Eco-friendly gift wrapping

Eco-friendly gift wrapping alternatives

Finally, you found the perfect gift, you can’t wait to hand it to its future owner. To make things even better, you need to wrap this gift in a way that is ecological. Let’s not destroy all your efforts at finding the best eco-friendly gift. That’s why you can’t use the traditional wrapping paper, as pretty as it might be, it will last a few seconds. It will be torn and thrown away just seconds after giving the gift. Why shouldn’t you use it? And what can you use instead? As always, I am here to help you!

To wrap a perfect eco-friendly gift, avoid buying commercial wrapping paper as it’s not recyclable. Instead, reuse something you already have in your house. Use old wrapping paper, newspapers, magazines, old calendars or maps, children’s artwork, or any other unused paper. If you want something special, try placing your gift in a basket, box, jar, or any other suitable container. Decorate a tote bag, or make a special reusable gift bag. You can use any kind of nice fabric that can be used as a part of the gift. For especially artsy people, try an old Japanese technique called furoshiki.

If you want to learn more about what does it mean to be eco-friendly, check out this article where I cover everything from the product stages, materials, to certifications, and much more.

Why can’t you use traditional wrapping paper?

Most of the wrapping paper available in the market is not possible to recycle because it is often tinted with chemical dyes, lined with plastic, and can contain additives such as gold and silver shapes, glitter, or plastics. Also, the thin wrapping paper may contain very little quality fibers for recycling.

The exception between wrapping papers

eco-friendly gift wrapping: brown paper

One exception is the simple brown wrapping paper, which really just contains paper and thus can be easily recycled. It will still give you the experience of ripping it apart, revealing the secret, but without any misuse of plastic particles and dyes.

You can use the brown paper in your worm bin if you have one. If you want to learn more about having a worm bin in an apartment, read this beginner’s guide to vermicomposting.

But let’s look into ways, how not to buy any wrapping paper (not even the brown one), and still get perfectly wrapped gifts. You may even get extra points for your effort and imagination. Let’s see what do we have laying around the house and what can we use to wrap the gift. No new materials needed.


I believe every household will have some of these items at home. Usually, these might end up in the trash, or in a recycle bin. So it’s best to give them a new creative purpose, let’s explore some eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas.

Old wrapping paper

Maybe you are very eco-friendly, and you don’t buy or use any wrapping paper, but your friends or family might not observe the same rules. So, you end up getting gifts wrapped in commercial wrapping paper anyways. What you can do is to unwrap it very carefully, without tearing the paper, it adds to the excitement, as it takes time. Now stash it away and reuse next time you need to wrap anything. If possible, explain to the next owner the same rule, and sometimes they will do the same. If we can get the commercial wrapping paper to get several uses, at least, we saved some paper from being produced and bought.


Many families will have newspapers lying around the house. Usually, they are outdated and no one will read them ever again. You can pick pages with images, or interesting article, and use the old paper to wrap the gift. This actually looks pretty cool.

Old calendar pages, magazine or old maps

If you have old magazines, calendars or even maps saved in the house, why don’t you reuse them as wrapping paper? You are not going to use it anymore, so give them a new life! Pick a nice page, with a nice picture, or a photo of your cousin from last year’s calendar, and make a nice (or funny) looking gift. Make an effort and make a collage if you have the time!

Children’s artwork

If you have kids, or you have been given children’s artwork that you can part with, this will be actually a very special wrap. The artwork could cycle back to its old owner and make them remember good old times, or just remind someone of the times when they were kids.  

Potato chips and other snacks bags

I have never tried this method, as we never buy snacks in these shiny wraps because they are not recyclable. The shiny part of the snack bags is usually made of aluminum and is mixed with plastics. And the recycling plants cannot separate the plastic layer from the aluminum layer. If you have a weakness for snacks, you probably have these bags lying around. Give them a second use! Turn them, clean them well, and use them as a gift wrap the shiny part out. 

Any used paper (even if its crumbled)

Used and wrinkled eco-friendly gift wrapping

And if you don’t have any of these, you can just use any extra paper that you might have at home, even if its crumbled. You can look for ways to decorate it, using natural materials, as plant parts, leaves, branches, natural twine, you can paint over it, make a collage, or use your creativity in any other way.

Non-traditional wrapping or not wrapping

Now let’s explore other, non-traditional ways of eco-friendly gift wrapping, and maybe even not wrapping, but just placing a gift in a container of a sort.

Basket, box, cookie tin, or a jar

You might have a basket or a box at home that you are not using, or you can spare, and your gift will fit into it. This way, you don’t need any wrapping paper. If the gift is too small for the container, try filling it with natural decorations like straw, leaves, pebbles. You can also fill it with something yummy, maybe dried fruit, nuts, or candy, and add something delicious to the gift itself. If the gift is tiny, you can use a small glass jar of a matching size.

Make reusable fabric gift bags

Fabric gift bag

Some families have a tradition of placing gifts in a special hand made (or store-bought) gift bags that will circle around the family for generations. You can sew different shapes and sizes in one sitting, use different fabrics, and start using them from now on to eternity. Making a bag like this is very easy, you can even sew it by hand if you don’t have a sewing machine. Sew a fabric ribbon on top, so you can easily close the present. Always add a small note explaining the purpose of the bag so that the new owner will reuse it and pass it on. 

If you want to try this but you are not sure what fabric to use, read my article on eco-friendly fabrics, where I talk in details about hemp, linen, bamboo, cotton, and other fabrics.

Tote bag

We all have infinite tote bags around the house (or is it just me?). I don’t even know why do I have so many, I definitely didn’t buy any… So why not giving them a noble purpose? Choose a nice one, and place your gift in it. If you have fabric paint in the house, unleash your creativity, and decorate the tote bag, write a personal message, or just paint something nice.

Wrap in a scarf, tea towel, kitchen towel or a napkin

Make the eco-friendly wrapping part of the gift! Choose a nice scarf, tea or kitchen towel, napkin, or any other kind of nice fabric that is useful and wrap the gift in it. Use natural twine to tie it up and add a simple decoration. Who doesn’t love a double gift? The more gifts, the better! 

Furoshiki: Wrap in a piece of fabric

I am not an expert on Furoshiki, so I will just summarize what I have read. Furoshiki is a wrapping fabric that the Japanese used in the past to transport clothes, gifts, or other items. There are many techniques of wrapping, resulting in really beautiful wraps. There are many tutorials on this technique, so I will for now leave it just at this. In the future, I will learn more, try it myself, and write a detailed article on this topic.

Simple furoshiki tutorial

How to tie and decorate

eco-friendly gift wrapping: decorate with plants

Now that we have the gift and the eco-friendly wrapping, we might need to tie it. It would be a shame if we used a synthetic thread or scotch tape. To tie it, use a natural twine made of wool, cotton, sisal, jute, hemp, henequen, or coir. The rustic look can combine very well with the chosen wrapping technique. To decorate, you can always add a little handmade card, and instead of a bow, add a flower, dried herb, dried fruit such as orange, or a nice green branch. 

I hope you were able to choose a technique that suited your needs and that you were able to use materials that you already had in the house. Good job helping to save the planet!

I am not using any affiliate links, everything I recommend is because I like it and think it is useful. Feel free to search for different options in the same products category.