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Published on December 5th, 2011 | by Sonya Kanelstrand

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11 Gift Wrapping Ideas that Waste Less

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Do you love giving thoughtful gifts but hate holiday waste? Try some of these gift wrapping ideas that are recycled and reusable!

Half of the paper consumed in the U.S. every year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. That statistic is kind of a bummer, but you don’t have to use new rolls of gift wrap to make a beautiful holiday gift. We’ve found 11 ways to wrap beautiful gifts without wasting all of those precious natural resources.

11 Recycled and Reusable Gift Wrapping Ideas

11 Gift Wrapping Ideas that Waste Less

[Photo via HOBOinteriors]

1. Maps

Maps are typically printed on sturdy paper meant to endure. They are colorful and if you there is no tourist center close by where you can pick several for free, just use old maps to wrap the presents. They will not only be attractive but educational as well!

Map wrap

Map decoration on gifts

Cool green gift wrap

Another map gift wrap

2. Calendars and Magazines

Old calendars and magazines are another great source of sturdy paper you can use for gift wrapping and they come in different sizes! Just trim out whatever you don’t like and you are ready to start wrapping!

Magazine wrapping ideas

Old calendar gift wrap

3. Newspaper

Here is a vintage packing solution that will challenge your creativity. Decide on the design and colors of the page you want to use and add more paper decoration if needed. You can glue shapes of colored paper or paper scraps. Or you can go with the plain look, why not. You can also make newspaper gift bags, which can be reused.

Newspaper gift bag

Simple newspaper gift wrap

Newspaper roses for gift wrap decoration

Newspaper gift wrap topped with a newspaper flower

More newspaper gift wrap ideas

Eco gift wrap

4. Wallpaper

Use old wallpaper leftovers to achieve a vintage look of your presents. Basically any wallpaper will do, depending on the theme of the gift – bright colors, subtle flowers and decorations… dig in your closet for those scraps that were left after you last renovated your living room.

Vintage holiday gift wrapping ideas

Leftover wallpaper- gorgeous look

Wallpaper box and a fork centerpiece

Holiday wallpaper wrap

5. Plant leaves

Use banana palm leaves, big maple or oak leaves, or any leaves you find appropriate. Use your imagination depending on your location. Tie them with twine and you have the best organic gift wrap ever. Note that they will not stay fresh for long so postpone wrapping as much as possible.

6. Reusable fabric bags

You can either sew your own fabric gift bag or buy one. They make a great alternative to traditional gift wrap and they lead the way with reusability. This technique provides a reusable wrapper and also doubles the gift you are giving.

Easy fabric gift bags

Reusable fabric and yarn gift bags

Handmade fabric gift bags with ties

7. A gift in a gift

Fabric gift items can actually be used for wrapping another gift. A handknitted or crocheted item, a blanket, a table cloth, a tshirt or similar items are all perfect for creative and no-garbage gift wrapping.

Silk scarf and flowers gift wrap

Vintage fabrics used as a gift wrap

Several ideas for wrapping gifts with fabric

Cloth gift wrap

Fabric bottle wrap

Fabric envelopes

Wrap it up with a man’s button up shirt

8. Old sweaters

You can felt old wool sweaters and turn them into wrapping or you can use different parts from any type of sweater for gift containers. For example you can use a sleeve for a long object like a bottle.
Here’s a tutorial.

Wine wrap

Simple felted wool wine bag

9. Furoshiki

Furoshiki is a Japanese fabric folding technique, which is basically origami with fabric instead of paper. The Ministry of Environment of Japan has published the instructions for numerous Furoshiki gift wrapping styles here.

Video on Furoshiki wrapping

Furoshiki with dry flowers

Furoshiki with roses

11 Gift Wrapping Ideas that Waste Less

10. Bojagi

This is a Korean form of wrapping gifts in fabric that is very similar to Furoshiki. if you choose to wrap your gifts using the Bojagi technique, you will even have a handle for the packages as well. You can use any fabric that you have- an extra scarf, leftover fabric from a project, etc.

Watch this great video to learn how to use the Bojagi technique.

11. Misc.

You can find a lot of printable gift packaging ideas hereto use with any medium.

Although eco-friendly gift wrapping poses a challenge, it is not that hard to remain in the eco circle during the holidays and still have beautifully packed gifts. Just use your imagination and put your heart in every little detail – that is what makes Christmas so special!

[Red Furoshiki Photo via Shutterstock]



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About the Author

Sonya is a photographer and a creative artist sharing her Scandinavian experiences. Her blog Kanelstrand Organic Living has become the meeting point of a vibrant green community of eco-conscious artists and crafters from around the world. Sonya believes that people and nature can co-exist together in a healthy and inspiring union without harming each other. She implements the knowledge gained from studying Philology and Pedagogy in her approach to sustainable and eco-friendly living.



  • http://www.GaveThat.com Marie

    Thank you so much for including my Furoshiki and newspaper gift wraps Sonya! This is a really inspirational post to wrap green this year.

  • http://importantmedia.org/members/sonyak/ Sonya Kanelstrand

    You are welcome, Marie! Your gift wraps are outstanding, a just green gift wrapping post couldn’t go without them.

  • http://www.hopfrogpond.ca Doris Jetz

    Another great article promoting the use of fabric instead of paper. Very slowly, I can see this gaining momentum. Maria – I like how you include the flowers in the furoshiki wrapping techniques. It’s pretty easy to find instructions on different wrapping techniques but I’ve got a couple more on my website at http://www.hopfrogpond.ca/p/what-is-furoshiki.html#howtouse. Happy Holidays!

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/sonyak/ Sonya Kanelstrand

      Your website is an inspiration, Doris. I particularly like the bottle wrap.

  • Sandy

    Great ideas for green wrapping. Big exception is the idea of getting maps from a tourist center. It is great to use old maps but to take new maps from a tourist center is no greener than buying wrapping paper and is flat out stealing from the tourist center.

  • http://www.hopfrogpond.ca Doris Jetz

    Thanks Sonya! There are so many really interesting ways to wrap gifts with furoshiki. I think the basic wrap and two bottle wrap are the best and most versatile methods. I have found that the more creative you get, the more fabric it can take. Lots of people think they can’t make it look nice. It’s so easy though, I often tell people it’s actually hard to mess it up!

  • http://sustainyourmind.com/ michaelt

    I love the creative ideas you talk about in this article. Posts like this are what bring awareness to people so they can wake up and make more conscious choices. Thank you for this info! Here is a link to some of my sustainable holiday ideas: http://sustainyourmind.com/category/sustainable-holidays/

  • http://www.frugallysustainable.com Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable

    Perfection! I love everything about this post! Thank you for sharing this wealth of information:)

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/sonyak/ Sonya Kanelstrand

      You are welcome, Andrea! by the way, I checked out your blog and I love it!

  • http://upcyclingruth.wordpress.com/ Ruth

    Wow, what great ideas. I hope lots of people take your advice on this. most of these wrapping Ideas are so much more beautiful than your regular wrapping paper fair.

  • http://tabithaconstance.tumblr.com/ Tabitha

    Great ideas! But be careful with wallpaper. Often times it has a toxic glue on it, which could harm the gift reciever if they don’t wash their hands well after!

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/sonyak/ Sonya Kanelstrand

      Tabitha, that is a very good point! Thank you for your input! On the other hand, most wallpaper glues I know are pretty harmless. I am curious to learn more.

      • Chris

        I’m pretty sure most wallpaper does not have toxic glue on the back- these things are highly regulated, at least in the US- where is this fact coming from, specifically?

    • Chris

      Tabitha, I’m an interior decorator who has seen a lot of wallpaper hung in my lifetime- I’m pretty sure most wallpaper does not have toxic glue on the back- these things are highly regulated, at least in the US… besides, touching dry glue as you describe probably does not necessitate washing hands to avoid death, otherwise there would be a lot of dead wallpaper hangers, not to mention store clerks and customers. I’ve personally never seen a wallpaper hanger use gloves and can’t imagine why a manufacturer would put themselves at risk to wrongful death lawsuits when they could simply use non-toxic glues which are commonly available. Where is this fact coming from, specifically?

      Source: Green Living Ideas (http://s.tt/14zaT)

  • http://cli.gs/youngjournalist.net how do i

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  • Gail

    I was cleaning up the grandkid’s dress up box today – I found some canteen bandanas – think I will use these as gift wrappers

    • http://vibrantwellnessjournal.com Andrea Bertoli

      Great idea Gail!

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