Eco-friendly gift wrap can sometimes look a little plain, but today, I have stunning options to share. There have been innovations in the world of wrapping paper that are Earth-friendly, practical, and also very pretty. Rather than adding to the mountains of plastic in landfills, it’s easier than ever to find gorgeous recyclable and compostable gift wrap options.
You might also like this article I’ve been updating for years on alternative gift wrap ideas, stretching beyond paper:
Where Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Options Fall Short
Wrapping for kids? You need a no-peek, shake-proof wrap, right? This is where gift bags, fabric bags, and less secure wrapping alternatives aren’t going to cut it. Plus, some people prefer a distinct wrapping paper for presents from a certain jolly fellow, so their savvy kids won’t recognize recycled gift bags. *ahem*
Alternately, if you’ve struggled to master complicated fabric knots for furoshiki fabric wrap, you’re probably ready to switch back to paper. The marketing photos are lovely, but I haven’t mastered this fabric technique yet. You can click on this image to see furoshiki at Amazon:
FIRST: Beautiful, Dissolvable Wrapping Paper
The first gift wrap I tested for this post is absolutely gorgeous. Waterleaf Paper Co. makes a dissolvable wrapping paper, billed as zero waste. It’s a premium product and priced accordingly, so this one is a splurge best suited for a baby shower or a gift for someone special.
Waterleaf Paper Co. also sells ribbon and bows, but their namesake product is a smooth, heavy-weight paper with gorgeous printed designs. At first glance, you’ll think it’s just upscale wrapping paper, but there’s something really special about this product.
It dissolves in water in the blink of an eye. Seriously. I actually tested it and I couldn’t take a decent photo fast enough!
It’s impressively engineered as a zero-waste wrapping paper. I assume this paper can be composted, but I can’t find that information on their website, so stick with recycling to be safe.
I discovered this paper while shopping online at Grove Collaborative, but you can also find Waterleaf products at Target, Amazon, and their website. From what I can tell, the best prices appear to be at Grove and the Waterleaf Paper Co. website.
SECOND: Try This Gorgeous, Recyclable Paper
For a slightly more budget-friendly option that does not sacrifice any of the artistry, check out this wrapping paper from Wrappily. I bought these two designs from Amazon to test, but there are many more designs on the Wrappily website. If you try it and like it, definitely check out their full wrapping paper collection here.
Moving on, here’s how it looks and performs in real life!
This is the product I’ll be using to wrap kid gifts this year; the designs are double-sided for versatility, as well as beautiful and fun!
Wrappily produces newsprint wrapping paper that is 100% compostable and recyclable. It feels just like newspaper, although the soy-based inks transfer a little less to your fingertips than traditional newsprint. It’s kind of fun to open up the packaging, unfold a sheet, and flash back to reading a newspaper! Remember those?
It’s slightly thicker than current-day newspaper, so I had no trouble wrapping a box with this paper.
The Wrappily website explains their low environmental impact and eco-friendly disposal options. If you can’t add it to your backyard or community compost, you can just recycle the paper. Easy!
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How Do These Papers Compare?
Both wrapping papers are beautiful, with some of the more artistic designs I’ve seen. Both papers can easily be recycled (Wrappily can also be composted), and I dare you to snip a corner of the Waterleaf paper and toss it in the sink to watch how quickly it dissolves.
If you’re deciding which of these eco-friendly gift wraps to try first, consider your gift recipient. That’s the best way to choose if you’re not ready to order both for comparison.
Waterleaf Paper Co. paper feels luxe; it is the perfect choice for a special gift. Please note – don’t get it wet or you’ll spoil the surprise! It really just melts away in water, so you’ll need to protect any gifts delivered outside with a plastic bag.
Wrappily paper is clearly a newsprint product, and while the designs elevate the paper, it’s still slightly rustic. You’ll know it’s newspaper, although it’s thick enough not to tear easily while you’re wrapping. This paper is a great choice for kids’ presents or wrapping larger quantities of gifts.
Eco-Friendly Ribbons and Bows
As you can imagine, eco-friendly ribbon is easy to find, since we’ve had fabric ribbon for 100+ years. But sustainable alternatives to fabric ribbon are fairly new. Here’s what I’ve tried and recommend.
Both Waterleaf Paper Co. and Wrappily sell rolls of 100% cotton ribbon, which feels like paper and actually holds a curl. It appears to be sourced from the same manufacturer, Cream City Ribbon.
Now that I’ve seen it in person, it’s the same product, whether you buy it from Wrappily, Waterleaf Paper Co., Grove Collaborative, or directly from their website (more designs!). You can buy bulk rolls of 100+ yards on Amazon.
This is a really intriguing ribbon; it’s biodegradable and plastic-free. While it’s a little awkward to tie a fluid bow with this ribbon, the curling aspect is really easy and it doesn’t shred the ribbon.
There are pre-made bows available as well, made from the same ribbon. I bought a package of those, too. Both are compostable in your backyard bin or commercial compost service.
Exploring more options, Wrappily sells more than this cotton curling ribbon. They also have an eco-friendly, wide paper ribbon made with water-soluble dyes and colorful hemp twine. Wrappily offers the best selection in this category, from neon colors to muted shades, all of which complement their paper designs. Check out the vast ribbon options on their website.
What About Tape?
Tape is a sticky issue. I have researched biodegradable tape options and found three possibilities. To my thinking, what’s the point of using plastic tape with fancy and fabulous eco-friendly gift wrap? Shouldn’t we use something that will break down easily, too? Here’s what I recommend.
Seems like the obvious choice for eco-friendly gift wrap. It’s cute, colorful, and biodegradable, assuming you’re using certain authentic Japanese washi tapes.
Based on my research, MT masking tape is the gold standard and the original Japanese washi tape producer. These masking tapes are made of rice paper and are biodegradable. Because MT tape is extensively available online in solids and patterns, I didn’t research further washi tape options. You can find authentic MT washi tape at Amazon, Etsy (multiple sellers), and small indie online shops. This Etsy store sells MT washi tape for $3.60 per roll.
Cellulose tape is transparent and biodegradable. What is cellulose, you ask? I’m not entirely sure, despite my research, but the common buzz word among sources is biodegradable.
I was skeptical of this tape at first, because it looks like fairly standard clear tape. However, once I ran it under water with the Waterleaf paper, I could feel it starting to break down and get tacky, Now I’m a believer that it will decompose.
This cellulose tape retails for around $10 at Amazon, but you’ll receive 3 large rolls of tape. Comparing cost per foot, it’s actually less expensive than traditional Scotch tape. I plan to start using this instead of “regular” tape year-round, for more than just gifts.
I use this tape with an old-school tape dispenser from my teaching days (look for it in the photo above), but you can also purchase a large tape dispenser for around $10. These are really handy while wrapping gifts because you can tear off the tape with just one hand.
SmartSolve Paper Tape
This SmartSolve water-soluble tape has an innovative tape design; it’s water-soluble and biodegradable. It comes on a roll with a peel-off backing and apparently it’s popular for planting tiny garden seeds. I checked and both the tape and the backing paper do dissolve in water.
My only reservation is that fat white strips of tape aren’t the most attractive element on a wrapped gift. If you plan to decorate the tape or hide it on the bottom of your wrapped gift, this would be great with the dissolvable Waterleaf Paper Co. gift wrap.
My Vote for Best All-Purpose: Cellulose Tape
Feel free to dig deeper and let me know if you have another alternative to plastic tape. For now, the cellulose tape from GGR Supplies is a solid pick for non-plastic clear tape.
That’s a Wrap!
Hope you feel inspired to try one of these eco-friendly gift wrap ideas this year!