Gallery: 6 Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Alternatives

'Tis the season for gift giving! During the holidays, finding the right gift is only half the battle. Whether it's a DIY, upcycled, or store-bought gift, you've still got to find a way to wrap it up. For decades, we've relied on massive rolls of printed
'Tis the season for gift giving! During the holidays, finding the right gift is only half the battle. Whether it's a DIY, upcycled, or store-bought gift, you've still got to find a way to wrap it up. For decades, we've relied on massive rolls of printed paper wrapping to hide our presents from prying eyes. Yet every year, it only takes a few seconds to unwrap a gift, and all that shredded paper heads off to the landfill. In the interest of reducing waste (over the holidays and every day), we decided to collect a variety of creative, more sustainable ways to wrap a holiday gift. Some are recycled, some are reuseable, but all will allow you to enjoy a holiday that's filled with fun, not waste.

Fabric Gift Wrap

Fabric is the perfect reuseable material for wrapping presents because it comes in lots of colors and patterns just like wrapping paper. In Japan, fabric wrapping is so prevalent, it’s become an art form. Called “furoshiki” this practice uses time-honored techniques to create a package that is both lovely and completely covered. Look around your house for festive pillow cases, sheets, tablecloths, old drapes, or even socks that are the right size for your gift. If you don’t have any suitable fabric lying around, consider pre-made versions like ReWrapables or BoBo Wrap. Fabric can be knotted, pinned, or tied with a ribbon. After presents are opened, simply fold and store for next year!

Image via CrickleCrankle/Flickr

Clay Flower Pots

Clay pots come in all shapes and sizes and are relatively easy to find at thrift stores or gardening outlets. Think about decorating the outside of the pot with paint or markers before nestling your present inside. If the pot comes with a dish for catching water, simply invert the dish and use it as a lid to cover your gift. If no drip tray is available, set the pot in the center of a large square of fabric. Bring the edges up in a bundle over the top of the pot and secure with ribbon or and elastic. Voila! A personalized gift package that can be reused in the summer time!

 Image via perspicacious/Flickr 

Newspaper and Paper Bags

Wrapping paper is just that: paper that’s been decorated to make a festive wrapping. When you think about it, there are lots of large sheets of paper available in our everyday lives. If you get the newspaper delivered to your house, think about saving up a week’s worth for your holiday wrapping needs (the Sunday morning comics make for the most colorful wrapping, but even classifieds will suffice!). You can also opt for paper bags at the grocery store, making sure not to crumple them too much on the way into the house. When it comes time to wrap, use scissors to cut up one seam of the bag. This will enable you to lay it flat like a single sheet of wrapping paper. Same thing for the newspaper, which already comes in conveniently trimmed rectangles. Stickers, crayon, paint, and glitter can be employed to jazz up the final product.

Image via storebukkebruse/Flickr

Maps and Calendars

Don’t have time to decorate your packages after the fact? No worries. Old maps and calendars are another source of relatively large sheets of paper that are already colorful in their own right. Since almost everyone in the world depends on Google to provide directions from point A to point B, there’s little chance that you’ll be searching for a paper map anytime soon. Calendars are only relevant for 365 days before becoming outdated forever but many have funny or beautiful images within. Instead of tossing these paper goods, keep them around as convenient wrapping for holiday and birthday gifts.

Reuseable Gift Bags

Gift bags have long been preferred among earth-loving gift givers because they involve no tape or folding, and they’re easy to reuse next year. If you’re very careful, even the cheap paper gift bags available a discount stores can be preserved for several years. Over time, however, the bags become crinkled and worn, losing some of their holiday appeal. Overcome this problem by creating or purchasing resueable gift bags made from fabric. Burlap, flannel, and cotton make the best gift bag material, but literally any fabrics can be transformed into a gift bag with just a few seconds of sewing. If you’re not the needle and thread type, consider a pre-made variety like WrapSacks or LivingEthos.

Recycled Paper Gift Wrap

Old habits die hard. If you can’t get excited about upcycled alternatives, or are wrapping a really special gift for that really special someone and need everything to be perfect, don’t despair. Over the past few years, lots of companies have gotten on the green wagon, creating wrapping paper that looks and feels like the stuff you remember, only no trees are sacrificed in its making. Look for brands like FishLips, Green Field Paper Company, and Ecosaurus which use post-consumer recycled waste and a chemical-free treatment process to create their wrapping.

Top image via jimmiehomeschoolmom/Flickr


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  1. Ashley Edmonds August 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I love that people are looking for eco-friendly gift wrap ideas – I have a line of fabric gift wraps myself – – but thank you for reducing waste no matter which option you choose!

  2. annhcsonka December 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    About 35 years ago, I stopped using new wrapping paper, often recycling paper or gift bags we got and also used other containers. 2 NEPHEWS’ FAVORITE: Milk Bone boxes (usually large, quite spacious). These dog biscuit boxes were perfect because they were/are red and green with some yellow and white.
    The kids loved them and the old folks got used to my peculiarities…and my Mother started recycling paper also. I still have a piece of her old paper used for a daughter last year, though it’s at least 25 years old.
    Further about the Milk Bone boxes: eldest nephew asked me to be sure to carry on the tradition with his 2 children…and we have!
    Another use for nice strong boxes like the above, unglue them and turn them inside out to ship/mail whatever fits, securely taping them back together.

  3. Sue Rostron July 23, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Hi, love the site. I am lucky enough to share an office with the awesome Social Angels.

    Just thought I’d suggest wrapping in old dress patterns – it looks cool and works well as a protective tissue layer also.

    I also sometimes turn packaging inside out and embellish it with something crafty. Recently I hgve a friend a vintage apron and wrapped it old brown paper, natural twine and a spare xmas decoration (an apple) on top. It looked really cute and she loved the pressie and the packaging. $1 spend for much goodwill!

  4. marshae February 5, 2013 at 11:27 am

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