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Eco-Friendly Wrapping That May Just Outshine The Gift Inside

December 21, 2016

All right, it's December 21 and you have found (or are about to find) thoughtful, sustainable holiday gifts for all your loved ones. Now comes the fun part—wrapping them up in a way that inspires childlike excitement and projects dreamy vibes onto your Christmas tree or menorah. Safe to say, plain-jane wrapping just won't cut it.

Plus, that traditional bright red snowman paper contributes to some pretty serious environmental damage. According to the Clean Air Council, Americans go through 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags each year. (For a little perspective, that's enough to wrap 5,787 football fields.) And over the holidays, about 227,000 miles' worth of wrapping paper gets thrown away globally—enough to circle the world nine times. The dying and lamination that gives wrapping paper its sheen makes recycling difficult, so it's trashed more often than not.

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This year, consider a more sustainable, reusable option that won't end up tattered in a landfill come New Year's Eve. Here are five less wasteful alternatives to try this season.

1. Explore the wondrous world of sustainable wrapping.

Plenty of innovative brands are dreaming up sustainable papers and fabrics that you can feel better about buying. Wrapping companies like Greenfield Paper and Fish Lips repurpose recycled papers, decorating them with plant-based inks rather than conventional petroleum-based ones. U.S.-based Nuno skips the paper altogether, offering fabric wraps made by repurposing the polyester of recycled water bottles. Inspired by the ancient Japanese art of furoshiki, or wrapping gifts in cloth, Nuno wraps come in different sizes for every gift. ReuseIt offers another lovely fabric option that's made using 100 percent organic cotton.

2. Use newspapers or magazines.

Now is the perfect opportunity to sift through that stack of New Yorkers sitting in your kitchen corner and use it to fashion a DIY wrapping. If you're feeling extra artsy, jazz up your gift's brainy exterior with sprigs from your Christmas tree or small trinkets you have lying around.

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3. Repurpose your old maps or calendars.

These make for transcendent, dreamy wrappings that will transport your giftee to faraway lands.

4. Bag it all up.

House your gifts in reusable bags and forgo the wrapping process altogether. We really love these whimsy animal totes from West Elm and graphic, NYC-centric ones from Bag-All.

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5. Ditch the wrapping altogether.

Make your wrapping vessel a present all its own by enveloping gifts in pretty fabrics, decorative scarves, or visual dishcloths. You can also nestle smaller presents in storage baskets or mason jars. The possibilities really are endless. Better yet, leave your gifts loose and hide them around the house for a little Christmas or Hanukkah treasure hunt. Because who doesn't love a new tradition?

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.