8 Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Disposable wrapping paper is a multi-billion dollar industry that sells a product designed to be used and then immediately torn up and thrown in the trash. Not the most eco-friendly practice, obviously. However, we cannot deny that gift-giving is fun, partly due to the surprise element. Here's 8 eco-friendly gift wrap ideas to avoid all the waste, but still enjoy giving gifts!

Byย Beth Ricci, Contributing Writerย 

Disposable wrapping paper is a multi-billion dollar industry that sells a product designed to be used and then immediately torn up and thrown in the trash. Not the most eco-friendly practice, obviously. However, we cannot deny that gift-giving is fun, partly due to the surprise element.

So what’s an eco-conscious, naturally-minded gift-giving mama to do?

I wroteย a guest post at Simple Homemade last yearย on the 3R’s and how to prioritize them. In it, I talked about how I had learned the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, but that for so many years, I was completely missing the point. Those things are not just 3 eco-friendly options –they’re listed in order of importance!

Reducing our waste is number one. It’s the best way to care for the earth, and the most effective. Some of the gift wrapping ideas below embrace this concept by creating no waste whatsoever.

Reusing things that have already been produced is the second best option. If we can save something from the trash and give it another go-round of usefulness, we can be proud. Some of the ideas below use this concept by rescuing things from the recycling bin.

Lastly, if we can’t reduce or reuse something, we recycle. Typically on Christmas morning, the average person might feel proud of their efforts to toss the massive garbage bag full of torn up wrapping paper into the recycling instead of the trash. While it may be true that recycling is better than straight-up throwing something in a landfill, I do believe we can (and should!) do better. The ideas below focus on reducing and reusing.

hand painted wrapping paper frugal and eco friendly

image by LL Barkat

Here are a few ideas for you to try:

1. Newspaper

When I was young and was always attending birthday parties for friends, we usually wrapped the gifts in the comic section from the Saturday morning newspaper. It was colorful and free and readily available, not to mention super frugal. Wrapping paper (and even reusable gift bags and tissue paper) has gotten crazily expensive these days!

2. Packing paper

Our “brown paper packages tied up with strings” (name that movie!) now come in a box with amazon tape across the top, but the brown packing paper inside is actually the perfect canvas for DIY wrapping paper (and that slightly crumpled look is totally in style!).

If you’re artistically inclined, you could doodle a pattern with metallic markers or pens, or paint. If not, let the kids at it with paint and crayons. They will LOVE it, and you’ll get free, eco-friendly gift wrap out of it!

3. A pretty scarf

My birthday gift this past summer came wrapped up in a cute little scarf and ribbon, and I was absolutely smitten. It was as much fun admiring the package as it was opening the gift itself!

scarves make the perfect eco friendly gift wrap

image by Susbany

4. A tablecloth or cloth napkins

Wouldn’t it be cute to give a set of homemade coasters and get a nice set of cloth napkins to go along with them, wrapping each one in layers around the coasters? It would be like the grown-up eco-friendly version of that old prank where you wrap someone’s gift in a bunch of different layers as a tease.

You could also wrap a larger gift with a tablecloth, and make that part of the gift!

5. Fabric

For the sewing lover in your life, pick some pretty fabrics from the store and wrap your gift in several yards of it. Another gift wrapped-in-a-gift!

Gifts in a Jar are a great eco friendly way to wrap a gift

image by Mommy Knows {Kim Becker}

6. Homemade Cloth Gift Bags

There are tons of easy tutorials online for various shapes and styles of DIY cloth gift bags that can be used year after year. Here’s a tutorial that looks easy.

7. Last year’s gift bags and wrapping paper

This may not be my number one option, but it’s certainly one that’s working for my mom. It’s her fault that I save gift bags and smooth out and fold all of the tissue paper from every. single. occasion. in my life. And you know what? I have to admit – it has certainly come in handy!

8. Jars and tins

There are tons of great gift ideas that can be given in a jar – think soup mixes, baking mixes, homemade lotions and body scrubs, and so much more! Tins are also great for things like edible treats and can be used again and again!

What’s your favorite idea for eco-friendly gift wrapping?

Top image source: Lorna Watt

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  1. When my kids were little, I saved every piece of easel painting they did in preschool. Those paintings took up a ton of space and over time, I realized the size of the paper was perfect for gift wrap. And there are a LOT of birthday parties to go to in those early years. So I started using the paintings as wrapping paper! Honestly, we had the coolest-looking gifts at every party!

    1. That is SUCH a fantastic idea! I have a *ton* of artwork around my house that would be perfect for that ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Every year at Christmas I take the bigger pieces of wrapping paper and save them up to use for wrapping stocking stuffers the next year. Most of the time the stuffers are smaller and don’t need as much paper and it doesn’t really matter if there are wrinkles, creases, or bits of tape here or there. The kids demolish through this just as well as pristine paper. In fact, I don’t think they have ever noticed that the paper has been previously used. They are usually just excited at what was in the wrapping!

  3. Thanks for mentioning my 4-step gift bag! Warning: if you make them, you won’t get them back. Your recipients will keep them to use next year. ๐Ÿ™‚ Make extras!

  4. I save virtually all the gift bags I receive and reuse them and the tissue paper that is decent enough to be reused. I hate wrapping, so this makes things so easy and allows me to save money in the process. My husband keeps trying to make me stop saving gift bags because I have so, so many that I’ll never use. (As a former teacher, you can imagine how many gifts bags I received from years of teaching. Side note: Please, don’t give teachers mugs as gifts. I have over 20 Christmas mugs alone.)

  5. I love the idea of fabric as wrapping “paper”. I have done this with Christmas-y fabric. But a yard or two of it as part of then gift? Want! I also save the brown paper from our Amazon shipments.

    1. Hi Amanda, if you just google “DIY fabric gift bag” or something along those lines, I’m sure plenty will come up!

  6. I had to laugh, Beth, because I also save all gift bags and smooth out all tissue paper after we receive gifts too! And I save and reuse the cheap stick-on bows. All are habits I also picked up from my mom.

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