11 Ideas for Earth-Friendly Wrapping Paper

I’m a scrooge. It’s taken me years to feel comfortable publicly acknowledging this, but it’s true. I love the holidays for the heightened awareness around friends and family, creative thinking and helping those less fortunate. But my inner-Scrooge surfaces because of the unfair pressure that we place on another to buy unwanted gifts and wrap them in wasteful decorations.

Like we always say on this blog, small steps can collectively make a huge difference, so in the spirit of the unavoidable gift giving this holiday season, I offer you these tips to keep holiday wrapping eco-friendly. By implementing one or a few of these ideas, you can reduce your single-use waste, increase your originality and hopefully inspire more thoughtful holiday cheer in years to come.

  1. Wrap it in a Reusable Bag – I’ve managed to collect, horde rather, a plethora of reusable shopping bags that come in a variety of shapes and colors. You can also buy new ones just for gift giving, but remember to get ones made locally with organic materials and non-toxic inks. Then put a little thought into how to tie it, secure it with ribbon, or add some special touches to transform it from “just a bag” into a beautiful presentation of your homemade gift.
  2. Collect Used Wrapping – I have a box in my closet in which I store used ribbon, tissue paper, gift bags and wrapping paper. Since my wedding more than four years ago, I haven’t had to buy any of the above items and my gifts, regardless of the occasion, always come wrapped with heavenly design. (On Christmas day, I always collect, fold and organize these items for the host to reuse, but if they aren’t interested in storing them, I politely offer to make a great second use for them.)
  3. Use Towels or Scarves – You can use any material item, really. It becomes two gifts in one.
  4. Decorate with Actual Plants – Connect with nature and utilize its beauty to accentuate your wrapping. I can’t imagine a more beautiful finishing touch than a fresh flower or specially arranged tree branches and leaves.
  5. Leftover Newspapers, Magazines and Junk Mail – I know we all get attached by at least one of these paper items. I know it may sound cheap to wrap gifts with these items, but do yourself a favor and conduct a quick google search for wrapping with these items. They can be quite striking.
  6. Clay pots or bowls – Another gift in a gift. You could probably reuse some classics from around your own home, or buy something new to perfectly capture the essence of your gift and the intended recipient.
  7. Glass Jars – I have a cupboard full of glass jars that my husband desperately wants me to get rid of. These can make fun gift carriers because they can easily be decorated.
  8. Old clothing – Go through that growing pile of clothes for Goodwill and find some special items that can be turned into cloth wrapping with just a few cuts and snips. Try sweater arms to wrap wine bottles, and the body to wrap just about anything.
  9. Homemade Gift Tags – This is my favorite use for old business cards, but you can also use the backs of old greeting cards, recycled card stock and creative pictures cut out from old magazines.
  10. Last Year’s Greeting Cards – You can make the artwork from last year’s greeting cards into this year’s gift tags or holiday decorations on your wrapping.
  11. Your Old Calendar – Twelve beautiful pictures that clearly make you happy. Why wouldn’t you want to share that with your friends and family by reusing it as unique wrapping paper.
  12. Kid’s Artwork – Talk about special. Keep your favorite few pieces from the year for your files, but reuse all of that other adorable artwork for one-of-a-kind paper to present gifts to your loved ones.

BONUS IDEAS: Thanks for blog and facebook comments, here are two other extremely rad ideas:

13. Surfer Magazine Pages — Our legal clinic director wraps her gifts in the old pages from Surfer Magazine. How beautiful.
14. Use Holiday Fabric — My friend Michael Nevin’s mom gets holiday fabric from the store and reuses that same fabric every year.

I know the real Scrooge would love many of these ideas because they should save you dollars this holiday season. This Scrooge loves these ideas because they are will save our environment–one reusable gift wrapping concept at a time.

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4 Responses for 11 Ideas for Earth-Friendly Wrapping Paper

  1. Jill says:

    I’ve been wrapping gifts in my Surfer Magazine photos of beautiful waves. It’s way better than regular wrapping paper!

  2. Jamie says:

    Great idea, Jill. I have a ton of bicycling magazines that are just perfect for my gifts! I’ll add it to my list.

    –Jamie Ortiz, Communications Director

  3. Jo says:

    I’ve long thought that if I ever did a thesis…it would be on WASTE, as most Americans act like there is no tomorrow…A year ago I graduated with a degree in Sustainable Community Development, so I’ve tried to practice my ideas. Usually Christmas gifts are books from 25 cents to $3.00 (used) that look fairly new and wrapped in a lovely cloth. Then I heard that this is a Japanese tradition, using cloth. It’s amazing what you might find at a rummage sale. This year my son will find his gift wrapped in a beautiful cloth with a map of Sicily and pictures of special places on it)…a place we both traveled to years ago. What a great find! I enjoy the whole idea of creativity !!!

  4. Jamie says:

    Jo –

    When I researched ideas, I saw that the material wrapping is actually a Japanese tradition. How cool is that? It’s strange that we moved to such conveniences that we’ve forgotten the true meaning of gift giving. I completely agree that you’ve up’d the specialness of your son’s gift by thinking it through all the way to the wrapping, which in itself is a wonderful gift. Let’s keep spreading the concept–it’ll catch on, again 🙂

    Jamie