Gift-giving is a common practice that occurs throughout the year, from birthdays to holidays and everything in between. However, in the midst of all the festivities, it is easy to forget about the impact that our gift-giving habits have on the environment. Traditional wrapping paper, in particular, can be incredibly wasteful and have a negative impact on the planet.

While it may be tempting to forgo wrapping gifts altogether, research shows that wrapped gifts are associated with positive changes in mood that can influence how much the gift is appreciated. Fortunately, there are many eco-friendly alternatives to traditional wrapping paper that can still add a special touch to your gift. In this article, we will explore some creative and sustainable ways to wrap gifts, so you can show your loved ones that you care about them and the planet.


Zero waste wrapping paper is a great way to reduce waste during the holiday season. One of the easiest and most affordable options is to use old newspapers, magazines, or maps to wrap gifts. Not only is this option eco-friendly, but it also adds a unique and personal touch to the gift.

For kids’ gifts, the comics section of a newspaper can be used as a fun and colorful wrapping paper. For adult gifts, the sports or culture section can be used instead. Magazines can also be transformed into glossy ribbons and bows, or used as gift wrap themselves.

If you have a travel lover in your life, using an old map or page from a road atlas can be a perfect way to celebrate them. This option not only adds a personal touch but also shows that you put thought into the gift.

To create zero waste wrapping paper, all you need is scissors and eco-friendly tape. This option is not only environmentally conscious but also affordable and easy to make.


The potato chip bag is a common item that is often discarded after use. However, with a little creativity, it can be transformed into an upcycled gift wrap. By turning the bag inside out, the silver lining of the bag can be used to create a shimmery and elegant wrapping paper. To use the chip bag as gift wrap, one only needs to wash off the crumbs, wipe off any oil, and cut it to an appropriate size before wrapping. This way, the plastic-lined chip bag can be upcycled and given a second life as a gift wrap, reducing the amount of waste generated from packaging materials. This is a simple yet effective way to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainable living.


Old clothes or fabric can be repurposed for a variety of uses, including gift wrapping. Furoshiki, a Japanese art of wrapping with fabric, has been around since the Nara period (710-790 AC) and has since become popular worldwide.

Instead of buying new wrapping paper or plastic-based decorations, one can cut excess fabric into thin strips to tie around the gift, creating a unique and sustainable gift wrap. This also saves the need to buy bows or other decorations.

While old clothes may not be suitable for selling or donating, they can be used for gift wrapping or upcycling. If one does not have suitable fabric, they can inquire at a local thrift store for garments that are about to expire. This is a great way to upcycle something that would otherwise end up in a landfill or incinerator.

The Furoshiki technique can be used for wrapping square objects, long objects, slender objects, flat objects, and even bottles. By passing on the knowledge and fabric, gift recipients can also use this technique the next time they give someone a present, creating a gift that keeps on giving.

In addition to being sustainable, fabric gift wrap can also look and feel amazing without requiring any needle and thread. There is a range of wrapping techniques and styles available, similar to origami, to suit different shapes. This makes for a sustainability-oriented conversation starter and a unique way to wrap gifts.

4. Reusable Wrapping Paper or Cotton Produce Bag

In the effort to reduce waste, using reusable wrapping paper or cotton produce bags is a sustainable alternative to traditional wrapping paper. These options not only eliminate the need for single-use wrapping paper but also provide an additional gift in the form of a reusable bag.

To make the wrapping experience zero waste, shredded paper can be used instead of tissue paper, and a cute ribbon can be made out of old clothing or scrap fabric. This approach not only reduces waste but also makes for a fun and creative gift-giving experience.

Incorporating a reusable bag as part of a gifted zero waste kit takes the sustainable Santa game to the next level. This encourages the recipient to ditch plastic bags and make a positive impact on the environment.

Overall, opting for reusable wrapping paper or cotton produce bags is a simple yet effective way to reduce waste and promote sustainability.

Pros Cons
Reusable May not be as visually appealing as traditional wrapping paper
Provides an additional gift in the form of a reusable bag Requires more effort and creativity
Encourages recipient to make a positive impact on the environment May not be as widely accepted or recognized as traditional wrapping paper


Butcher paper is a versatile and sustainable option for gift wrapping and food packaging. It is a type of kraft paper that is commonly used in butcher shops to wrap meat. Butcher paper is also an excellent choice for zero-waste gift wrapping as it is affordable, easy to find, and can be composted or recycled after use.

However, it is important to note that not all butcher paper is created equal. Waxed or oiled butcher paper cannot be recycled and should be avoided. Instead, opt for uncoated butcher paper that can be recycled or composted.

Butcher paper can also be used to wrap holiday cookies and other food products. While it is still compostable even if it absorbs oil from food, it is no longer considered recyclable.

To add a personal touch to your gift wrapping, you can make homemade magazine gift bows or add natural elements such as cinnamon sticks, flowers, or dried citrus. Alternatively, hemp, jute, or cotton string can be used to tie the package together.

In summary, butcher paper is a sustainable and eco-friendly option for gift wrapping and food packaging. It is important to choose uncoated butcher paper to ensure it can be recycled or composted. Adding personal touches such as homemade gift bows or natural elements can make the packaging even more special.

6. Old Cardboard Shoe Boxes and Laces

Old cardboard shoe boxes can be repurposed for storage of various items such as clothes, beauty products, and candles. To make them more presentable, use shredded paper as a filler and wrap them with old wrapping paper or paint them with chalkboard paint for a creative touch. It can also make for a fun and creative child’s gift.

In addition, old laces can be used in place of plastic ribbon for gift wrapping. However, it is recommended to wash them first before use. By reusing these items, not only are they kept out of landfills, but they also serve a practical purpose. It is a great way to reduce waste and get creative with what may have been considered useless items.

7. Plants, Leaves, Flowers

Adding natural elements to gift wrapping can enhance its appeal and eco-friendliness. Sprigs of rosemary, lavender, pinecones, acorns, twigs, and bark can all be used to create unique and rustic touches. Flowers, both fresh and dried, are also excellent options. Using jute or hemp twine to fasten or weave through several leaves can create a wrap-around ring of greenery on otherwise plain brown paper. If broad-leaved plants are available, they can even be used as wrapping paper itself. This technique yields a charming and earthy appearance that is sure to impress. Additional natural elements like branches, cinnamon sticks, dried oranges, fresh herbs, pine needles, holly, and pinecones can also be incorporated to create a more diverse and visually appealing wrapping.


If you’re looking for more ideas on how to wrap gifts without creating waste, there are plenty of options available. Here are some additional suggestions for reusable wrapping paper and waste-free gift wrap ideas:

  • Ribbons and Tape: Instead of using traditional plastic ribbons and tape, consider using natural twine or repurposed fabric scraps to tie up your gift. You can also experiment with using washi tape or paper tape instead of traditional plastic tape.

  • Home and Thrift Store Finds: Take a look around your home and local thrift stores for items that can be repurposed as gift wrap. For example, you can use old scarves, tablecloths, or even shopping bags to wrap your gifts.

  • DIY Gift Wrapping: Get creative with DIY gift wrapping ideas, such as making your own gift tags or using old Christmas cards to create unique gift wrap designs.

  • Gift Bows: Instead of buying pre-made gift bows, consider making your own using repurposed materials like old magazines or newspapers.

  • Repurposed Materials: Look for ways to repurpose materials you already have on hand, such as using old fabric scraps to create a patchwork gift wrap or repurposing an old cardboard box as a gift bag.

By using these waste-free gift wrap ideas, you can reduce your environmental impact while still giving thoughtful and beautiful gifts. Remember, the possibilities are endless when it comes to zero waste gift wrapping, so get creative and have fun!


Gift wrapping is an essential part of gift-giving, but it comes at an environmental cost. The wrapping paper industry in America alone is valued at around 7 billion dollars, with approximately 5 million pounds of wrapping paper produced annually. However, most wrapping paper is not recyclable or biodegradable, and nearly half of it ends up in landfills. This section explores why zero waste gift wrapping is a more sustainable alternative to traditional gift wrapping and offers final thoughts on the topic.


The production of wrapping paper involves deforestation, animal extinction, and illegal logging, which threatens local flora and fauna. Additionally, the process of making wrapping paper involves the use of toxic chemicals and metals, which are harmful to the environment. Furthermore, the waste generated from wrapping paper is significant. Most wrapping paper is not 100% paper and contains non-biodegradable glitter, plastic, foil, and tape, which makes it difficult to recycle or compost.


Zero waste gift wrapping is a sustainable alternative to traditional gift wrapping. It involves using eco-friendly alternatives, such as fabric, newspapers, or reusable gift bags, to wrap gifts. Zero waste gift wrapping reduces waste, conserves resources, and protects the environment. It also promotes creativity and encourages individuals to think outside the box when it comes to gift-giving.


Adopting a zero waste lifestyle can be challenging, but it can make a significant impact on the environment. Fortunately, there are many sustainable alternatives to traditional gift wrapping that can be found around the house. By swapping out conventional gift wrap with eco-friendly alternatives, individuals can reduce their environmental impact and make a positive difference. If everyone in the United States adopted zero waste gift wrapping, the paper saved would be equivalent to covering 45,000 football fields. Therefore, it is essential to promote and encourage zero waste gift wrapping to protect the environment and promote sustainability.