4 creative and sustainable gift wrapping ideas

in Christmas

Sustainable gift wrapping? What is that? And why should we care?

The topic of gift wrapping is something I really care about.
To me, a beautifully wrapped present is a sign that some extra thought was put into that gift and makes receiving it even more enjoyable. Sadly though, traditional gift wrapping is one of the top sources of waste during Christmas holidays. In fact, tons of wrapping paper, bows and ribbons are ditched on 25th December and only a small part of those can be recycled.
The challenge for an eco-friendly Christmas is then finding alternative ways to wrap gifts so that we can cut on waste without cutting on the joy of giving and receiving beautifully wrapped presents.
Below are 4 alternative and sustainable gift wrapping ideas that can substitute or complement traditional gift wrapping supplies. And at the end of the post, a small test to determine whether a gift wrapping paper can be recycled or not!


Wrapping gifts in fabric is common use in Japanese culture. In fact, the Furoshiki (wrapping cloth) is used on a day-to-day basis to wrap lunch-on-the-go and other objects.
There exist many fabric folding techniques, but here I’ve gone easy. I took a square scarf and put my gift in the centre. Then I gathered the four ends together, making sure the fabric was wrapping neatly around the gift. I tied the ends together with a string and added a little ornament at the base (but a napkin ring would look great too!) Adjusting the ends so that they fall beautifully is the final step...and this gift looks so cute!

Gift wrapped into a scarf as an example of sustainable gift wrapping.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DforDesign

Where to find fabric for sustainable gift wrapping:

  • Old clothes (whose fabric is still in good condition)
  • Scarves, fabric napkins
  • Table cloths for bigger gifts
  • Pillow cases (an easy-to-find fabric gift bag)


Putting presents inside a box or a jar is another zero-waste wrapping method; a little bow and the gift is ready to be given. To go a little further, choose a container that matches the colour scheme of the receiver's home. Such a thoughtful little detail!

Gift contained into a white and gold patterned jar as an example of sustainable gift wrapping.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DforDesign

Where to find jars/boxes for sustainable gift wrapping:

  • Cookie/coffee jars
  • Jewellery boxes
  • Pouches
  • Storage boxes

What I love about these two methods is that the wrapping becomes part of the gift and can then be used for its “normal use” or reused as wrapping. Also, I’ve intentionally used fabric string and I’ve cut long pieces that – once the gift is unwrapped – can be reused as décor or become a chocker necklace, a bracelet or…you name it!


Who doesn’t have paper lying around? On this thought, I have started with some standard white paper and wrapped my gift as an envelope. Then, I tied it with a fabric black string and added some stars, that I cut out of some wrapping paper I had kept from last year. And voilà! I think this looks very elegant and that ordinary sheet of paper really has nothing to envy to traditional wrapping!

Gift wrapped in ordinary white paper and decorated with a ribbon and golden paper stars as an example of sustainable gift wrapping.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DforDesign

Where to find paper for sustainable gift wrapping:

  • Letters
    I still receive tons of ads via mail and they’re often printed on one side only. Painting the written side in black could give those sheets a second life in the form of a lovely two-coloured wrapping paper!
  • Brown paper
  • Pages of magazines
    It doesn’t have to be just a random page. Maybe you found an article (or even an ad) that could be interesting for a person you know…then why not using it to wrap his/her gift?
  • Paper grocery bags
     To make them beautiful as gift wrapping, stick something on the logo (maybe a huge “Merry Christmas” lettering) or paint over it.


If you're interested in sustainable and slow Christmas, you may also like these previous posts:


For this idea, I’ve started with a box that used to contain a body lotion & shower gel set. I kept that box knowing I would have done something with it…and here comes the occasion! In this case the box looked cute already, but if it didn’t, I would have painted it or covered it with a nicer paper. To finish this wrapping, I’ve added my black string and some cardboard shapes. I've tried two different alternatives and both look custom and elegant if you ask me!

Gift wrapped in a reused box decorated with paper snowflakes as an example of sustainable gift wrapping.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DforDesign
Gift wrapped in a reused box decorated with paper snowflake and a Christmas tree.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DforDesign

Where to find containers for sustainable gift wrapping:

  • Shoe boxes
  • Appliances boxes (to repurpose only after the warranty has expired!)
  • Beautiful packaging

I hope these ideas gave you same inspiration for your gift wrapping this year!
What I think they show is that eco-friendly Christmas does really not mean less festive or less beautiful! What’s worth mentioning is that I didn't buy anything to put these ideas together. And this is exactly the point! Walking around your home, I'm sure you'll also find something you can use or reuse to wrap your gifts!
The key here is being on the watch for interesting containers and papers all year long and storing them for future use. In my living room, I have one small cupboard full of boxes, leftover papers, flyers with a nice texture etc. When I have a gift to wrap I go look in there and I can always find something interesting!

To finish off, here is the small test to determine if traditional gift wrapping paper can be recycled...in case you’ll still find some laying around this Christmas!
Wrapping paper is often mixed with plastic, glitters and shiny foils that cannot be recycled. After removing all pieces of tape, ribbons and bows, try crumpling the paper in your hands; if it crumples it is "proper paper" and can be recycled!

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