Disposable wrapping paper is a multi-billion dollar industry that sells a product designed to be used and then immediately torn up and thrown in the trash. Not the most eco-friendly practice, obviously. However, we cannot deny that gift-giving is fun, partly due to the surprise element. Here's 8 eco-friendly gift wrap ideas to avoid all the waste, but still enjoy giving gifts!

By Beth Ricci, Contributing Writer 

Disposable wrapping paper is a multi-billion dollar industry that sells a product designed to be used and then immediately torn up and thrown in the trash. Not the most eco-friendly practice, obviously. However, we cannot deny that gift-giving is fun, partly due to the surprise element.

So what’s an eco-conscious, naturally-minded gift-giving mama to do?

I wrote a guest post at Simple Homemade last year on the 3R’s and how to prioritize them. In it, I talked about how I had learned the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, but that for so many years, I was completely missing the point. Those things are not just 3 eco-friendly options –they’re listed in order of importance!

Reducing our waste is number one. It’s the best way to care for the earth, and the most effective. Some of the gift wrapping ideas below embrace this concept by creating no waste whatsoever.

Reusing things that have already been produced is the second best option. If we can save something from the trash and give it another go-round of usefulness, we can be proud. Some of the ideas below use this concept by rescuing things from the recycling bin.

Lastly, if we can’t reduce or reuse something, we recycle. Typically on Christmas morning, the average person might feel proud of their efforts to toss the massive garbage bag full of torn up wrapping paper into the recycling instead of the trash. While it may be true that recycling is better than straight-up throwing something in a landfill, I do believe we can (and should!) do better. The ideas below focus on reducing and reusing.

image by LL Barkat

Here are a few ideas for you to try:

1. Newspaper

When I was young and was always attending birthday parties for friends, we usually wrapped the gifts in the comic section from the Saturday morning newspaper. It was colorful and free and readily available, not to mention super frugal. Wrapping paper (and even reusable gift bags and tissue paper) has gotten crazily expensive these days!

2. Packing paper

Our “brown paper packages tied up with strings” (name that movie!) now come in a box with amazon tape across the top, but the brown packing paper inside is actually the perfect canvas for DIY wrapping paper (and that slightly crumpled look is totally in style!).

If you’re artistically inclined, you could doodle a pattern with metallic markers or pens, or paint. If not, let the kids at it with paint and crayons. They will LOVE it, and you’ll get free, eco-friendly gift wrap out of it!

3. A pretty scarf

My birthday gift this past summer came wrapped up in a cute little scarf and ribbon, and I was absolutely smitten. It was as much fun admiring the package as it was opening the gift itself!

image by Susbany

4. A tablecloth or cloth napkins

Wouldn’t it be cute to give a set of homemade coasters and get a nice set of cloth napkins to go along with them, wrapping each one in layers around the coasters? It would be like the grown-up eco-friendly version of that old prank where you wrap someone’s gift in a bunch of different layers as a tease.

You could also wrap a larger gift with a tablecloth, and make that part of the gift!

5. Fabric

For the sewing lover in your life, pick some pretty fabrics from the store and wrap your gift in several yards of it. Another gift wrapped-in-a-gift!

image by Mommy Knows {Kim Becker}

6. Homemade Cloth Gift Bags

There are tons of easy tutorials online for various shapes and styles of DIY cloth gift bags that can be used year after year. Here’s a tutorial that looks easy.

7. Last year’s gift bags and wrapping paper

This may not be my number one option, but it’s certainly one that’s working for my mom. It’s her fault that I save gift bags and smooth out and fold all of the tissue paper from every. single. occasion. in my life. And you know what? I have to admit – it has certainly come in handy!

8. Jars and tins

There are tons of great gift ideas that can be given in a jar – think soup mixes, baking mixes, homemade lotions and body scrubs, and so much more! Tins are also great for things like edible treats and can be used again and again!

What’s your favorite idea for eco-friendly gift wrapping?

Top image source: Lorna Watt