxes 

If you purchase a lot of products through e-commerce platforms, you may have noticed a lot of sellers using cardboard boxes. If they’re in immaculate condition, you can definitely reuse them for your own holiday gifts. You’ll likely amass a collection of boxes in varying sizes, which provides plenty of flexibility if you’re also giving out gifts both large and small. 

Cardboard gift boxes recycled from past e-commerce shipments are also great alternatives that you can customize to your heart’s content
Cardboard gift boxes recycled from past e-commerce shipments are also great alternatives that you can customize to your heart’s content/Photo by Mediamodifier via Unsplash

The boxes still maintain the surprise element of gift-giving, but without all the added effort of wrapping, which is great news for those who aren’t very fond of or good at the activity (no shame in it). Much like the brown paper bag wrappers, these cardboard boxes can be customized with sticker tags, ribbons, markers, paint, and of course, personalized stamps for a classic vintage look. 

Baskets and Woven Bags

Filipino artisans produce some of the most beautiful handwoven bags and baskets out there, so why not support your local artists while also practicing sustainable gift-giving? These bags and baskets are convenient alternatives to the traditional wrapped presents, especially if you and your recipient aren’t ones for surprises. 

The Seven Pantry’s locally-woven gift bags by artisans in Cebu
The Seven Pantry’s locally-woven gift bags by artisans in Cebu/Photo from The Seven Pantry via Shopee

A straightforward gift is as good as any, as long as it comes from the heart. However, if you do want to add an element of surprise, you can always cover the gifts with fabric before placing them in the basket or bag. Tie the handles with ribbons or other decorative objects for extra panache. Another great thing about bags and baskets is that they can be reused, and even serve as cute gifts in themselves.

Jars 

You might have a few glass jars lying around the house, and you’re probably wondering what to do with them. Well, they’ll have plenty of use this holiday season, as they can also serve as the perfect gift carriers. Use them for small items like baked goods, candies, and trinkets. 

Jars make for good carriers if you’re giving small treats or trinkets for the holidays
Jars make for good carriers if you’re giving small treats or trinkets for the holidays/Photo by Paul Stollery via Unsplash

Jars are also a great blank canvas for those who want to get creative. Tie a ribbon below their lid or use acrylic markers to decorate their clear glass. Like many of the items in this list, they can be reused as gift containers—and even if they’re not, at least their glass is more recyclable than most plastic wraps or containers. 

Final Note: Try Honeycomb Paper Instead of Bubble Wrap

If you’re giving away rather fragile gifts, opt for honeycomb paper rather than the usual bubble wrap. This special wrapper provides protection that’s as good as most bubble wrap, all while being completely biodegradable. 

Honeycomb paper is an eco-friendly yet equally durable and cushioning alternative to plastic bubble wrap
Honeycomb paper is an eco-friendly yet equally durable and cushioning alternative to plastic bubble wrap/Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Though it looks flimsy, it’s actually incredibly durable due to its hexagonal cut. As the name suggests, the wrapper looks like a honeycomb, as it’s made of interlocking hexagonal strips of kraft paper. This pattern creates a tough material that’s also flexible, lightweight, and shock-absorbing. Use it as a wrapper in itself or wrap them around gifts before placing them in boxes, baskets, and bags for extra cushioning and security. 

If there’s anything these deceptively simple yet versatile materials prove, it’s that one need not be flashy to be visually-appealing, personal, and sustainable. 

Banner photo from the Hot Pink Haberdashery website

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