Try these eco-friendly gift wrap ideas and have a sustainable, zero waste holiday. You’ll save money and you’ll feel good using your creativity to make your gifts look incredibly beautiful with these zero waste ideas.
When I was growing up gift wrap wasn’t the flashy, perfect instagram-worthy thing it is today. We wrapped gifts in the Sunday comics, in brown paper bags left over from carrying home the groceries on the bus, or in kitchen linens tied up with yarn. My Dad and his English wife visited at Christmas and brought status wrapped gifts with shiny gold and silver paper with coordinated ribbons and bows, that made our eco-friendly wrapping paper look cheap and make-shift. But by Christmas afternoon, that shiny metallic wrapping paper was in the garbage, while the comics and brown paper bags moved to the fire box, and the kitchen linens found their way to the kitchen. Sustainable, eco-friendly, wrapping paper doesn’t have to look cheap and make-shift, with a little creativity cloth gift wrap and other sustainable or recycled gift wrap can be a status statement too.
Gift wrap is one of the most wasteful parts of the holiday season. Those shiny mylar or metallic papers, while beautiful, cannot be sent to recycling. They end up in the land fill and can take years to break down, especially if they are laminated with plastic.
For many years we carefully peeled off the tape and folded the paper to use another year. But after a few years of use, even these wrapping papers end up being tossed in the garbage to go directly to the landfill.
In 2017, Americans spent $12.7 billion dollars on gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift bags. That’s $39 per person for something that will end up in the land fill. What would you do with an additional $39 per family member in your pocket this year?
Try one of these eco-friendly gift wraps instead of disposable wrapping paper. You’ll save money and your gifts will look beautiful and unique under the tree. In times like this eco-friendly gift wrap IS a status symbol. Remember you don’t have to go to the fabric store to find these beautiful fabrics, and gift wraps. You can upcycle things you already have at home as you learn to see what you already own with new eyes.
Use fabric fat quarters for gift wrap
Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in beautiful fabric instead of disposable paper.
Fabric wrapped gifts and parcels have been used around the world for centuries. Remember the hobo with the handkerchief on a stick to carry his worldly goods? The Japanese have mastered the art of folding fabric to make beautiful parcels and gift wraps. Think of it as origami with cloth instead of paper. Furoshiki is the simple art of wrapping with a reusable and beautiful cloth. While my instructions use a fat quarter of cotton fabric, you could also use a bed sheet or cloth shower curtain from the thrift store and cut it up into 1/2 yard pieces, for wrapping gifts. Look for fabric with a sheen or metallic threads for a nice presentation.
Use burlap fabric
Wrap up the gift in a piece of burlap. Burlap is especially lovely under a real Christmas tree. The scent of the fir and burlap is memory making. Tie on a handmade ornament made from plants or sprigs of herbs to make it unique. Use a pretty ribbon to tie it all together. Ribbon can be used year after year and doesn’t get crushed like polyester bows do.
Sustainable wrapping with pillow cases
Kris Bordessa at Sustainable-Sustainable says that when her kids were little, she would make them a special pillowcase each year for Christmas. It’s a simple sewing project that only takes half an hour or so to make.
To make one, start by choosing a fun fabric. For a standard pillow, cut a piece of fabric 40″ x 28″. Fold the fabric in half to bring the two 28″ sides together, right sides facing each other. Using a straight stitch, sew one short side and the long side. Iron a half-inch hem around the opening, folding the raw edge under twice. It’s that simple! You can even use the pillow case to “wrap” their other presents for an eco-friendly gift wrap that will move to the bedroom once Christmas Day is done. from Attainable Sustainable
Handmade fabric gift bags
A few years ago Angi from Schneiderpeeps started making fabric gift bags to use for Christmas. At Joybilee Farm, we also make draw string bags for gifts. They are so simple and just take a few minutes to stitch together if you have beginner sewing skills. Choose Christmas prints and colors for lovely, eco-friendly gift wrap that doesn’t look cheap. For the draw string consider ribbons, twine, or even matching fabric to make a nice presentation. The essences of a draw string bag can change dramatically with the choice of draw string.
I make these and spread them around to family members so that they too, will want to embrace eco-friendly gift wrapping. See Angi’s simple to follow directions for making draw string gift bags here.
Scandinavian woven heart baskets
For very small gifts, like lip balms, salve tins, candy, gift cards, etc, we make woven hearts out of glossy paper, often recycled from magazines. These are traditional paper hearts that are woven so that that the two pieces of contrasting paper form a basket with a handle. The baskets can be used as gift toppers or they can be hung on the Christmas tree or on a garland or wreath.
These are lovely to fill with sweets for the neighbor children or gifted to students. Once the gift is removed they can be put on the tree as an ornament.
In 1986, I made these woven heart baskets out of the gold and silver mylar bags that our ground coffee was sold in. We still have those ornaments among our Christmas tree ornaments more than 30 years later.
Get the full instructions for these easy to make paper heart baskets here.
How to package handmade soap
One of the most eco-friendly ways to decorate handmade soap is to use a reusable material. I love using a square of silk noil fabric. Silk noil makes a gentle, scrubby complexion cloth and is the perfect wrapping for gently, moisturizing hand made soap. If you don’t have a yard of silk noil in your stash, a soft wash cloth would also do justice to your handmade soap. Wrap the bars individually with brown paper and twine and then wrap up several bars together in your wash cloth or silk noil cloth. Add this parcel of handmade soap to a wicker basket along with a loofah, for a especially nice gift presentation.
Dress up your homemade jam
Janet at Timber Creek Farmer uses paper cupcake liners to make attractive covers for her giftable preserves. These liners can be put in the compost bin once they are done being used. Be sure that the gift recipient knows to recycle them! Use natural twine to tie on a handmade paper card.
Another option along this same line is to cut out fabric squares and place them underneath the canning jar bands for an attractive presentation for your homemade preserves.
Use vintage linens for wrapping
Vintage linens are the ideal size to wrap small boxes or awkwardly shaped gifts. Use them like you would use burlap or other fabric wraps. Find vintage linens, at local second-hand stores, they make thoughtful gift wrapping that can be used for years to come. Use them to line wicker baskets, wrap homemade bread, or even to wrap small boxes. 100% linen has a sheen that goes well with metallic ribbon, silk, or even twine.
Use recycled tins to package cookies
Food gifts are always welcome and cookies especially make a welcome gift. Packaging them in decorative tins displays your homemade baking and helps them stay fresh longer. Layer the cookies in tins by simply stacking them on top of each other in neat rows. Place paper towels or napkins between the layers to keep them from breaking.
Rootsy uses cupcake liners to keep the cookies together and to keep them from sticking to one another in the tin. If you are giving a variety of cookies, include a key in the lid so gift recipients can pick the cookies they want based on their favorites.
Make eco-friendly gift bags from recycled paper
DIY gift bags can be made with beautiful paper, glossy magazine pages, seed catalogs, and calendar pages. They add a thoughtful touch to your handcrafted lip balms, salves, herbal remedies, knitted socks, knitted mittens, sock lambs, candles, and other small hand made gifts. Plus you can make these handmade gift bags in bulk and have them ready to fill when you need them. Don’t be the person hiding in the bedroom wrapping gifts with tissue paper late on Christmas Eve, make a batch of these easy-to-make, eco-friendly gift bags now, using our printable template. Get the template and instructions here.
In what ways are you changing your Christmas traditions to make room for more eco-friendly traditions? Tell us in the comments.