Toilet paper

Even toilet paper rolls can be repurposed for the holidays.

Another year, another set of holiday gifts to be given — and that means a lot of waste. To be a bit more exact, Americans produce 25% more waste from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than the rest of the year. That’s 25 million tons of extra garbage headed toward the landfill.

Much of that waste takes the form of wrapping paper, which we spend over $12 billion on. The majority of that paper can't be recycled. Anything with glitter can’t be used, and the glitter itself often ends up in the ocean. Taped items are also off the list. Plastic is mixed into the paper at times, and the paper itself is a bit too thin to break down into fibers.

In addition, the heavy ink used in wrapping paper makes it a poor choice for recycling. But, hey, you don’t need to break the bank (or our ecosystems) buying wrapping paper this year. You’ve probably already got a lot of potential wrapping mediums in your home; I know I did. I looked around the odds-and-ends of my home and tried out some popular alternative wrap methods for myself.

The other type of TP-ing

Almost everyone uses toilet paper, unless you're a fancy person who prefers a bidet or wet wipes. The leftover rolls are the perfect size to hold small trinket gifts like candies or rings. Just place your gift inside, fold both ends over and put on your decorating-idea hat.

Fabric or construction paper all make good options to circle round the roll. Add a sprig of pine or a bow and — voila! — you're ready for the holidays. As someone lacking talent in both arts and crafts, I was happy with how easy this was (and how hard it was to mess up).

Potatoes: not just for eating

Potatoes can make stamps

You can use potatoes to make decorative stamps.

One of the oddest tips I saw was to use potatoes as makeshift stamps. Simply cut open an extra potato you have lying around, trace the stamp you want and cut away the excess. Pour some paint, dip your potato and create a lovely design.

This works especially well with brown paper wrapping, which is recyclable, to create a cute and sustainable gift wrap. I surprised myself with the quality of my potato-carving skills. If journalism doesn't work out, I may just switch to the competitive food-carving circuit.

Extra! Extra!

Got any extra magazines lying around? There are some easy tutorials online that'll help you transform them into beautiful bows with just a pair of scissors, a tape measure, a stapler and some tape.

This took a bit longer to accomplish, but I think the results are quite nice. Considering how many magazines I have lying around the house, I could probably continue making my own bows for the rest of my life.


Bows can be made by up-cycling magazine pages.

This is fabriffic!


The Japanese art of furoshiki uses fabric squares to wrap items.

A lot of the suggestions I saw were to re-purpose fabric or scarfs as gift wrap using the Japanese art of furoshiki, which began as a way for someone to wrap up everything they needed for the public baths in one easy container.

While I'd prefer to do this with a more colorful holiday scarf (alas, my wardrobe only comes in black), this method was simple and easy to get the hang of.

Color me surprised

Continuing with the trend of brown paper, this wrap suits children's presents perfectly. Simply attach some crayons to the outside and let your kids decorate their presents themselves. Life is easier when you outsource work, after all.

I also attempted to add some hand-lettering touches, as that's also a great way to up the aesthetic of a plainer gift wrap. While I'm not too happy with the result, I attribute it more to my artistic inability than anything else.


Attach crayons to paper-wrapped presents to let kids decorate their own gifts.

Cut the tapes

The biggest thing to remember going into an eco-friendly holiday season? Do your research. Make sure you know your city's recycling policies, and keep an eye out for items that may seem recyclable, but aren't. Washi tape, which is fiber-based, serves as a cute substitution for traditional tape, which can't be recycled.

No matter your skill level, there's sure to be something you can do to incorporate friendlier, safer practices into your holiday gift-giving this year.


Here's to a happy Earth this holiday season.

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Digital Editor

I'm both a contributing writer and digital editor for Vox. I'm currently in my last year of school studying journalism and English. My passions are books, music and puppies.

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