Photo by Jeffery Cross

Skip the standard wrapping paper this year, and go for these sustainable gift wrap ideas from items already around the house

Nena Farrell and Jess Chamberlain  – December 4, 2019

Have you gone wrapping paper shopping yet? Here’s a radical idea this holiday season: don’t. Instead, there are plenty of ways to beautifully wrap your gifts without buying new paper that will just end up in the trash in a few weeks.

According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, the amount of trash produced by Americans increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—adding up to an estimated one million extra tons of garbage each week. Yes, that’s on top of the regular amount of trash Americans produce.

One easy way to cut down on our waste this holiday season is to try wrapping gifts in low-waste or sustainable alternatives. Extra bonus: you might not need to go shopping for gift wrap items at all, since some of these are already lying around the house.

Reusable Fabric Wrap

Photo by Jeffery Cross

Make the wrapping part of the present. Upcycle a scrap of fabric you have leftover from a sewing project or grab a scarf from your closet that you don’t mind giving away.

Floral Wrapping Paper

Photo by Jeffery Cross

If you love wrapping paper, try the recycled route. Stock up on 100% recycled papers by British Columbia’s Banquet Atelier & Workshop—these whim­sical prints won’t feel stale come January. 

Reusable Produce Bags

Courtesy of Trash Is for Tossers

Give two gifts in one by wrapping a gift in a reusable produce bag, like in this DIY from Trash Is for Tossers, so your giftee can start cutting down on plastic and waste at the grocery store, too. 

Kraft Paper and Stamps

Photo by Jeffery Cross

Style your own gift wrap with stamps and colored ink. Try taking Kraft paper and adding wintery stamps, like these from Yellow Owl Workshop. Plus, kids will love wrapping with you when it involves stamping.

Canvas Tote Bags

Courtesy of Madewell

Grab one of those extra tote bags you have laying around the house and use it to casually wrap a gift. The giftee will be able to fill it with all the presents they receive, making it useful and sustainable.

Recycled Shirt

Courtesy of Trash Is for Tossers

Cut up a button-down shirt that isn’t getting worn to turn it into wrapping paper—bonus points if it has a print that can turn seasonal, like the red pinstripe number used in this DIY by Trash Is for Tossers.

Magazine Pages

Photo by Thomas J. Story

This material makes the perfect wrapping for small boxes. Look for sheets with large and colorful images, graphic prints, or old-fashioned black-and-white type.

Ribbon Alternatives

Photo by Jeffery Cross

Skip ribbons and plastic bows for these eco-friendly swaps. Try a bit of greenery (here, rose hips and redwood sprigs) for color and a festive scent. Or, go with tied twine to replace a plastic bow.

Compostable Cards

Courtesy of Bloomin

The NEEF estimates that 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold in the U.S. during the holidays—enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. Recycle paper around your home and make your own cards, or look for ones that are made of compost-ready ingredients, like these seed paper seasonal cards from Bloomin.