Green your holiday present-wrapping process by choosing reusable fabric and recyclable paper. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Green your holiday present-wrapping process by choosing reusable fabric and recyclable paper. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Put down the holiday wrapping paper and use your imagination

Here are some green alternatives to metallic silver and gold gift wrap that goes to the landfill.

For the past few years I’ve worked hard to shrink my family’s environmental footprint over the holidays, and the biggest way I’ve done that is by rethinking gift wrap. I mention this now, even though I’m on-board the let’s-give-Thanksgiving-its-due train, because many people are shopping early this year due to supply shortages.

The first step to a greener Christmas is not buying crap that will go into the trash. Yes, silver and gold wrapping paper is gorgeous, but metallic paper can’t be recycled. It’s tempting to pick up rolls of shiny gift wrap while cruising through Target, but wait! There are greener alternatives that will save you time and money.

One solution is to reuse gift bags. You can get a lot of life out of those suckers. Of course, the downside is that they aren’t quite as fun for kids to open.

If tearing paper is what your littles ones expect, look for non-metallic gift wrap made from recyclable paper. Don’t forget to tear off the tape before you toss it into the recycle bin.

Another option is to use a giant roll of butcher paper. One roll lasted my family three years. Instead of synthetic ribbon, I used cotton twine and reusable felt strips. Sprigs of juniper, cedar and fir along with paper doilies made the presents look extra-festive. Sometimes I’d stick old photos on the packages for a trip down memory lane.

A fun project with kids is to stamp butcher paper with cookie cutters dipped in paint. I still have a piece of this homemade gift wrap I made in kindergarten.

If that sounds like too much work, here’s a solution that doesn’t require any tape, scissors or curling ribbon — Tokki gift bags. Tokki bags are made out of fabric with a tiny zipper. You slip the present into the bag, zip it closed, and then wrap the fabric up and bind it with a band. The Tokki band has a QR code on it that you scan with your phone. This is how you identify whom the present is meant for as well as how many times the bag has been used.

By my calculations, it’ll take five years for the Tokki bags to pay for themselves, but after that, I’ll never spend money on wrapping supplies again. Plus, I won’t have mounds of trash and recycling to deal with on future Christmas mornings. Tokki is based in the Pacific Northwest and you can find them at

An alternative to Tokki bags is Furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping presents with cloth. Furoshiki cloths can also be used again and again. Google “Furoshiki” for ideas to spur your creativity.

It’s hard to let go of traditions, especially if we have a vision in our heads of what a gift-wrapped present is supposed to look like. But the holidays aren’t about trash. Let’s be innovative and stop junking them up.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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