How to wrap gifts and be environmentally friendly: 10 ideas

So who is still wrapping gifts the night of Christmas Eve? Yep, me... And while I'm at it, I try think of the turtles and all and do my gift wrapping in an environmentally friendly fashion. Of course, gift wrapping will in almost all cases produce some amount of waste but you can try minimise it and reuse as much as you can. And here are my tips on how to wrap gifts while keeping waste and single-use plastic at minimum. 

environmentally friendly gift wrapping ideas

While doing gift wrapping, it's worth keeping the age old adage "Reduce, reuse and recycle" in mind. This is the right way to consider materials, as it minimises the waste. Recycling should be the last in your considerations, as unfortunately, recycling can be wasteful even with the best intentions. Best is always to just reduce, so not buy something in the first place. 

But let's start with reducing...


Try reduce the things you buy for gift wrapping to reduce the waste. Reuse is the key word here. Skip buying any gift wrap and use what you already have home, and what would otherwise go to waste. 

My personal favourites are drawings made by my kids. I don't know about you but my kids produce a mountain of drawings, many of which are destined to the recycling bin. One way of giving them a bit more life is by using them to wrap gifts. 

reusing old papers for gift wrapping

kids drawings are wrapping paper

Reuse any nice gift bags or paper bags the gifts may have originally been packed in by the shop you bought them from - just wrap a string around them and add a gift tag to jazz it up. 

You don't need to buy gift tags either with a bit of forethought. Use old Christmas cards and cut them into gift tags. Glittery Christmas cards with abstract designs are particularly nice for this. You can also save the old Christmas wrapping paper for future use, and string and ribbons for decorations!


Reuse your gift wrapping materials by choosing wrapping that can be reused! You can buy really nice reusable fabric bags. If you are with family you can agree ahead of time to reuse these year after year, and might even get them back next year, with your gifts wrapped in them. 

You could use a nice scarf or a tea towel as cloth to wrap gifts in. This will act as an additional gift! It's called the art of furoshiki nowadays apparently, but I'm sure we all remember that back in the day this was quite a common method here too!

reusable gift bags for gift wrapping

And under reuse, remember to gather all reusable bits and bobs after unwrapping, and store them for next year (or for birthday gift wrapping through the year). If you are careful while unwrapping you can use good quality wrapping paper again, and can reuse ribbons and string and other decorations there may be. Christmas cards can be cut into gift tags for future use. 


Choose recyclable materials for your gift wrapping. You can nowadays buy loads of recyclable wrapping paper - just remember that shiny and glittery paper can't be recycled, it needs to feel like normal paper. If in doubt, the best bet is to buy brown parcel wrapping paper. It is cheap, and can be easily recycled. 

Brown parcel wrapping paper doesn't look boring if you use the right decoration - in fact it looks really stylish and thought-through with the right decorations. 

brown parcel wrapping paper ideas

brown parcel paper wrapping ideas

For decorations choose recyclable and/or biodegradable options. Personal favourites of mine are cinnamon sticks, dried clementine slices, and pinecones, with a biodegradable jute string as opposed to the usual plastic string. Red and white string looks particularly nice with green Christmas tree cuttings and candy canes. You can also use white paper to make paper snowflakes to decorate the wrapping paper, or even use stamps to decorate it, the latter being easy and fun for kids to join you with!  

Other tips

If you cut your paper too small, flip it diagonally. You need to fiddle with this a bit for it to work, it's not a magic trick unlike some social media posts make you think, but does help. 

too small wrapping paper

turn it diagonally

and you might manage to wrap the gift anyway

Or of course, you could just not wrap presents ha ha. That would be the most environmentally friendly option, and might work if the presents come in a nice box as is.

10 ideas for how to make gift wrapping more environmentally friendly - including tips for decorations, wrapping paper ideas and reusable options.

10 ideas for how to make gift wrapping more environmentally friendly - including tips for decorations, wrapping paper ideas and reusable options.

Which option for environmentally friendly gift wrapping did you like the best?

You might also like: Christmas gift ideas for girls aged 6 to 7Christmas gift ideas girls aged 5-6 will love and 9 best Christmas gift ideas for girls aged 4-5


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