Sustainable gift wrapping: everything you need to know

In this post: We share everything you need to know to start your own sustainable gift wrapping habit.

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There's something about beautiful wrapping that makes giving and receiving gifts so much more fun. (You know, brown paper packages tied up with string?)

But if you stop to think about the concept of gift wrapping, it’s actually a little crazy. We spend all of this time and money purchasing gift wrap and then actually wrapping the gift only to have it torn apart in a matter of seconds. Then all of that hard work is tossed in a landfill. There has to be a way to make the whole process a little more ecologically and economically friendly, right?

It turns out, there is. Not only can sustainable gift wrapping be more eco-friendly, but it can save you money and time in the long run. We dug deep to come up with some great options we hope you can borrow some for your own gift-wrapping adventures. Let's jump in.

Sustainable gift wrapping idea #1: reduce the use of harmful materials

Reducing the use of things that are not eco-friendly is a great first step in creating a more eco-friendly gift-wrapping process. These include reducing things like:

  • Plastic-based materials such as tape, bows, or cellophane: any of these materials will contribute to our single-use plastic pollution problem
  • Glittery finishes: most glitter is actually just micro-plastic 
  • Single-use paper: more paper means more strain on the environment through its production
  • Over-packing or padding: say no to multiple layers of wrapping or more packing materials than necessary
  • Carbon emissions: purchasing products that have to travel a great distance can contribute to increased carbon emissions

Image courtesy of Moogik

Reusable non-plastic bow

These burlap and canvas bows are much more beautiful than the cheap plastic ones from a big box store. And since they're made out of natural materials, they're much gentler to the earth. They also store flat so they can be kept in great condition and used each year. 

The price is also pretty amazing. As of the publishing of this article, shipping was priced at $5.25 and each jute bow was $1.80 with discounts for buying in larger quantities. 

Available in natural jute and natural cotton and measuring about 3 1/2″ in diameter when assembled. 

Image courtesy of Moogik

Alternative to disposable tags

Chances are you give gifts to a lot of the same people each year. Why not invest in reusable tags that you can use year over year?

These canvas tags measure Size: 2.75″ x 4.75″ and can be personalized to your most frequent gift recipients. 

Image courtesy of ItsAllEco

Colorful alternative to plastic-based ribbon

Replacing plastic-based ribbon with natural materials like jute is a great idea, but sometimes you still want a little color. These spools of colored jute from ItsAllEco are a great solution that gives you the best of both worlds. 

Available in 10 and 50-meter lengths, this fiber cord will add just the right finish to your sustainable gift wrapping. 

Better tape

If you must use tape in your gift-wrapping, try to minimize the amount of plastic that you use in the process. On the left is a tape made out of crepe-paper which makes it a better choice. On the right is “Magic” tape from Scotch which contains 65% recycled or plant based materials.

Sustainable gift wrapping idea #2: focus on reusable materials

Considering reuse may be one of the biggest opportunities for more eco-friendly gift wrapping. If you’re already reusing things like gift bags, bows, and tissue – well done! We’ve got some additional ideas for the next step in your journey.

Image courtesy of MadebyNaomyShop

Reusable floral gift topper

Who wouldn't love being the recipient of these beautiful packages? This is such a great example of eco-friendly resulting in a better overall solution. 

These felt floral gift toppers can be used and reused on top of a gift but can also be repurposed as home decor. They would look great on holiday gifts, Mother's Day presents, birthday gifts, or just about any occasion you can think of. If you're looking for a topper for a more specific, check out Made by Naomy Shop's full offering. It includes other types of flowers, holly, mistletoe, pine, and more. 

Image courtesy of Ornaments4Orphans

Creative package toppers

Rather than use a plastic bow or disposable name tag, why not repurpose a Christmas ornament into a package topper? These handmade letter ornaments from Ornaments 4 Orphans have the added benefit of being a great way to designate who each gift is for. (as long as you don't have any duplicate first initials!)

Image courtesy of KellysStitchShop

Reusable fabric bag

Reusing gift bags is a great way to approach sustainable gift wrapping but the common paper gift bags can start to look a bit beat up after a few uses. That's one of the things that's great about fabric gift bags – they're more durable and a lot more forgiving when reused. 

Bags from Kellys Stitch Shop are available for a wide range of different gift occasions and would hold up well for multiple gift-giving and other uses. 

Image courtesy of TheFabWrap

Hand-printed cloth wrap

This hand-printed gift wrap from The Fab Wrap is great for a lot of reasons. In addition to offering a one-of-a-kind, handmade gift bundle, it's reusable and requires no tape to get its clean look. 

The Fab Wrap has cloth wrap available in a number of different sizes and colors and also offers gift bags. We hope you'll check them out!

Furoshiki cloth wrapping​

Considering furoshiki cloth wrapping as an alternative to single use paper is an awesome idea for more sustainable gift wrapping. A few of our favorite furoshiki wrapping options are below. For more information on furoshiki wrapping in general, see our FAQs.

Image courtesy of Lotus and Ivory Co

Block-printed furoshiki wrap

When it's done right, sustainable gift wrapping can be an art unto itself. That is certainly the case with the gorgeous block-printed furoshiki wrap from Lotus and Ivory Co which calls their gift wrap “a fusion of Japanese tradition and Indian craftsmanship.” In this description, they are referring to the traditional Indian woodblock printing technique which they have combined with the traditional Japanese furoshiki gift wrapping technique. These two styles come together beautifully in Lotus and Ivory Co‘s final creations.

Their fabrics are available in an array of colors and sizes from 16 x 16 to 40 x 40 and they also offer tote bags, aprons, and other linens.


Image courtesy of LovelyHeartThings

Gauze gift wrap

This reusable fabric gift wrap from Lovely Heart Things gives packages a fresh, natural look. Available in a number of colors to suit any occasion, this natural wrap can be reused by the recipient in a number of different ways. This includes as gift wrap or repurposed as a napkin, scarf, or in a craft project.  

This is another example where being more eco-friendly isn't a sacrifice. Not only do these gauze-wrapped gifts have a more unique look but they are quite affordable. At around $3 at the time of this post (plus shipping when ordered in quantities under $35), the price rivals the cost of a gift bag and is certain to have more longevity. 

Image courtesy of Shaktiism  

Upcycle sari fabric into gift wrap

Sari fabric is so beautiful, it's great to see it find new life from the creators at Shaktiism. A gift wrapped up in the furoshiki cloth wrapping style with these beautiful fabrics would certainly look elegant and unique. But supporting Shaktiism is also supporting a great cause. 

In the seller's own words: 

By purchasing this item, you are helping to empower and provide ongoing employment income for the women who make these handmade products. The demand for Shaktiism's products provides these women with dignified employment, a living wage, hope and opportunities for their children. Together we can provide alternative options for disadvantaged women with the aim to lift them out of poverty and help them to become self-sustaining and independent

Sustainable gift wrapping idea #3: look for things that are recycled and recyclable

If you’re having trouble making a big leap into something like cloth wrapping paper or repurposing items, an intermediary step may be to look for things that are recycled and/or recycleable. There are great options for recycled paper, bags, and more.

Image courtesy of Craftymomlifestyle

Colorful magazine bows

These upcycled magazine bows will add a unique and colorful element to any package. They're also a conversation piece to boot! 

Each finished bow measures approximately 3 inches and is available to purchase in quantities of 4, 8 , and 16.

Eco-friendly gift wrapping paper

Trying to replace as much single use paper as possible is a great way to tackle sustainable gift wrapping. But in the event that you have an occassion that calls for paper gift wrap, we recommend you consider these eco friendly gift wrapping paper options.

Image courtesy of Its All Eco

Beautiful kraft wrapping paper

If you're looking for a more sustainable gift wrap, this is a great option. Not only is it made from recycled paper but it's also recyclable and biodegradable. 

If you're missing the sparkle and shine of traditional wrapping paper, Its All Eco has eco-friendly metallic options available! A highlight of their kraft wrapping paper includes:

light blue paper with grey, spotted and brown dogs

Image courtesy of Waterleaf Paper Co

Zero waste, dissolvable gift wrap

Waterleaf Paper Co has a broad assortment of really special wrapping paper. Not only do they have a perfect design for every occasion but all of them are completely zero waste and dissolvable in water. In their own words:

Nothing will say sustainable holiday gift more than our zero-waste, dissolvable and thick wrapping paper. Our designs, created by female artists from all over the world, are elegant yet eye-catching, setting your holiday gift apart from the rest and offering a true feast for the eyes. It’s FSC-certified and the print is created using nontoxic water-based ink.

Image courtesy of Of the Earth

Seed wrapping paper

This wrapping paper is strikingly and simplistically beautiful and also serves as a secondary gift for the recipient. When planted the paper biodegrades and the embedded seeds sprout into a mix of beautiful flowers including snapdragons, petunia, beardtongue, daisy, thyme, poppy, catchfly, maiden pinks, chamomile, and creeping thyme.

The paper that the seeds are embedded in is also much more thoughtful than your average paper. It's made from something called the Daphne bush, a plant that is capable of regenerating after it's been harvested to make paper.

Sustainable DIY gift wrap ideas

Eco-friendly gift wrapping doesn't have to involve buying anything at all. Check out some ideas for creating beautiful gift wrap out of things you likely already have in your home.

Wrapping up the calendar year

If you prefer a paper calendar in your home or office, consider repurposing it as gift wrap when you no longer need it. This black-and-white calendar is the perfect gift wrap for a birthday or modern Christmas decor scheme.  

Repurposed wallpaper or contact paper

Why should the walls have all the fun? This box was made using a wallpaper sample that was no longer needed. By using it to cover a box headed for the recycling bin, you can create a dramatic, durable, and reusable gift vessel. 

Our top sustaianble gift wrapping FAQs

Is gift wrapping really that big of a problem for the planet? What are some gift wrapping statistics?

It turns out 40% of industrial logging is used to make paper and about 1/2 of that goes to one-time use wrapping and decorating. Yikes!  It's clear that we'd save a lot of trees, and a lot of the resources that go into the production and distribution of wrapping paper if we found more sustainable gift-wrapping solutions. 

An additional problem is that most gift wrap isn't recyclable, says Greenpeace. And even when it is theoretically recyclable, as with much of our trash, it's difficult to find someplace that will actually do the recycling.  Asparagus magazine explains that while tossing paper in a landfill is on its face bad enough, wrapping paper decaying in a landfill can release methane which is even more destructive to the environment than carbon dioxide. 

In conclusion, it seems that yes, gift wrapping is a problem for the planet. Luckily, there are many great alternatives and trying them out WILL make a difference.  Sustainability expert Megan Litke from American University shared “If every American family wrapped just three presents in reusable materials, it would save enough wrapping paper to cover 45,000 football fields.”  

So give it a shot this year and try out some more sustainable options!

Can gift wrap be recycled?

Whether or not gift wrap can be recycled will depend on a number of things. First and foremost, the wrap cannot have metallic or glittery unrecyclable elements. Secondly, it must be acceptable by your local municipality or whoever you use for your recycling. Even if you have wrapping paper that is technically recyclable, not all municipalities have programs in place to accept it. Third, if you have found a place to recycle wrapping paper, they will typically require that it is free from tape, stickers, or any other ornamentation.

After taking all of these considerations into account, many people interested in sustainable gift wrapping simply find it easier to purchase things that are reusable or biodegradable. Check out some of our suggestions, above.

What is furoshiki wrapping?

Furoshiki wrapping is a traditional Japanese method of wrapping and carrying items in a square piece of cloth, also called a “furoshiki.” The term “furoshiki” itself can be translated as “bath spread” in English, as it was historically used to carry and wrap clothing when going to public baths in Japan.

Furoshiki wrapping involves using a square piece of fabric, typically made from silk, cotton, or other materials, to wrap and carry various objects, from gifts and bento boxes to clothing and books. The technique is eco-friendly and versatile, and it has been practiced in Japan for centuries.

To wrap an object using furoshiki, you fold and knot the fabric in various ways to secure the item. There are many different folding techniques and knot styles that can be used, depending on the shape and size of the object you're wrapping. Furoshiki can be used to create decorative and elegant sustainable gift wrapping, as well as practical and reusable ways to carry items without the need for disposable bags or packaging.

Furoshiki wrapping is not limited to Japan, and people all over the world have adopted this sustainable and creative wrapping technique for its environmental benefits and aesthetic appeal. It's an excellent way to reduce waste and promote reusability while adding a touch of beauty to everyday items.

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