How to Make Your Gifts More Sustainable

November 23rd, 2020

There’s a lot that goes into giving someone a gift, from finding the right item to picking the perfect packaging. Of course, it’s all worth it for the moment that person tears the paper off and their face lights up with a smile. However, there’s a hidden cost to gift giving, and it may surprise you. What is this hidden cost?

Once people open their gifts, we’re left with a wrapping paper-littered floor. It’s easy enough to toss these wrappings straight into the recycling bin, but Once the gifts have been opened and the wrappings cast aside, many people toss the paper right into the recycling bin. Unfortunately though, a lot of the wrapping paper sold in stores can’t actually be recycled. The glitters and dyes used in those pretty patterns often make them unrecyclable.

When these items are thrown in with other recycling items, they contaminate other waste paper, and the whole batch cannot be used in new paper or cardboard. Here’s what to do with your paper, bows, and baubles instead.


If they’re made of plastic or ribbon, paper mills can’t use them. Don’t toss bows into the recycling bin with your regular papers or plastics. However, that doesn’t mean YOU can’t reuse them. Even the most basic bows tend to hold up really well year after year, and with a little tape they’ll stick over and over again. You can also use fabric ribbon or twine to tie up packages instead of plastic ribbon that won’t decompose.

Wrapping Paper

Metallic and glittery paper can’t be recycled. Most gift bags can be reused for multiple occasions. You CAN recycle plain paper in your recycling bin, though. Even better is that you don’t have to remove the tape before you toss it in. Though it might seem boring, plain paper actually makes a great canvas if you like to get creative with bows and ribbons. Plus, you can scribble the recipient’s name right on the paper and save on gift tags.


Fabric ribbons can be reused with a future gift. You should carefully remove plastic ribbons from anything going in the recycling bin. This is because ribbons easily tangle around recycling sorting equipment and can prevent it from working properly.


Instead of dealing with the hassle of buying wrapping paper every year, consider wrapping gifts in newspaper or an outdated map. These unique wrappings are sure to make your gifts stand out from the crowd! If you enjoy sewing, you may have some fabric scraps lying around that can be used as gift wrap too. Using a fabric wrap is quite common in Japan—it’s called furoshiki, and the attractive fabric makes a wonderful bonus gift for the recipient to enjoy or even pass on to someone else. (Curious about furoshiki? Here’s a blog post detailing some creative and beautiful ways to wrap gifts using fabric.)

If fabric wrapping isn’t your style, you could also package gifts in reusable bags, such as a tote or drawstring bag—another bonus item the recipient can enjoy or reuse for their own gifting needs. The shiny totes below are festive, trendy, and best of all, reusable!

If you need more ideas, there’s a whole list of them here! Don’t be afraid to get creative with your wrapping. Your loved ones—and the Earth—will appreciate it!

Still need gift ideas? Check out our gift guide!

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