For many of us, gift-giving is a wonderful way to show we care and connect with our loved ones. Maybe you’re already an expert at finding sustainably made gifts, but you might not know what eco-friendly gift-wrapping methods are available. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, we’ll cover the top zero waste gift wrapping options for you to use so you can easily give gifts more sustainably.
What is Zero Waste Gift Wrapping?
True to the name, zero waste gift wrapping is a wrapping method that doesn’t contribute to additional waste. This could look like:
- Reusing old gift boxes,
- Choosing recycled and compostable wrapping paper,
- Or making the wrapping part of the gift such as baskets, hat boxes, or tote bags.
Whichever method you choose for zero waste gift wrapping should ideally be plastic-free, reusable, and recyclable and/or compostable to be considered “zero waste”.
Why is it Important to Choose No-Waste Wrapping?
Traditional wrapping paper and disposal gift boxes are single-use items that essentially generate unnecessary waste. Though wrapping paper is usually made of paper, it often can’t be recycled because it’s made from mixed materials and typically has leftover adhesive or other non-recyclable elements.
Any single-use item that can be replaced by an eco-friendly alternative is a great way to minimize our environmental impact, and gift wrapping is no exception. A little wrapping paper may seem harmless, but it adds up.
If Americans chose to wrap three of their gifts in previously used materials during the holiday season, it would save as much paper as 45,000 football fields. That’s a significant amount of waste that could be prevented by using eco-friendly gift wraps.
If you receive gifts already wrapped, try to save the materials for later use. When it comes to wrapping your presents, browse the ideas below as your low-waste gift-wrapping guide to take you through the holidays (and the year) more sustainably.
8 Eco-Friendly Present Wrapping Ideas
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1. Recycled Wrapping Paper
If you want to use wrapping paper, first opt for wrapping paper that can be recycled. Second, try to choose wrapping paper that is made from recycled materials, and/or is biodegradable. As a rule of thumb, any wrapping paper that’s plain (no glitter, foil, metallic, plastic, etc) and made from only paper, can typically be recycled.
If you want to purchase sustainably made wrapping paper, check out Wrappily for wrapping paper that’s made from recycled paper and is recyclable. Wrappily also has natural fiber ribbons and recycled gift tags.
2. Tote Bags
Tote bags make wonderful multi-purpose zero waste gift bags. When picking out a tote bag, try to choose one that’s sustainably made from 100% organic cotton or recycled materials. Tote bags are wonderful zero waste gift wrap ideas since they are a gift within a gift and your loved one can reuse them often.
3. Fabric Wrapping (Like Scarves)
Another fantastic zero waste “wrapping paper” option is to use fabric, like old scarves. Scarves make beautiful and timeless gift wrapping paper. You can upcycle fabric scraps or use clothing, like a t-shirt, for another no-waste wrapping paper idea. (Here are 4 fabric wrap techniques to try!)
More fabric-based gift wrap ideas could be reusable napkins, towels, beach blankets, or tablecloths. You can even buy reusable fabric wrapping from a variety of sustainable brands, such as The Little Market and Christy Dawn.
4. Upcycled Items
Not all zero waste gift wrap requires you to buy something new. An easy (and very sustainable!) way to wrap gifts is by upcycling items you already have. This might mean reusing last year’s wrapping paper or gift bags and boxes. It could also mean upcycling old magazines or newspapers to create your wrapping paper.
Get creative! Chances are something is lying around your house that can be repurposed as gift wrap.
5. Secondhand Wrapping Paper
Guess what? You can buy wrapping paper secondhand. One of the most sustainable things to do is to use what’s already made. So if you don’t have leftover wrapping paper, and your loved ones don’t either, you can look for secondhand wrapping paper at your local thrift store.
6. Reused Grocery Bags
No matter how hard we try to bring our reusable grocery bags to the store, chances are we’ve forgotten a few times. Most of us have a collection of old paper grocery bags (or bags from other stores) lying around the house. One of the easiest eco-friendly present-wrapping ideas is to reuse those old bags as gift wrap.
You can either use the bag as is to make a low-waste gift bag or cut it up to repurpose it as wrapping paper. If you’re not a fan of the color or the label, get crafty and paint the bags using eco-friendly paints.
7. DIY Wrapping
Making your own gift wrap is a fun thing to do with friends or the children in your life. This is a nice way to upcycle old materials like cereal boxes, cardboard, plastic bags, or worn clothing items to create beautiful reusable wrapping paper.
Get your scissors, paints, and glue, and see what you can design. If you’re not sure where to start, you can find video or written tutorials to transform pretty much any old object into wrapping paper, gift boxes, gift bags, tags, or cards.
8. Gift Wrap Presents
Last but not least, choose reusable items to use as gift wrap. Hat, storage, or jewelry boxes all make wonderful zero-waste gift boxes. Decorative items like wicker baskets, trunks, or purses, can all double as a gift bag and a thoughtful gift.
Mugs or cups can be used to wrap smaller items while clothing staples can be used as fabric gift wrap. Think of items that can double as a gift and gift wrap. (Bonus if you can find these items secondhand!)
Bonus Tip: Skip Tape and Plastic Decor
Regardless of what materials you end up using for wrapping paper, try to forgo tape. The tape can prevent recyclable items from being recycled. It can also damage delicate materials like paper, making them harder to reuse.
Instead opt for a string to tie your presents up. You could even use cloth or felt belts, or headbands and jewelry (if it won’t get damaged) for smaller gifts.
Lastly plastic decor like bows might look pretty, but chances are it’s going to generate additional waste. Look for natural decor — like branches, holly, or pinecones — if you want to add a seasonal embellishment to your gifts.
More Eco Holiday Guides:
- 21 Secondhand Gift Ideas To Make Sustainable Giving Easy
- Everything You Need To Know About Sustainable Holiday Decor
- 35 Eco & Ethical Gift Ideas For Everyone On Your List
About The Author:
Alicia Briggs is a writer & editor specializing in slow travel & sustainable living. She’s worked in journalism since 2016 and currently writes for a variety of publications such as Sustainably Chic and Hidden Lemur. She has been a full-time traveler since 2018 and runs her own blog, Learning the Local Way, where she covers responsible travel & living tips.