Last updated on December 28th, 2022
You want to use eco-friendly gift wrap, but everything is more expensive right now, and forking over extra funds for sustainable gift wrap isn’t in the budget this year. No worries, my friend; we tested over a dozen affordable environmentally friendly ways to wrap presents and determined pros and cons for them all. Keep reading for 20 ways to wrap gifts without waste.
How to Save Money with Sustainable Gift Wrap
Go zero-waste and tuck presents into a useful container rather than wrapping them in a box or gift bag. This works well for themed presents, like kitchen gifts in a mixing bowl for your foodie friend, or outdoor toys and bubbles inside a bucket for a child. Include the cost of the container in your gift budget.
- A useful container is a zero-waste option because the container is part of the gift.
- It’s an opportunity for an original gift display.
- The total gift budget must include the price of the container.
Save ribbons to tie together gifts rather than using plastic tape. Cloth ribbons carry on much better than plastic ones, which show signs of use immediately. This is an especially good eco-friendly wrapping idea for people like crafters and children, who will naturally find another use for the ribbon.
- Ribbons are free to reuse.
- Crafters and children may find another use to extend the life of the ribbon.
- Use in place of plastic tape.
- Plastic ribbons shows wear right away and aren’t great to use on another present.
- You need space to store the ribbons for future gifts.
Another option is to tie up presents with biodegradable twine. Use twine you already own, or purchase jute twine, which is surprisingly inexpensive.
- Extremely affordable
- Environmentally friendly way to wrap gifts
- Getting The Sound of Music score stuck in your head while you wrap brown paper packages tied up with string
Deconstructed Paper Bag
Cut down one corner of a paper bag and then cut out and remove the bottom to make a large sheet of brown paper. Many brown paper bags include a store logo; flip the paper so the logo is inside and the plain side. Thick paper bags are trickier to fold than wrapping paper, so this method is best for medium-sized gifts rather than small presents.
Leave the paper undecorated for a minimalist aesthetic, or unleash your creativity and design your own eco-friendly wrapping paper (this is a great activity for kids).
- You got the bag for free or paid only pennies for it.
- Reduce the size of your paper bag collection.
- Make minimalist sustainable wrapping paper or get inspired to decorate it.
- This strategy for sustainable wrapping paper isn’t possible if you always bring your own totes to stores.
- A store logo is most likely printed on one side of the paper.
- Paper bags are thicker than wrapping paper, and could be cumbersome to wrap.
Kraft Paper or Butcher Paper
The brown “natural” paper in the gift wrap section of a store will be as expensive as other wrapping paper, if not more. Find deals on uncoated kraft paper at the local hardware store, garden and landscaping store, or where you buy art supplies. Purchasing kraft paper requires an initial investment, but it’s easier to wrap with than paper bags.
Butcher paper is similar to kraft paper, and also sold in bulk. However, it’s more expensive because it needs to hold up to moisture and get FDA approval. Therefore, in order to save money on sustainable wrapping paper, stick with the less expensive kraft paper unless you already have butcher paper.
- More affordable than traditional eco wrapping paper
- Biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable after gifts are unwrapped
- Option of simple presentation or add your own creative touch
- Initial investment to purchase the roll
- Space to store a large roll of paper
Some gifts come in their own beautiful box, and could go without the extra layer of disposable wrapping. Perhaps add a ribbon or other decoration if you want to make it a little more special.
- Save time and materials and bypass additional wrapping paper.
- You will create less waste in the long run.
- Formal gifts may need more adornment.
Use items from nature to decorate your gifts. Based on where you are and the season, you could include acorns or leaves, pine sprigs or pussy willows, flowers or shells. Create unique gift embellishments with bits and bobs you find seasonally.
- Bring elements of nature to your gift.
- Natural objects are free.
- It may be challenging to collect natural items for your gift, depending on where you are and the time of year.
Embellish the gift with a useful item. For example, a holiday gift could include a homemade ornament on the outside, and a wooden rattle goes well with a baby shower gift.
- Decorating a gift with a useful item is better than a disposable bow.
- Add a thoughtful touch to the present.
- Price: if you’re budgeting, remember to include the cost of the useful item in the total plan for the gift.
Handled Paper Bag
Rather than purchasing a gift bag, use a handled paper bag from a local shop with no signs of wear and tear. Feel free to leave the bag plain, or go ahead decorate it. Some shops print logos on their bags, which could add to the presentation or distract. As a bonus, this style bag is often recyclable or biodegradable.
- The bag is free.
- Repurpose a bag you already have.
- This type of bag is often biodegradable or recyclable.
- The bag might have a logo you don’t want on your gift wrap.
- These bags will eventually show signs of use.
Reuse Gift Bags and Boxes
Extend the life of gift bags and boxes and reuse them for new presents. As long as the boxes and bags are in good shape there is no reason not to pass them on. The longer they are in use, the less waste is heading into the trash.
One limitation here is the storage space. If you don’t have room in your home for a collection of gift bags or a pile of gift boxes, this might not be the best fit for your family. Another consideration is that the materials will eventually get worn out and their ultimate end will be the trash bin.
- Saves money
- Potential for tradition with family and friends
- Extends the lifetime of items for wrapping presents
- Requires storage space
- Potential for hoarding
- Inevitable wearing away of bags and boxes
Reuse Tissue Paper
Save gently used tissue paper—fold and store neatly in a box. Either wrap gifts directly in the paper (you might need 2 or more sheets for opacity) or tuck a couple of sheets into a basket or gift bag.
- Free to use again
- Reduces single-use waste
- Tears easily
- Needs to be stored folded tidily or it will look messy when the time comes to use it
Large Pieces of Paper
Magazines pull-outs (like in National Geographics), old posters, and other large sheets of paper you may have around your home can all serve as sustainable wrapping paper. Prints of old maps are another appealing eco-friendly way to wrap presents, but maybe not actual antiques.
- Saves money by Utilizing paper you already have on hand
- Repurposes old paper
- Most likely recyclable when the gift is open
- Limited to presents that will fit in paper you have around your home
- Must fold carefully so corners don’t tear
Printed Comics and Newspapers
Wrapping gifts in the funny pages or other newsprint is an old affordable way to wrap gifts, plus the paper is recyclable once the present is open. However, the ink might transfer to hands or objects, so be mindful of what you wrap in newspaper.
- You already paid for the paper.
- Newspaper is a recyclable wrapping paper.
- Many people no longer subscribe to printed newspapers.
- Newsprint ink could transfer to hands or gifts.
Gift in a Jar
A gift in a jar is a great way to make personalized presents. Tuck in a gift card and small gifts, fill with homemade objects like candles or soap, or collect ingredients for a recipe and attach directions on a card.
- Room for personalization
- Jar may be used again
- Limited to items that fit in the jar
- Assembly time, based on how you envision your gift in a jar
You can’t go wrong with a classic gift basket. Fill a basket made of natural material with assorted items such as self care gifts or snacks and fruit. To be clear, prepared gift baskets are often wrapped in cellophane and can come with a hefty price tag. If you want to save money and avoid the plastic wrap, assemble your own.
- Baskets are a classic gift presentation.
- They can be reused or gifted again.
- Prepared gift baskets can be expensive and are often wrapped in cellophane, so you’d be better off pulling a basket together your own.
Every time you don’t purchase a new bag, box, or wrapping paper you save money and reduce waste. Explore these environmentally friendly options for wrapping presents, or come up with your own. Get creative with your eco-friendly gift wrap, reuse what you can, and opt for sustainable choices when you shop.