Don’t spend another dollar on expensive holiday gift wraps from the big box stores. It’s all just going to end up in the trash anyway. Try one (or a bunch) of these sustainable gift wrap ideas to make use of things we already have and can repurpose to wrap up all the fun gifts for friends and family this season and any time of year.
Did another package just arrive at your doorstep to cross one more holiday gift off your list this year? Before you open the box and toss all that packaging into the recycling bin (or even the trash!), take a look at what you received through the lens of how else it might serve you.
Can you wrap that gift in the packaging it came in while still making it look pretty? Can you throw it in a fabric gift bag with a bow made from thrifted ribbon instead of fighting those awkward angles with flimsy paper? There are so many sustainable gift wrap ideas waiting for all sorts of holiday gift wrapping styles.
30+ Sustainable Gift Wrap Ideas
I’ve been wrapping up holiday gifts over the last couple of weeks using all sorts of odds and ends, thrifted gift wrap, pieces of fabric, foraged details, accessories from prior seasons, and even things that you might think belong in my recycling bin. Let’s dive into a whole bunch of sustainable gift wrap ideas that might help you save money, skip an extra trip to the store for wrapping paper, and reduce the waste you generate this holiday season.
P.S. These sustainable gift wrap ideas are definitely NOT just for the holidays. You have my express written permission to use them any time of year for gifts for any occasion. 🙂
Reused Single-Use Sustainable Gift Wrap Ideas
Shipping paper and materials
Did I use the brown kraft paper right inside the shipping box to wrap the audio player and accessories I ordered? You bet I did. It doesn’t have to be the shipping paper or crinkle-cut paper shreds from the exact gift like it happened to be on this occasion but save those packaging materials. They make great gift wrap for a reason.
Reuse. Reuse. Reuse those gift bags. And let’s make a deal not to write names on them so they can be forever passed forward until they fall apart.
Especially if you’re gifting holiday treats to family and neighbors (but really whenever it fits the bill), repurpose plastic produce and other food containers as gift boxes. A little ribbon goes a long way to turn something rather mundane into a lovely, minimalist gift container.
Brown paper grocery bags
If turned the brown paper grocery bag inside out and wrapped up this gift in a pinch. I added some ribbon I grabbed from a thrift shop and a gift tag I created from an old greeting card. Nothing went to waste and it looks as good as new!
It’s an old staple but still hangs around for good reasons. Newspaper is such a cool medium for wrapping gifts. We don’t pay for any newspapers to be delivered to our house, but we still get a weekly newspaper print mailer in our mailbox with ads. I wish we didn’t get it at all, but at least we can use some of it for good before it ends up in our compost bin.
Metallic food packaging
Food delivery packaging. Inside-out (rinsed out) chip bags. Lots of food packaging has a shiny element that makes for a unique and glamorous holiday look. Have you tried this yet?
Take out containers
Did you know that most black takeout containers aren’t recyclable? We save our black plastic take-out containers because they are perfect for sending home leftovers with party guests when we have people over for dinner. But they also double as great gift containers for holiday treats or small gifts.
Have you ever wrapped a gift in an old map? I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like such a fun way to use vintage maps (that probably aren’t super useful anymore, especially in the world of GPS and Google Maps).
Gift tags from greeting cards
A few years ago, I started saving greeting cards that had interesting images or colors on them that served well as holiday or festive gift tags. With scissors (or a tab-shaped punch if you’re fancy), cut out gift tags from the greeting cards. Punch a hole through the end and it’s a perfect place to write the name of the gift recipient. Here is the full DIY gift tag from greeting card tutorial!
Toilet paper and paper towel tubes
Don’t throw away those cardboard tubes! Not only are they great for your compost bin, but they also make great little gift containers for jewelry, cash, gift cards, and more.
For these gifts, I wrapped up cash for my niece and added a little bit of festive decoration using the holiday cardstock I requested in my local Buy Nothing group. Nothing goes to waste when we have so many resources already available to use!
Reusable Materials and Items as Sustainable Gift Wrap
Some items that are great for gift wrap are meant to be used over and over again. Consider some of these sustainable gift wrap options that will last for many years (and often make wrapping your gifts a heck of a lot easier).
Furoskihi fabric wraps
I was totally intimidated by fabric wrapping until this year. It seemed hard to figure out. But once I finally spent a few minutes following an easy YouTube tutorial, it was so much easier than I expected.
This year, I used a thrifted scarf and a piece of a thrifted flannel shirt as fabric scraps for wrapping gifts. But you can use any fabric you have available to you.
DIY fabric gift bags
If you can make a friendship bracelet, you can make easy DIY fabric bags. To make this green and white bag, I cut a rectangular piece of fabric from a thrifted shower curtain (that was still in like-new condition), folded it in half with the right sides of the fabric together, and used a running stitch along the side and bottom with embroidery floss and thread. It took me about 20 minutes.
Retail cloth dust bags
From the little cloth bags that keep your new jewelry safe and clean to the fabric bags that hold purses and shoes, all these cloth bags make perfect gift bags.
You can leave them blank. However, if they have branding or a log on them you’d prefer not to show, cover it with a simple felt star, snowflake, or holiday decoration to transform it from blah to beautiful. You can attach the shape with fabric glue or sew it on with embroidery thread and a needle to keep it simple and manageable.
From fancy Ball mason jars to cleaned-up pasta and jam jars, they’re all amazing. For this one, I spray-painted the top (it was a pasta jar) so that it didn’t have any branding on it. Do as you wish to make it right for your gift recipient!
Holiday gift boxes
I love that these holiday gift boxes already have all the festive theme details built right into them. And you can reuse them from season to season if you’re giving them to family. I find lots of these at thrift shops, so don’t discount what you might be able to find secondhand.
Silicone storage bags
When the packaging and what’s inside are both part of the gift. Use a reusable silicone bag as the packaging for a gift that’s small, a fun treat, or something like this popcorn that can be popped inside the silicone bag to make it ready to eat.
Cylinder wine boxes
I found these at the thrift shop in like-new condition and they make holiday gift wrapping so easy! And of course, they’re ripe for reuse, even if you’re not a wine drinker. This year, we used them for LEGO and clothes.
Baskets, baskets, everywhere. This is another option where the packaging is also part of the gift. If there is one thing that literally every thrift has in droves, it has to be baskets. So start secondhand for these. You’re sure to find something that will do the trick.
They’re often for snacks, like this peppermint bark that I made once a year during the holidays. But you can put anything in these tins. And like the holiday boxes above, these are easy to find at thrift shops, they’re reusable for ages, and they make wrapping so simple. That’s my kind of sustainable gift wrap.
Thrifted & Secondhand Items as Sustainable Gift Wrap
No matter what you’re using, purchasing the items from a thrift shop extends the left of items that would otherwise likely have ended up in a landfill. If you can purchase your gift wrap materials and accessories from a thrift shop, it’s a win for your budget, your community, and the planet.
You can also look to community gifting groups like your local Buy Nothing group and request gift wrap items in those groups as well. I’ve been able to find a handful of gift wrap items in my local Buy Nothing group when my neighbors had excess.
I don’t find it year-round, but in the holiday season, many thrift shops have wrapping paper on their shelves. Be sure to take a peak a few weeks before the holidays, and I bet you’ll find some great secondhand gift wrap options. In my case, these two rolls of wrapping paper were not even open but much less expensive than their new counterparts.
Bows galore! You can find them in all sorts of sizes, colors, and styles. Be sure to check your local secondhand shop before spending on something new for these types of gift wrapping accessories.
Just like bows, ribbons are also on the thrift store shelves in abundance. I can typically find these year-round, sometimes in the arts and crafts section and not in the holiday section. Look in both locations if you’re not finding what you like right away.
Bells and ornaments
Even if you don’t need them for your tree, they are great little additions to the top of a gift if you’re looking to make it fancier than just paper and ribbon. They have all sorts of ornaments, bells, and more for unique gift wrap accessories.
Recyclable or Compostable Sustainable Gift Wrap Ideas
Recycled wrapping paper is the easiest way to start searching for sustainable gift wrap ideas that won’t end up in the landfill. But our creative wrapping skills can take us so much farther than simply single-use wrapping paper that ends up in our recycling bin instead of our trash can.
If you prefer wrapping gifts with an elevated look thanks to accessories adorning the packages, look no further than the plethora of organic materials that make gorgeous and eco-friendly gift wrap additions. I’ve included a long list below.
Brown Kraft Paper (plain or with milk paint)
Even if you don’t reuse the kraft paper scrunched up in your online shopping boxes that arrive at your doorstep, brown kraft paper is a better sustainable gift wrap option than many other wrapping paper options that are neither recyclable nor compostable.
If you want to spice up the brown kraft paper, you can even paint it. If you use compostable paint, like milk paint, you can toss the whole kit and caboodle in the compost bin after the gifts are unwrapped and the holidays have passed.
Recyclable wrapping paper
Brown kraft paper is recyclable if you just want something that one end up in the trash. And just about any wrapping paper is recyclable as long as it doesn’t have a shiny sheen, glitter, or other plastic embellishments on it.
Salt dough ornaments
Have you ever made salt dough ornaments? They are a super cute addition to the top of a gift if you’re looking for compostable gift wrap accessories to steer clear of plastic and other items headed to the trash.
I love that they can add all sorts of colors and textures to a gift. Slip a few dried flowers or a small bouquet into the top of a gift (fabric or paper wrapped) and the gift recipient can keep the dried flowers forever.
If you can find these in your yard or your community, grab a few, toast them up in your oven for a bit to melt the sap and clean out any critters that might be lurking inside of them, and add them to the top of your gift. Definitely don’t spend crazy money on these from the store! Even if you don’t have them in nature, I bet your thrift store has a bunch of them on hand too!
‘Tis the season of dried citrus, am I right? They’re a pretty fun and colorful addition to the top of a gift, and you can use them as tree ornaments too!
Grab a few springs from evergreen trees in your area and you’re golden (or green-en). I don’t know… You’re good.
I love the simple and aromatic appeal of cinnamon sticks. They do have such a holiday vibe! Tuck them on top of a gift, and it’s dressed up perfectly. You can use them later or compost them if they’re no longer in good shape for edible consumption.
These are just some of the ways we can use reusable, repurposed, secondhand, compostable, and whatever other sustainable adjectives suit your desires to wrap gifts in ways that are gorgeous and better for the planet. What did I miss? What other sustainable gift wrap ideas can you share in the comments?
Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.