Zero Waste Gift Wrapping Ideas

Posted October 8, 2020 by Thirty-Something Angie in Lifestyle / 0 Comments

Have you ever thought about how much waste we create with Christmas wrapping? Make a change this year with these 10 zero waste gift wrapping ideas!

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up to quickly.” -Andy Rooney

For as long as I can remember, this has been my favorite quote about Christmas morning. But, over the last couple of years, I’ve started to look at it in a different light.

Yes, the mess my kids make on Christmas morning is glorious. I love seeing their excitement over the gifts they’ve received and given. I love seeing them scatter everything to get a good look, and dive into whatever they got and start enjoying it right away.

But, I don’t think the mess of wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift bags is glorious. No. Instead, I look around and see so much waste.

Think about it. You spend all that money on wrapping paper, bows, gift bags, and tape. You spend weeks wrapping everything so it looks nice. And then, before you even know it, all of that work is destroyed (in the best, happiest way possible), the materials are gathered into a trash bag, and it’s over. Just to start again next year.

We repeat this process year after year. Buying fancy wrapping paper, plastic ribbons, and tape, and every year. And every year, these items are added to the landfill the week after Christmas. Because even that paper isn’t paper. It doesn’t decompose. And since the tape we add to it isn’t recyclable, most of the paper just ends up in the landfill, even if we have the best intentions of recycling.

The good news?

There are loads of pretty ways to wrap gifts that are reusable or biodegradable.

Today, I want to share some of my favorite zero-waste (& low waste) gift wrapping tips, so we can make our holiday more sustainable without sacrificing those beautiful packages under the tree.

Why Zero Waste Gift Wrapping is Important

Want to know a staggering statistic? Every holiday season, the US alone uses 4 million tons of gift wrap and decorations that end up in the landfills.

In fact, this post says that we produce enough gift-wrapping waste to fill 5,000 football fields.

Honestly, I think even for the less eco-conscious consumer, this should be eye opening. Because we’re talking about waste that we paid money for! And believe me, those good wrapping papers do cost money.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a pretty package all tied up in string. But over the years, I’ve gradually shifted our wrapping habits from fancy paper that’ll just get thrown away, to more eco friendly and zero waste options that still look great.

Check out some of the ideas below!

10 Zero Waste Gift Wrapping & Decorating Ideas

The holidays are full of marketing designed to convince us to spend more and do more year after year, but the truth is, you can make a beautiful package out of repurposed or reusable materials!

Here are my top ten favorite zero waste (& reduced waste) gift wrapping ideas:

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1. Wrap Gifts in Brown Kraft Paper

While this isn’t exactly zero waste, it is a much better alternative to wrapping paper. You can buy Kraft paper by the roll for around $20, and get so much of it.

You can decorate it with stamps, drawings, or ribbon, and once the holidays are over, you can recycle it, shred it to add to your compost, or (if it’s not ripped up) let your kids use it for art projects!

Personally, I love the look of simple brown packages tied with colorful twine or lace, but there are so many great ways to dress these up and make them look festive. Give it a try! You can find Kraft paper here.

2. Make Use of Fabric Scraps


There are some really cute ideas for using old fabric scraps to wrap your gifts. Raid your crafting stash, or even use old shirts, dresses, sweaters, or blankets! It’s a great way to give new life to something you’re done with, especially if it has a festive pattern.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to do this. I plan to give it a try this year myself!

3. Sew Your Own Reusable Gift Bags

The idea of making reusable gift bags came across my social media feed last year. A few of the zero waste bloggers and instagrammers I follow posted their bags, and I thought it was the coolest idea! Of course, it requires a bit of work up front, and an investment in materials. So, I don’t think it’s something most people jump into all at once. But slowly, you could build up a supply of reusable bags to use year after year. This tutorial from Green Scheme breaks it down pretty well for anyone wanting to get crafty with their gifts this year.

4. Use Washi Tape instead of Scotch Tape

I’ve never really thought about the impact I’m making on the environment with my Scotch tape usage, but it’s true. Tape isn’t recyclable, so it’s just becoming waste. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but considering how many presents get wrapped during the holidays, it can really add up.

From what I’ve heard from others living a low waste lifestyle, it’s actually possible to wrap gifts without using any tape if you do it right, but that’s way beyond my capabilities.

Instead, I’ve started using paper washi tape with festive designs. It’s not plastic, so it can go in the recycling, and it’s pretty!

5. Repurpose Holiday Cards into Gift Card Holders

Do you like giving gift cards for the holidays? I thought this tutorial for repurposing old Christmas cards into gift card holders was a great idea! You’re reducing waste in two ways by doing this. First, you’re re-using old cards. And second, you’re not getting the typical cardboard sleeve that they usually put gift cards in.

Plus, your card will have a cute and custom sleeve that’s cute and festive.

6. Buy Reusable Wrapping Paper

Like the idea of reusable, fabric gift wrap, but don’t feel like being crafty?

You can actually buy sets of Wrapeez reusable gift wrap for a reasonable price right on Amazon! Check them out right here!

Fabric gift wrap is certainly a bigger investment up front, whether you buy it or make it yourself. But, considering you can use it over and over again for years, it’s well worth the investment if you ask me!

7. Re-Use Gift Bags

This one seems simple enough. In fact, I think everyone I know already does it! But, I can’t write a blog post about zero waste gift wrapping ideas without pointing out that you can just save the bags you’ve been gifted in the past to re-use! As long as it’s still in good shape, it’s fair game!

8. Use Pretty Gift Boxes


This is one of my favorite ways to gift wrap quickly. While everyone else is a huge fan of bags, I love gift boxes. They’re pretty, you can still tie a ribbon on them, and they’re sturdy enough to be reused for years.

You can usually find these at most retailers right around the wrapping paper. Or, if you’re gifting something small, these DIY paper gift boxes from Happy Mothering are a cute way to put your personal touch on your packages!

9. Skip Plastic Ribbon

There are so many gorgeous ways to dress up a package without using plastic ribbon. I honestly don’t even know why it’s still so popular (other than being cheap and easily accessible).

Want to think outside the ribbon on your packages this year? Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  • Use twine, fabric scraps, or lace to create bows on your packages.
  • Embellish your packages with elements from nature, like pine boughs, holly leaves, or small pine cones.
  • Try your hand at some pretty felt poinsettias using this tutorial.
  • Decorate your packages with festive washi tape or stamps instead of bows.
sustainable gift wrap ideas for the holidays

10. Get Creative with Your Packaging

Still haven’t found a zero waste gift wrapping idea you like? Try getting creative! Gifts don’t have to come in a box wrapped in paper. Gather up pretty baskets, tins, mason jars, or whatever you have lying around to create a pretty gift!

Zero Waste Gift Wrapping: Final Thoughts

I never really thought about how much waste we create during the holidays until the last few years. But like with most things, now that I know, I can’t un-know it. Every year, we take small steps to do better, and I hope now that you’ve seen the stats, you’ll join me!

Like with everything else, this doesn’t have to be a huge sweeping gesture. Start small. Pick a zero waste gift wrapping idea of off this list and take a step towards a more sustainable Christmas this year.



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