You’ve selected the perfect eco-friendly gift, now it’s time to wrap it without creating a bunch of waste. When it comes to eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas, you can easily create a look that’s anything from crafty to upscale.
I’ve been obsessed with greener, upcycled, or repurposed gift wrap for two decades. Before I joined the Green Child team in 2012, I’d been writing for three years on green gift giving. While I don’t have as much time to devote to the topic, it’s still a passion. And I’m always looking for creative ways to wrap gifts without waste.
This guide can’t possibly hold all the fun ideas I’ve tried or been inspired by… but I’ve tried to include the highlights here. I hope this inspires you to some fun and creative green gift wrapping of your own!
Table of contents
- Sustainable Gift Wrapping = More Than Newspaper
- Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas
- Less is More with Sustainable Gift Wrapping
Sustainable Gift Wrapping = More Than Newspaper
Gone are the days when the only green and free wrapping option was the newspaper. Not many people still get the newspaper, but most of us have a pretty steady supply of paper coming into our homes.
And especially if you have kids, you’ve got a stash of birthday party and holiday gift bags just waiting to be reused.
When it comes to most things in life, presentation is everything. Why is raspberry glaze drizzled so elegantly on top of the cheesecake? Because we enjoy food just as much with our eyes as with our taste buds.
Green gift giving takes it a step further. Not only do we want to give a meaningful gift our recipient will enjoy, we make the conscious decision not to create a bunch of waste with our special gift. And eco-friendly gift wrapping is one way to keep your gift’s impact on the recipient big… and impact on the planet small.
Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas
Maybe the big garbage bag has become a staple at your holiday parties. Even if you put all that used paper in the recycle bin, it probably ends up in the landfill just like that bag. Because of the dyes, laminates and glitter, most wrapping paper is tough to recycle.
Wrapping paper is expensive! And I’m not a fan of throwing away money. Plus, reusable gift wrapping is a huge step toward a zero waste holiday. So, I hope these sustainable gift wrapping ideas will inspire you to wrap gorgeous gifts without spending much at all.
Fabric Gift Bags
The greenest option is always to use what you have. You probably have a stash of paper / coated paper gift bags from birthdays and holidays. They’re not often recyclable (especially if they have glitter or embellishments). But you can use them before considering buying new bags or wrapping paper.
I have to admit, I’m a fan of gift bags because I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to wrapping with paper. So on the greener side of gift bags, fabric gift bags are the simplest solution I’ve found. Just drop the gift inside, pull the drawstring, and tie a bow.
For a great DIY sustainable gift wrapping project, you can even make your own fabric gift bags.
You’ll also find festive and fun gift bags from several sellers on Etsy. The set above is from Kari Smyth Design. And if you’re looking to really dress up your gifts, you’ll find plenty of options on our Gorgeously Green Gift Wrapping board on Pinterest.
Furoshiki is an age-old tradition in Japan. It’s the art of wrapping a gift in a beautiful fabric, scarf, or bandana which can be used again and again.
Don’t limit yourself to a scarf or even those beautiful fabrics sold distinctly as furoshiki wraps. I’ve used baby swaddling blankets to wrap gifts for an eco-friendly baby shower. And when my dad retired and the family chipped in and got him an iMac, yours truly wrapped that giant box with a bed sheet!
If you didn’t believe I was serious about not wasting paper, you do now, right?
Here are some beautiful examples of furoshiki with dish towels, pillow cases, and linen fabrics from @plantedinthewoods.
Because it looks sophisticated, furoshiki can seem complicated, but it’s really not difficult to do. Our favorite fabric wrapping expert and author of Wrapagami, Jennifer Playford, shows us just how simple it can be in the tutorial video below.
Reusable Gift Bags Made from Recycled Content
But if you like the ease of those bags, you can now find them much sturdier and made from recycled content. Tokki gift bags are made from plastic water bottles.
Tokki has also harnessed the power of technology to make your gift even more personal. Just scan the QR code that’s placed on a pretty bow at the top of the bag, snap a photo, record a video or audio message, or add a GIF just for your recipient. It’s such a fun way to personalize a gift for out of town loved ones.
Recycled and Upcycled Gift Wrapping DIY Options
Other simple ways to wrap gifts sustainably involve looking for ways to use things you already have.
For kitchen themed gifts
- Wrap your gift in a colorful kitchen towel and tie a bow around it.
- Oven mitts make a nice pocket to slip a gift inside.
- Aprons are fun, and they already have the strings to tie up the present!
- Kitchen canisters can hold small gifts.
- Pots or pans make great gifts themselves or ways to hold another gift.
- Glass storage containers with lids also do double duty as a gift and a sustainable gift container. Just tie a bow around it.
- A vintage bread box makes a totally unique gift wrapping idea.
- Mason jars are perfect for edible gifts. They also make fun presentation for soaps, art supplies, or other small gifts. Add a bit of fabric or recycled tissue paper, or don’t – and let the gift speak for itself.
Baskets or buckets
- A basket makes a gorgeous eco friendly gift wrap! It also doubles as an extra gift. Most people can always find use for a basket, and if not, they’re very easy to regift.
- Place gifts inside a small galvanized gardening bucket or pail. Don’t worry about tissue paper or plastic. Just tie a festive ribbon on the handle and let the gift speak for itself.
Recycled paper options
- Newspaper can be functional and fabulous for green gift giving.
- Old travel maps make a creative presentation.
- Don’t forget about sheet music.
- If you’ve moved, save the packing paper to wrap a collection of gifts and add simple ribbons for a utilitarian look.
- Seasonally fun paper bags from grocery bags from Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, etc. make brilliant eco-friendly wrapping for small gifts.
- Kids’ artwork makes a great upcycled gift wrap for grandparents.
Save all the boxes
- December 26th isn’t known as Boxing Day for nothing. If you have space, put those leftover boxes to use all year long
- Thrift stores and estate sales often have hat boxes which make amazing gift boxes and they’re so useful for storage in your closet.
- Give a food themed gift in a lunch box for kids or adults.
- Give a home improvement gift in a tool box… you get the idea.
Think outside the box
Make your gifts stand out by placing them in an unexpected seasonal item like
- a vase or flower pot
- a lantern
- an ice skate or boot (clean of course!)
Let Mother Nature provide the embellishments
Bringing the outdoors in makes your gift and your holiday decorating natural and sustainable.
- Banana leaves can wrap a small gift.
- Add a holly leaf, birch bark, or a bird feather embellishment.
- The same goes for cinnamon sticks or a rosemary sprig – plus your gift will smell amazing!
- Wrap a ribbon through a small pinecone and tie it to your gift.
Upcycled Gift Tags and Accessories
There’s really no reason to ever spend your money on those little gift tags. Just a little bit of DIY effort can yield beautifully creative results.
- Save the holiday cards from family and friends each year to use as gift tags. They’re usually nice quality card stock. Simply cut out the prettiest section of the care, punch a hole, tie a ribbon through it and add to your gift.
- Try the DIY clay gift tags shown above. They used cookie cutters and air dry clay to make those simple and pretty tags.
- You can also DIY plantable seed gift tags. If DIY is not your thing, you can also buy them. Made from paper embedded with seeds, your recipient can just plant the tag and watch it grow.
Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper
You may be surprised at how cool recycled papers can look. Newspaper, paper grocery bags, moving / packing paper are easy to access options you probably have on hand. You can also use kids’ artwork as wrapping or embellishing.
The examples shown here include an Earth Fare bag with a simple ribbon, old stationery note, and a snowflake ornament, and packing paper (still crinkly!) dressed up with ribbon and a hand-sewn ornament.
If nothing else will do but a roll of wrapping paper, choose a sustainable option. Look for a recycled version that isn’t glittery and laminated.
Kraft paper is a recyclable, affordable option. This will help the chances of it being recycled after the big day. There are companies out there making 100% post-consumer fiber, manufactured with wind power, FSC Certified, and carbon neutral.
It makes sense to purchase paper goods from a company with a history and reputation in the sustainable paper business, rather than grabbing the first cheap $2 roll at the discount store. Remember, we’re voting with our dollars ALL the time. Make those votes count by supporting the types of businesses you want to see flourish.
Less is More with Sustainable Gift Wrapping
Just because you’re going unconventional, it doesn’t mean you should overdo it. A natural ribbon on brown paper can go a long way toward making the gift look classy. And the goal with reducing your gift-giving footprint goes hand in hand with simplifying your life.
For more gift-wrapping inspiration, check out our Gorgeously Green Gift Wrapping board on Pinterest.
If you need more ideas for your holiday gifting, you’re sure to find the perfect present in our gift guides:
Eco-Friendly Gifts for Toddlers
Mindfulness Gifts for Adults