Live Green and Earn Points


Guide to Greener Gift Wrap

By Jen Uscher |
Surprise your family and friends with gifts creatively wrapped in reusable or recycled materials. Bonus: Some of these wraps are presents in themselves.
Originally Published: 12/10/09

According to the EPA, Americans discard 25 million extra tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. If you cross conventional wrapping supplies off your holiday shopping list this year, you can cut down on this waste, conserve resources like trees and energy, and save money too. Here are fun, festive alternatives to gift wrap, some of which you can reuse year after year:

According to the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped just three gifts with repurposed materials like newspaper, a scarf, or children’s artwork this holiday season, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

• Reusable fabric gift bags can be cute, durable, and available in lots of sizes. They don't require any tape or ribbon, because they have a drawstring or a ribbon attached so you can tie a bow. Invest in a set your family can use every year, like Christmas stockings.

• You can also sew your own, using fabric remnants you have on hand. Or, wrap gifts in scarves or fabric remnants. Watch this video to learn a Japanese method of wrapping gifts in cloth that's similar to origami.

• Wrapping paper made from 100 percent recycled content requires less water and energy to produce and helps to divert usable paper from the waste stream. For holiday-themed recycled wrapping paper, check out Fishlipspaperdesigns, Shopecosaurus, and Earthloven.

• Maps, calendars, posters, and wallpaper scraps can also make unique wrapping papers. And you can decorate the brown paper from grocery bags with stamps or children's artwork or handprints.

• Save the prettiest and most durable paper gift bags, boxes, and ribbons you've received - even disposable wrappings can be reused many times. My family has a large collection of holiday-themed paper gift bags stuffed with tissue paper, for example, that we use for our gift exchange every year. You can also put scraps of used wrapping paper through a shredder to make a decorative stuffing for gift bags.

• Incorporate the wrapping or container as part of the gift- for example, a plant in a gorgeous ceramic pot or a collection of imported pastas and sauces in a colander. Or give homemade treats like gingerbread cookies, jam, or herb-infused oils in reusable jars, bottles, canisters, or tins.

• For quirky, personalized gift packaging the recipient will want to keep, look for vintage baskets, lunch boxes, cigar boxes, hat boxes, tea towels, and handkerchiefs at thrift stores and flea markets.

And remember, it's the thought—not the wrapping—that counts most.

Can you recommend any clever ways to wrap presents in repurposed materials or to make the wrapping part of the gift? Share your ideas by commenting below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Christina B. 5 years ago
    I always received presenta in cereal boxes or ritz cracker boxes so now thats what I put presents in for any occasion. We also wrap presents in the newspapers Sundays comics. It makes it fun before they unwrap.
  • Darlene F. 5 years ago
    I pledge
  • teresa n. 5 years ago

    We use to wrap gifts in our children's art work. I, as a child, would wrap tube socks or t shirts or belts or whatever would fit in empty cardboard wrapping paper tubes. then I would decorate it. or color it with markers or crayons or use pieces of scrap paper, to make it look like a mosaic design. We continued this for our children. It took longer to open the gift. Also they would shake it to see what they could here. Cereal boxes. we would decorate also. we drew or cut out windows to look like a house. We would put pictures of the kids school pictures or copies of a picture in the windows, as if they were looking out of the house. We did this for all different Holidays. Then we would fill the box with gift or candy in a zip lock bag or the store bag, the goodies came in. Enoy!

  • Aneesh M. 5 years ago
    Use shopping bags from store to give a surprise element at gift exchange. We used an clothing store bag but had a wine bottle in it, everyone was pleasently surprised and it became a topic of conversation for the rest of the party...
  • John B. 5 years ago
    Very Clever.
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