sustainable gift wrapping process

10 Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas for Christmas & Birthdays

Wrapping paper is a bit like lingerie. It looks beautiful for about five minutes before it’s destroyed to enjoy the real gift. 

Still, everyone loves the look of a nicely wrapped gift. It creates anticipation. So, we keep buying fancy gift boxes and wrapping paper for Christmas and birthdays every year. 

Unfortunately, that’s tons of bad news for the environment. Quite literally. Learn more about that below and pick a few of my sustainable gift wrapping ideas to try. Small steps can make a big difference.

Why Gift Wrapping Paper Is Bad for the Environment 

For starters, it contributes to the extra tons of garbage we produce during holidays. Did you know that we throw away 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper a year? 

What’s more, not all types of wrapping paper are recyclable. Any wrapping paper with dye, glitter, metallic flakes or plastic cannot be recycled. 

So, how do you know if the wrapping paper you have at home is recyclable? You can try the scrunch test. If you scrunch the wrapping paper and it bounces back to its original form, you can’t recycle it. The thing is, you can’t try that trick at the gift shop.

But the real problem with wrapping paper is that we only enjoy it for a limited time before we throw it away. If you find that troubling, you can try eco-friendly gift wrapping this year. 

10 Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas

Here are my 10 suggestions to approach the holidays or your loved ones’ birthdays more eco-consciously:

Kraft Paper

It’s the easiest option if you want to wrap a gift without using dyed or glittery wrapping paper. 

Kraft paper is recyclable and plastic-free. Aside from gift wrapping, you can also use it for packaging food or even a flower bouquet. It has a minimalistic look that you can easily elevate with some eco-friendly Christmas decorations. I’ll also give you a few ideas on how to prettify it below. 

Keep & Reuse Old Gift Bags

Glossy gift bags aren’t recyclable, but using them more than once is still a better option than buying new ones every year. Any box can be a reusable gift box if you want it.

Just make sure you don’t return them with a gift to the same person who gave them to you. Most people won’t remember, but it might leave a bad impression depending on the person.

Bonus tip: You can use those pretty gift bags throughout the year. Instead of using a regular bag whenever you have to carry something, you can put it in a beautiful gift bag. It looks very stylish and can elevate your personal look.

Keep & Reuse Shipping Boxes 

You must have seen this famous tweet:

And even if it’s not a really good box, I usually vote in favor of keeping it because it can be useful in so many ways. And as you’ve probably guessed by now, it makes a wonderful gift wrap, especially if it doesn’t have any branding on it. 

You can put a ribbon on the box, decorate it with natural elements, or even draw on it to express your feelings for the gift-receiver. In any case, it makes a wonderful eco gift wrap.


The art of Japanese gift wrapping has been all the rage for the last few years, and with good reason. It dates back to the 8th century when it was used for wrapping valuable temple objects.

Nowadays, it’s used for all sorts of informal gifts, which are usually square-shaped. The basic wrap is very easy to do and requires only four steps:

  1. Put the fabric on a flat surface and the gift in the middle.
  2. Lay the bottom corner over the gift and tuck any extra fabric. 
  3. Repeat the previous step with the top corner.
  4. Bring the left and right corners towards the center of the gift and tie them in a knot at the top.

The biggest pro is that these eco-friendly fabric gift wraps are a lot easier than dealing with wrapping paper. You won’t need any special measurements or sticky tape. It’s one of my favorite gift wraps.

DIY Fabric Gift Bags

If you’re up for a challenge or for some reason you don’t like how Furoshiki wrapping looks, you can try making your own fabric gift bags. 

What you’ll need:

  • Fabric
  • Thread and needle
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors 
  • A few safety pins

This is a bit advanced, and it’s best if you watch a video, so here’s a tutorial for DIY gift bags. Still, it’s not too hard if you can work with a thread and a needle.

Use Old Magazines and Newspapers

If your friend or loved one loves vintage objects, this is among the best eco-friendly wrapping ideas you should try. There’s something nice about receiving a gift wrapped in old newspapers. I’m always curious about what the paper says. 

It’s a gift and a read at the same time. Just stay away from the political pages and enjoy the newspaper gift wrap.

eco friendly gift basket

Use a Basket

While not exactly “wrapping,” putting a variety of small gifts in a basket looks wonderful, especially if you include home-cooked goods to it. 

You can easily decorate the basket with a ribbon, pine cones, flowers, leaves, or anything else you can think of. Plus, a basket always comes in handy.

Learn to Gift Wrap Without Using Tape

Sticky tape isn’t recyclable, so it’s best to avoid using it as much as possible. 

The good news is, you can try zero-waste gift wrapping. Here’s the no-tape gift wrap hack. Is anyone surprised that this also comes from Japan? I love how efficient and thrifty they are.

Get Inspired by Nature

Whatever eco-friendly Christmas wrapping you choose, add that natural touch to it. It works great for any present, especially if you’re using kraft paper, a cardboard box, or a basket. 

Look around the kitchen and visit the park to gather nature’s bounty for your wrap. That can include:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Dried orange slices 
  • Nuts
  • Pine cones
  • Sticks
  • Dried leaves
  • Flowers 

All that’s left is to arrange the elements in a pretty way, and your gift will look amazing.

Make Ribbons Out of Old Clothes

My final eco-friendly gift-wrapping idea is to go over your closet and say a proper goodbye to the clothes you’ll never wear again. 

We all have a few of those. We don’t want to throw them away, but we know we won’t ever wear them. So, why not transform them into ribbons? 

Cut a strip of the fabric and tie it around the gift. It doesn’t have to look perfect. And if you want to go the extra mile, use a needle and a thread to sew two pieces of fabric together for a more polished look.

Final Thoughts

A lot of traditional wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, and it only contributes to our massive waste during holidays. It’s time to turn things around and start acting more responsibly towards the planet.

If you’ve decided on an eco-friendly gift for your loved ones this year, it would be even better to use sustainable gift wrapping for it. You’ll find my best ideas above. Most of them are easily doable, and you need just a bit of imagination to turn them into wonderful-looking gifts.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for your next gift-wrapping session!

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