The last time someone gave you a gift, what went to the trash first? We bet it was the gift wrap. The gift wrap waste we accumulate throughout the year, particularly during the holiday season, is an environmental issue. An avoidable one at that! Eco-friendly gift wrapping ensures that our gift-giving is not hurting the planet. In this article, we share 20 sustainable gift wrap ideas.
The good thing about paper wrapping is that it is recyclable. Plain paper is biodegradable when it has not been mixed with plastic and other synthetic materials. This means there’s no worry about microfibers polluting the environment.
Kraft paper or brown paper is one of the most sustainable kinds of paper around and has a higher tensile strength than most papers. Kraft paper is a preferred packing paper material for box packaging. They also coat it with wax and use it as meat packaging, and we call it butcher paper.
It comes in different colors, but brown is the natural unbleached color. It is also biodegradable and recyclable. You can take advantage of the many qualities of Kraft paper and make it your environmentally friendly gift wrap of choice.
Kraft paper also gives a natural feel to any gift, making it perfect for wrapping up a reusable coffee cup or soy wax candle for him or her. And unlike traditional gift wrap, you'll also be avoiding harmful dyes.
This eco-friendly gift wrap is lightweight. It is also white, but its opaque quality will keep the details of your gift private. Using parchment paper for gift wrapping is a great way to double up on your gift. The recipient gets the gift and can use the wrapping for baking. Because sticky tape doesn't stick too firmly to parchment paper, it is easy to unwrap the gift without damaging the wrapping paper.
Tissue wrapping paper is just like toilet paper but larger and more robust. It comes in a variety of colors and, just like normal tissue, is compostable.
This environmentally-friendly wrapping paper will be a substantial addition to your compost after use.
If wrapping paper is going to end up in the landfill anyway, then the best kind of paper to use is one that has already been used. With recycled gift wrap, there is no need to cut down new trees for production. Therefore, there is less pollution and less virgin resource consumption.
This is a special paper that you can plant. Seed paper is made out of recycled paper with seeds embedded in it. Add a special touch when you wrap presents as, after use, you can just bury the paper in the ground and grow flowers.
It is one way to get your flower garden started while saving paper from landfills. Seed paper is also excellent when choosing eco-friendly gifts for kids, as not only can they enjoy what’s inside, but you can also what grows together. If you give seed paper as gifts at birthday parties, you get the added bonus of marking the occasion.
Wrap small gifts like charms, earrings, and necklaces in a paper envelope. You will find this to be one of the most straightforward eco-friendly gift wrap solutions. All you need to do is put your gift in the envelope and seal it.
Paper production may have a less environmental impact than plastic, but paper-making consumes trees. It is vital to conserve trees. One way to do this is by reusing old paper. This extends its life and value.
You can reuse paper to make some gorgeous gift wraps. The biggest advantage of using old paper as wrapping is that you don't have to spend money at all.
Here are some ideas for using old paper as gift wrap.
Newspapers and magazines get old real quick, but they can make unique, organic gift wraps. Old newspapers and maps add a vintage touch to a gift, and their large size ensures they cover up more space. A single newspaper sheet can be enough to wrap up a small gift. You can add a creative touch by making rosettes with the newspaper.
Music sheets are smaller than that of a newspaper, so they are ideal for tiny presents. However, you can join individual sheets with Washi tape and some patience to create a large wrapping paper. Using your old sheet music to wrap a gift gives it a personal touch as valuable as the present itself.
A great gift idea for inside old music sheets is the gift of unlimited music. Include a handwritten voucher or card for an Audible Subscription, and it’ll all fit together nicely.
When you buy cereal, you may not know it, but you are buying sustainable gift boxes as well. Save the empty boxes, and you can get a year-round supply of eco-friendly gift boxes.
Another paper product that can be a constant supply of repurposed wrapping paper is the bread bag or brown paper bags groceries come in. You can paint or decorate both for a grocery bag wrapper with a difference.
The Japanese art of wrapping items with fabric is called furoshiki. The wrapping not only serves as an elegant presentation but also a carrier. You can borrow the furoshiki wrapping idea to wrap gifts in eco-friendly ways. One benefit of fabric gift wrap is that the wrapping itself can be a gift.
Choose sustainable fabrics for your reusable wrap or reuse prints like those from old table cloth. This ensures that your wrapping is not just environmentally friendly; it is socially responsible as well.
A silk scarf is lightweight and may not be suitable as both a covering for heavy boxes and a carrier. This is because it may not pull the weight adequately. However, if you don't intend to use the scarf as a bag, you won’t have any problems wrapping it around any item regardless of weight.
Cotton fabrics are also an eco-friendly gift wrap option. You may find it more suitable for both functions of furoshiki wrapping.
If you do not want to use a scarf, other kinds of fabric work as great gift wraps. You can use a handkerchief for small items. Tea towels and napkins are larger, so they’d fit around presents that are a little too big for handkerchiefs and are perfect for zero-waste kitchen gifts.
You may also use pillowcases or sweaters you don't need anymore and don't look washed out. Sweater sleeves make a safe and nice-looking gift wrapping for wine bottles.
For an extra special touch, you can browse the virtual shelves of online thrift stores in search of one-off fabrics at a bargain price. If an item can be worn again, even better, which may just be down to how carefully you wrap it, keeping the original garment intact.
When you repurpose items you already have at home for gift wrapping, you save money and help the planet as well. It also reduces your carbon footprint, and chances are the recipients might find the repurposed wrapping useful as well. There is so much stuff in the home that can be repurposed for gift-giving. You will find some suggestions below.
Reusable containers like glass jars and tin eliminate wrapping waste Cookie tins are great for packaging edible presents and jewelry. You may need to add some layers of tissue, shredded paper, or parchment.
When you get a gift bag or box, save them for when you want to give someone else a gift. That way, you won’t have to buy new gift bags or boxes every holiday season.
Your tote bags are excellent options for zero-waste gift wrapping. You can use them as eco-friendly gift bags, and the people who receive them can use them as tote bags again.
Recycling packaging and cardboard delivery boxes save you from wrapping presents at all. And may just be the perfect understanding surround for any of our pick of the best environmentally friendly gifts for the men in your life.
Even with conventional wrapping paper out of the picture, you can still get a shiny gift wrap effect with repurposed chip bags. All you need to do is carefully open up the chip bag into a flat sheet and clean it. Then you wrap your gift, allowing the shiny silvery side to show on the exterior.
After finding the perfect eco-friendly gift wrap, the next step is getting a wrapping accessory to tie things up beautifully. Below are some eco-friendly accessories to add some style to your wrapped gifts.
Related: 15 Best Sustainable and Eco-friendly Packaging Options - for sending your wrapped good to loved ones.
You can use Washi tape instead of sellotape when gift wrapping. It is made from bamboo and hemp instead of trees. The tape comes in all kinds of decorative colors and designs.
Washi tape works on a lot of different surfaces and peels off easily. It is excellent for ensuring that your eco-friendly wrapping paper stays in one piece during unwrapping. The tape is compostable and recyclable.
You can use sprigs from the waste left after cutting your Christmas tree as a wrapping ornament at Christmas. Even better, you can compost these natural materials after the wrappings are discarded.
Another option is to buy ornaments second-hand instead of brand-new ones. You will save money and, at the same time, reduce your carbon footprint. And, of course, pine tree sprigs also provide a seasonal feel perfect for holiday gifts from our zero-waste Christmas list.
Plastic bows may be popular, but they are not an eco-friendly choice. Like all kinds of plastic, they do not biodegrade but break down into microplastics. When you need to make a lovely ribbon bow for your gift, use fabric ribbons made from organic fibers. If you would instead use synthetic fabric ribbons, ensure they are made out of recycled material.
Paper raffia is also an eco-friendly paper ribbon and a great alternative to plastic-based curling ribbon. It is biodegradable and recyclable and in red and bright colors, is perfect for holiday celebrations or for gifts under the Christmas tree.
A gift tag adds to the sentimental value of a gift, and however, just like the rest of the wrapping, it goes in the trash. You may skip the gift tag to reduce waste, but use a tag made from the recycled paper if you must use one.
Giving gifts is a universal language of love and appreciation. All over the world, people speak it every day and accumulate tons of waste. You may choose to forego wrapping gifts to avoid waste, but it may not suit all situations. Especially in situations where you have to send it through a third party and privacy is non-negotiable.
In 1917, the Hall brothers introduced Fancy wrapping paper1, and the art of wrapping has become more and more elaborate over the years. Globally, the value of the gift-wrapping product market was $15.11 billion in 2018. Experts predict the market will be worth $24.9 billion by 20252. This shows how highly people value wrapped gifts and that the tradition is not stopping soon.
An estimate by recycling organization, Earth911 puts the amount of gift wrapping produced each year at 4.6 million lbs. They say about 2.3 million pounds of that amount ends up in landfills. The waste is enormous and is an environmental concern.
Although many people choose paper gift wrap over plastic-based wrappings, they are unaware that glossy paper wrap is not curbside recyclable everywhere. This is because the glossy effect is created by laminating the paper with plastic film. This makes it a contaminant to your curbside paper recycling bin. So is any wrapping paper that has texture, is metallic, or has glitter.
The waste that comes with giving out presents to people we appreciate is making giving an environmental issue. We can avoid this waste by using environmentally sustainable gift-wrapping options like organic or recycled materials.
Berkeley Bryant (2019) A brief history of paper: From recording history to wrapping gifts. College of Natural Resources News. NC State University.
Koen Van Gelder (2020) Gift wrap market value worldwide from 2018 to 2025. Statista.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.