Greener Living

10 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Christmas brings family, togetherness, food, and presents. Unfortunately, Christmas can also bring a lot of waste. I love surprising my friends and family with the perfect gift, but I don’t love all the wrapping paper that gets tossed out on Christmas morning.

Fortunately, there are many easy and creative ways of ditching the wrapping paper and reducing that unnecessary waste. Here are 10 of our favourite wrapping paper alternatives!

1. Reusable Gift Bags

Most of us already have a big gift bag filled with smaller gift bags tucked away in a closet somewhere. Gift bags are the easiest way to skip the wrapping paper. There’s no reason you can’t keep the tissue paper and reuse that as well.

2. Boxes

I keep a variety of boxes and reuse them for gift giving at Christmas and year round. Some of them come from shipping, other gifts, small appliances, or even cereal or other foodstuffs. It’s kind of a running gag around here – “I got you a jumbo box of Rice Krispies for Christmas!”

My husband’s family has a wonderful tradition where they always put one small present in a vintage puppet box the kids got 40 years ago. Christmas isn’t complete until someone opens the puppet box!

3. Baskets

Instead of wrapping individual presents, consider arranging them in a nice wicker or sea grass woven basket. It’s a beautiful way to present your gift and the recipient can use it afterward around their house.

4. Cloth Gift Bags

Different sizes of reusable cloth bags are a great choice for wrapping presents. Bonus, they work for weirdly shaped presents too. No more folding paper over strange bumps and lumps or tearing over the edges. You can either buy drawstring cloth bags, or if you’re crafty, make your own from fabric scraps or an old pillow case.

Drawstring Bags” by Lorna Mitchell is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

5. Recycled Packing Material

When I order items online, they often arrive shipped in kraft paper. I keep this to turn into rustic wrapping paper! Since unbleached kraft paper is biodegradable, recyclable, and compostable, you can reuse the paper then recycle or compost it afterward. Plus they’re fun to decorate with stamps or markers for personalized paper.

6. Old Maps

I still have a bunch of old maps and even – gasp! – Yellow Pages kicking around in my basement. While they’re completely useless as reference books now, they can be upcycled into really interesting wrapping paper.

7. Fabric Wraps

Do you have any old bandannas, scarves, or pieces of scrap fabric lying around? Maybe a T-shirt that’s too small or too worn to wear anymore? Upcycle them into reusable fabric gift wrap! Check out tutorials on YouTube for “furoshiki” or the traditional art of Japanese wrapping.

8. Newspaper

I still remember wrapping presents in the funny pages when I was a kid. If you still receive newspapers or newsprint flyers, use a couple of sheets to wrap your presents. Newsprint is easily recyclable, but since it can be messy, this is probably a better option for adult recipients.

9. Jars or Tins

Smaller items look fabulous in a decorative mason jar or tin. If you’re feeling fancy, create a one of a kind beautiful gift jar or tin your recipient will treasure long past the holidays by collaging personal photos on the outside with a layer of non-toxic modge podge. I’m sure the grandparents would love to receive a tin decorated with hand drawn pictures and a message from the kids.

10. Present in a Present

What about wrapping a smaller present inside a bigger present? Wrap a book or jewelry box inside a pretty scarf or a cozy throw blanket. It’s like two presents in one!

Eco-Friendlier Wrapping Paper

Finally, if you must use wrapping paper, choose non-metallic post-consumer recycled wrap. Post-consumer waste paper means it’s made from paper reclaimed from home or office recycling and closes the recycling loop. Avoiding metallic or foil finishes means it can be recycled again when you’re done.

What other ways have you found to reduce wrapping paper this Christmas?

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  • I love this!! i hate using and receiving tissue paper. I usually just keep it and reuse it but would rather go a different route

  • This is great & I am glad to say we do most of this. Last year as we gathered up all the wrapping at my daughters house we had to separate the “shiny” paper out because it “wasn’t recyclable” I didn’t know then. So this year I made sure it was recycled or recyclable paper I used.
    I do love the idea of reusable bags. Where are all those ugly xmas sweaters going to go when it is not in style anymore? Reusable bags!

  • My husband gets so mad at me, I hate to throw any boxes out and I keep all my gift bags as well, and depending on the size and what the greeting card is, I will keep them too and reuse as gift tags

  • Every holiday I use gift bags and boxes as much as I can have been doing this for about five years now I find easier and less cleanup. I am going to try some of your other ideas this year.

  • Love all these ideas, the one using the recycled packing paper/kraft paper is great for gift that children give out as they can draw their own picture.

  • These are all great alternatives. We’ve begun to use gift bags for a lot of the presents, including birthdays. And we just share the bags, and reuse them within our extended family. They last for years!