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Action alert

Eco-Challenge: Wrap responsibly

 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet


As part of our commitment to Earth via our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, we are inviting everyone who shares in our charism to take a monthly Eco-Challenge with us.

Gift green this holiday season

It’s a familiar scene around the holidays or after birthday celebrations. After all the presents have been opened, someone comes around with a trash bag to pick up all the gift-wrapping paper, which, sadly, is not recyclable. All that paper ends up in the landfill after its all too brief life. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tells us that some 4 million tons of trash from gift wrap and shopping bags get thrown away each year. And not just wrapping paper, but ribbons, bows and even cards with glitter are all non-recyclable.

As eco-conscious earth citizens, we can do better in so many creative ways when it comes to gift wrapping. Consider these sustainable alternatives that can make gifts just as beautiful.

Two gifts wrapped in red cloth and eucalyptus leaves sit on a light wood table

Wrapping paper alternatives

  • Save and reuse paper that has come on gifts you’ve been given. Unwrap the gift carefully, remove any tape and save the paper for future use.
  • Skip the wrapping paper and use a plain or decorative gift box.
  • Do you have a collection of paper gift bags that have come your way? They can be reused multiple times.
  • Newspaper can do double duty as gift wrap, especially the colorful comics sections.
  • Got an old road atlas on that closet shelf? The pages make intriguing gift wrap, especially for friends or family members who still love reading traditional maps.
  • Old sheet music makes great gift wrap for your musical friends.


A beautiful and endlessly reusable method of wrapping is the Japanese art of furoshiki—wrapping gifts in fabric and tying the fabric into its own bow. The fabric itself becomes part of the gift, ready for reuse. Watch this wonderful demonstration of furoshiki.

Ribbons and other decor

  • Decorate gift boxes with items from nature, like pinecones, snips of greenery, berries or seed pods.
  • Tie on a small bell or ornament, or even a candy cane, using colorful string, twine, cloth ribbon or raffia.
  • Check out the eco-friendly natural fiber ribbons and twines at
  • Decorate with paper-based washi tape.

Greeting cards and gift tags

  • Look for cards and companies that use recycled paper or bamboo.
  • Some companies offer cards with seeds implanted in them—a bonus for the garden!
  • Avoid cards with glitter, which is not recyclable.

Take the Eco-Challenge

How many of these actions will you take this month?

  • Commit to using reusable or recyclable materials for all your gift wrapping—fabric, reusable paper, reusable gift bags, or boxes.
  • Use cloth or natural fiber ribbon, colorful string, washi tape, or raffia to tie up your gifts.
  • Share your creative wrapping ideas and projects with friends and family to encourage them to avoid non-recyclable wrapping materials.

Spread the word

  • Leave a comment about how you’re taking the challenge below.
  • Invite others to take the November Eco-Challenge by sharing our post on Facebook, Instagram and/or X.

10 thoughts on “Eco-Challenge: Wrap responsibly”

  1. Avatar

    I can remember long, long ago, when I lived on a teacher’s salary while paying off a car, etc, and then when sisters had miniscule budgets, I used to save the Sunday comics that were most appropriate and used them to wrap for people, especially when there was an appropriate, fun barb in the comic strip I could premier by the way I wrapped it. It was way more fun that Hallmark, etc.

  2. Avatar

    About 50yrs ago, my neighbor was from Brisbane, Australia, her village didn’t wrap Christmas gifts…because Santa didn’t have time to wrap.
    Gifts could be handed to loved ones unwrapped. It’s the gift of love…and it’s not necessary to hide the love under a wrap.
    Good idea for less recycle!
    Sallie Grippo, csja

  3. Avatar

    Learning about furoshiki, and realizing how easy it is to create beautiful gift wraps with it, has been a delight. And finding a bunch of fabric leftovers at a neighborhood garage sale made me ready to roll with holiday gifting.

  4. Avatar

    I have used newspaper for a long time or reused gift bags. I have a reflection that I wrote about a Christmas gift wrapped in newspaper comparing it with the gift of Jesus. I don’t have a digital copy but would be happy to mail it to anyone who is interested. Just send me an email.
    For a number of years I give Heifer gift cards to almost everyone on my list. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
    Linda Neil

  5. Avatar

    Yes, to this practical and conscious way of doing the holiday stuff!
    Recently a friend gave me a birthday gift in a very interesting bag from a local gift shop. The bag had a tag on it indicating it was made by children in a country where they waste nothing! The bag was made from local newspapers. Re-cycling newspapers into unique gift bags provided a simple creative form of income for them. It really heightened my awareness of what we throw away!

  6. Avatar

    Like some others, I switched to newspaper comics some time back, but look forward to trying some of the ideas in this wonderful set of ideas. Many thanks, S. Fran

  7. Avatar
    Matilda Teresa Avalos

    I commit to re-using good gift bags, wrapping paper, and/or to creating something new from the great ideas you offered. Nature has many beautiful ideas for us.

    Thank you.

  8. Avatar

    Almost 20 years ago I was working at Carondelet High School, which hosts a series of Christmas themed holiday events. I purchased a set of 6 gift boxes (standard department store type shirt boxes) with holiday cloth wrappings. They were sewn so that the boxes just slide in and close with velcro. I’ve used them every Christmas since.

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About us

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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