We all love pretty packages beneath our Christmas tree this time of year. Glittery packages and fluffy bows seem to add to the excitement of the season. Some may even find it therapeutic to wrap presents while holiday music plays in the background. Or, perhaps you’re in the camp that cannot wrap a box without it looking lopsided, and find that gift bags are the way to go. No judgement!

A few years ago while we were opening presents, filling garbage bag after garbage bag with trash (or did we try to recycle it??), it made me think twice about the waste we were producing. I later discovered that our recycling hauler was no longer accepting giftwrap or tissue paper for recycling. How many of us have recycled these items with the best intentions? It turns out the fiber strands of tissue paper are too short, so it can’t be made into anything of quality again. And gift wrap? Even though it may say ‘recyclable’ on it, many recycling haulers are finding it easier to not accept it because some wrapping papers contain glitter or foil. When these items end up in the recycling stream, it can contaminate the paper batch. Contamination = not good. Here’s a post I wrote about common household products you may be recycling that may not be accepted by your hauler.

Before I share some eco-friendly ways to wrap presents, I wanted to point out that it’s not an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to stop using wrapping paper and tape and ribbons altogether. I still wrap presents with pretty paper and bows because I enjoy the art of presentation. I also appreciate beautiful packages that might not consist of environmentally friendly products. It’s ok! Hopefully just making a few little changes will help you ease into a more sustainable way of living.

So, what are some eco-friendly ways to wrap and present your gifts?

Reusing what you have
I’m a big fan of reusing items that would otherwise end up in the landfill. I have a collection of boxes I’ve saved from gifts I’ve received, or items I’ve purchased. You don’t have to keep every box that comes your way, but keeping a small stash might come in handy throughout the year. Even clean and empty cracker or cereal boxes work well!

Think outside the box when it comes to gift boxes!


Check out this cookie bag below! The thick foil paper is so pretty and festive. (While the kiddo receiving this gift would appreciate cookies, it actually contains a pack of football cards!) You could also decorate it with stickers or washi tape.

Reusing holiday cards as gift tags
With the large amount of people mailing out holiday cards each year, it’s nice to be able to do something with the card once you are done enjoying it. Those birthday and holiday cards can be pricey! It seems like a waste to read it and then toss it.

It doesn’t take much effort to transform greeting cards into gift tags or gift wrap embellishments. For all of these, you can use any household item as a stencil. A roll of masking tape or a coffee cup makes a perfect circle. For wintery stencils, look no further than your kitchen! Cookie cutters are great for tracing. Paper punch a little hole at the top, insert some string and you’ve got yourself a gift tag. You can also tape or glue the embellishment directly onto your present.


Before: There's so much creative reuse potential with greeting cards!
After: Cut out text and graphics that can be reused as package decorations!
repurposing christmas cards

Fabric wraps
Fabric wraps, or furoshiki wrapping cloths as they are also known, make wrapping a whole lot easier. They are reusable, don’t rip, and don’t require tape or scissors. Perfect job for kids! You can repurpose fabric remnants, scarves, and even light blankets as wrapping cloths. I found the book, Furoshiki Fabric Wraps by Pixeladies to be the most helpful in understanding what furoshiki is all about. The traditional Japanese folding methods are easy to follow, but, you can wrap your items however you’d like! There is no right or wrong way to wrap items. Click here for a more detailed post about furoshiki.

Newspaper has been used as gift wrap for as long as there has been newspapers. The colorful comics and large sheets make them easy to use. A fun twist would be to highlight words or phrases in the print that convey your message to the recipient.

Hopefully you can adapt at least one of these eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas! It might feel odd or strange to give a gift to someone in a cereal box, or wrapped in a delicate scarf, but you have to start somewhere, right? You might start within your home and only give gifts that are in repurposed wrapping materials. Once you feel more confident, you might branch out and ditch traditional wrapping paper with your circle of friends, and then your coworkers. Every action you take to keep things out of the landfill is making an impact! Your gift recipients will appreciate that you have been intentional about your choice of packaging. And, your thoughtfulness is an extra gift!

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Carolyn Wieland

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