Hopefully you and your credit cards survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday in one piece, and you’ve finished all your holiday shopping. While you catch your breath, we wanted to bring something to your attention – gift wrapping.

Originally created from spare envelope liners by stationary store moguls Rollie and Joyce Hall (of Hallmark fame) in 1917, wrapping paper has become a huge industry world-wide. The sheer magnitude of colors, sparkles, and shine available today is enough to dazzle even the grouchiest Grinch. But these embellishments come at a price – to consumers and to the environment.

The global gift-wrapping industry was valued at $15.1 billion in 2018. Most wrapping paper is eagerly ripped up and then tossed in the trash. The fancier the paper, the less likely it can be recycled. The same goes for metallic bows, tinsel, glitter and decorative tape. Some wrapping papers are lined with plastics to make them more durable or shiny, which also makes them harder to recyclable.

Here in the Keys, we’re all committed to keeping our environment healthy and our lives sustainable. So, as we cruise on through the holiday season, we wanted to suggest some non-traditional ways to wrap those presents that are good for your wallet and better for the Earth. And, they’re pretty enough that even the big man himself would approve!

Fabric wrapping
Furoshiki is the Japanese art of fabric gift wrapping. You can use a tea towel or scarf to achieve a similar, eco-friendly look. THE ART OF SIMPLE/Contributed

Eco-friendly alternatives:

  • Brown paper bags – simple, chic and easy. Available at most stationery and craft stores, the bags can be personalized with messages or designs. And, they’re totally recyclable. Embellish with some holly or Christmas berries.
  • Upcycle tins and boxes – decorate old tins and boxes you already own to put gifts in. You can use paints, tapes, and fabric to give an old box a new look. Throw on some twine with a cute pinecone for a festive touch.
  • Tea towels, scarves, or other fabric wraps – it’s reusable afterward and is a great, sustainable way to wrap presents.
  • Mason jars – tie a cute twine ribbon and a sprig of cinnamon on the jar. Works great for small items like jewelry.
Trash is for Tossers
Trash is for Tossers presents three eco-friendly alternative wrappings for presents: (left to right) an old shirt cut up and decorated with holly, a brown shopping bag with evergreen sprigs and a palo santo, a produce bag and hand-made tag. TRASH IS FOR TOSSERS/Contributed

“Greener” gift wrap:

  • Brown Kraft paper or brown paper saved from packages/cut-up bags – unlike traditional foiled gift-wrapping, brown craft paper is fully recyclable and completely biodegradable. Write nice notes directly on it for a personalized look. Decorate with a fresh sprig of green or a flower for a nice tropical note.
  • Newspapers, old maps, cool posters – use the comics or the black-and-white printed pages of the paper for an extra-classy look that we obviously love.
  • Your kids’ drawings – if you’ve got tots in the house and they love to doodle, you can use these as very personal wrapping paper alternatives.
  • Wrapping paper made from recycled paper – duh.
  • Bunched newspaper or folded cardboard – use as shipping space fillers instead of plastic packing peanuts or Styrofoam.
Kraft paper, yarn, and ornament
Cut-up paper bags or brown kraft paper is a great alternative if you still want to rip open gifts but want to help the earth. Top it with yarn and a small ornament for a simple, classy gift! LIVEKINDLY.COM/Contributed

DIY gift decor:

  • Twine, hemp, leather cord or spare scraps of fabric – instead of plastic-coated ribbon, use all-natural twine or other bits you save throughout the year to tie your presents.
  • Washi tape – use instead of clear tape. Washi tape is an adhesive sticker made with natural fibers. It’s recyclable with brown paper and comes in more patterns than you can imagine.
  • Paper bows, fresh flowers, and other natural items for decoration – use instead of plastic and metallic décor.
  • Small ornament – If you want to add some fun, tie a small ornament on top of a present for a reusable pop of color.
  • Shred paper as present filler or instead of confetti.

Things to Avoid:

  • Glitter-encrusted anything and confetti – that shine is not recyclable. Most glitters are tiny microplastics that can end up polluting our oceans.
  • Laminated, metallic or textured papers – not recyclable.
  • Fancy holiday cards – because of the glitter and decorations, these also are not recyclable.
  • Ribbons – most are vinyl or other non-recyclable products and go straight to the landfill. If you receive any, save them for next year.

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