Think about it: Gift wrap is a product that is manufactured solely to be thrown away. No matter what gifts we choose for our family and friends, eco friendly gift wrapping ideas and creative packaging creates less waste. Rethink your usual Christmas gift wrapping methods to green up your holiday giving.
Come December, consumerism tends to run a little rampant. For many families the holidays are often fraught with tension over how to afford a special holiday celebration complete with the requisite presents and baubles and feasts.
Those of us who strive for less waste and a simpler lifestyle have the added dimension of trying to tone it down and green it up without seeming Scrooge-like.
Eco Friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas
It’s been years since I’ve bought gift wrap. Instead, I’ve implemented some different Christmas gift wrapping ideas.
My family uses a variety of reusable or upcycled methods for wrapping presents. We save pretty paper, old maps, newspaper, and nice-looking boxes for wrapping. I have a collection of cloth bags that we use from year to year, and some gifts go out in upcycled containers and jars. It’s not ever a magazine-perfect holiday scene at my house, but it’s festive nonetheless.
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And it goes without saying that these gift wrapping ideas can be adopted for any celebration that requires a prettily wrapped gift!
Choose Upcycled & Biodegradable Gift Wrap
Let’s face it. There’s just something fun about ripping the paper off a package during the holiday festivities. If you want to stick with paper wrapping, there are some options that are better than others.
Throughout the year we all receive packages and shipments. Sometimes those packages come with really interesting options.
One year I ordered school supplies and they came padded with a long piece of mylar potato chip packaging. I assume they were utilizing a waste product, which I think is great. It also meant that we had a source for shiny silver gift wrap for years.
Use the Funnies
The Sunday comics are always a good bet for gift wrapping with newspaper, but I like the classified section, too. Once the gifts are opened, this biodegradable option can be tossed to the compost pile.
Make Your Own Gift Wrap
Cut a brown paper bag flat and decorate the blank side with markers. Or try your hand at potato stamping:
To do it, cut a potato in half and carve a design on the flat side. Wet a rag and set it flat on a small plate. Use a thick rag or fold it over several times. Squeeze some acrylic paint onto the rag and spread it out.
Essentially you’re making a giant stamp pad. Press the potato design into the paint and then onto some test paper.
Practice until you’re happy with the stamp and then start stamping your homemade gift wrap.
Skip the Ready-Made Plastic Bows
They’re easy, sure, but the ribbon is plastic. Instead, use jute twine or lace to tie up packages or learn to make a bow using rolled ribbon or lengths of fabric.
Related: Giving Experiences Instead of Gifts
Reusable Gift Wrapping
Some gift “wraps” can be used from year to year. Those shiny store-bought gift bags are probably the most familiar example.
Other options include making drawstring gift bags (use these instructions and make some with fun fabric) or opt for gift boxes with lift-off lids that can be used year after year. If you use gift boxes, it’s a good idea to look for nesting boxes for ease of storage.
If you know how to sew a straight stitch, you can easily make bento bags in any size you like. The recipient will be able to use them for a multitude of things once the holiday season is over. If you don’t sew, you can pick up a set of ready made organic cotton bento bags here.
Functional Gift Wrapping Ideas
Choose natural baskets woven from willow, wicker, or reeds that can be put into service after the holidays are over.
When my kids were little, I made them a special pillowcase each year for Christmas. It’s a simple sewing project that only takes half an hour or so to make.
To make one, start by choosing a fun fabric. (If you don’t have a well-stocked fabric store nearby, check out Spoonflower.) For a standard pillow, cut a piece of fabric 40″ x 28″. Fold the fabric in half to bring the two 28″ sides together, right sides facing each other. Using a straight stitch, sew one short side and the long side. Iron a half-inch hem around the opening, folding the raw edge under twice.
I am of the opinion that a household can’t have enough glass storage jars. They are immensely useful and pretty to tuck under a tree. You can upcycle glass jars to create these colorful containers that can be reused for storage or as DIY candle holders.
The easiest way to turn a jar into a pretty package? Cut a piece of fabric – square or circle – 2″-3″ larger than the jar lid and tie it in place with jute twine or a ribbon.
Instead of paper, choose a beautiful scarf for wrapping your gifts. Alternatively, pick up a yard of fabric and use that to wrap presents for the crafters you love.
Petition Santa Claus to Go Green
Santa Claus has always delivered packages to our house without wrapping paper. I was surprised to find out that he brings wrapped presents to other households.
Hey Santa. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Take a hint from me: You’ll deliver packages even more quickly and with less waste when you opt not to wrap! Take note of these Christmas gift wrapping ideas to cut back a bit.
Unplug the Christmas Machine
If you haven’t read it, check out Unplug the Christmas Machine: Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season. It’s worth a read. But what if you’re looking for ideas on making the upcoming holidays greener and you don’t have the book on hand? Check out some of the advice below from my readers and some of my blogging friends.
Eco friendly gift wrapping ideas and “less is more” gifts
My husband comes from a family that valued high-dollar gifts above all. He still isn’t entirely thrilled with homemade or second-hand presents, but he’s trying. My boys on the other hand? They think it’s great fun to try to find just the right gently-used gift.
Need some greener gift giving ideas? Check out these cool upcycled gift options!
Originally published November 2016; this post has been updated.