9 alternative and eco friendly wrapping paper ideas

Home accessories wrapped in gift wrap from Wrappily

We hear a lot about the amount of waste that’s generated around Christmas, with one of the biggest problems being the vast amounts of wrapping paper that ends up straight in the trash. During the festive period, the total amount of wrapping paper that gets thrown away could go around the equator more than nine times. This is pretty extraordinary when you consider the amount of energy and effort that goes into making it – something that will only serve its purpose for a fleeting moment. So what are the alternatives and what constitutes a more eco friendly wrapping paper?

The timeless ritual of giving gifts and wrapping them up however, is not going out of fashion any time soon. Fortunately, there are ways of maintaining the excitement of present opening, with a reduced impact on the planet. In this post, I explore some of the green alternatives available. These gift wrap ideas aren’t just a little more earth friendly, they’ll also look magical under the Christmas tree… Image above via Wrappily.


Christmas recyclable gift wrap set by Wrappily

After presents are opened, you might instinctively think to put all that wrapping paper straight in the recycling bin. Gift wrap that is paper-based is fine to recycle, but others have a plastic or metallic coated finish and cannot be recycled. There are also different regulations for recycling wrapping paper depending on your local authority, so it’s worth checking their website to find out specific protocol.

The good news is there are some beautiful examples of recyclable gift wrap out there. One company is US-based Wrappily who print on newsprint (which can be recycled up to 7 times) on a local newspaper press, using soy based inks. They also make eco-friendly recyclable ribbon made with water-soluble dyes and is completely compostable.

Fox eco recycled wrapping paper

Blank Inside* is another beautiful collection of stationery, notebooks and homewares designed by the very talented illustrator, Liz Temperley. Her collections use cornstarch biodegradable cellophane wrapping, recycled paper printed with vegetable inks and recycled standard envelope. So beautiful, you’ll want to reuse it over and over again.


Gift bag made from upcycled paper by Paper Relay

Inspired by Indian newspaper carrier bags, UK-based Paper Relay creates artfully handcrafted gift bags from upcycled paper salvaged from unwanted books, newspapers and magazines, diverting them from the waste stream.The handles are also made from rolled recycled paper.

Current collections include vintage The New Yorker magazine covers, old photos of the royal family and a fabulous range called funky chickens. Every bag is of course one-of-a-kind. To purchase, contact Danae Marshall.

And check out this video to see a close up view of the making process:


Gifts wrapped in pink and red paper with upcycled christmas card monogram gifts tags

Making gift tags from last year’s Christmas cards is a really easy reuse project. Cut them into squares or rectangles or use a craft punch such as this circular one by Woodware. I picked out Martha Stewart’s monogram tag tutorial however, as I think this gives a neat modern look to gifts, whilst creating a personal touch. It’ll also make it much easier for recipients to spot their gifts under the Christmas tree! Photo by Sang An.


Gift wrapped in green and blue satin wrapping scarf

Deemed ‘so easy even a man can do it‘ by Manmade DIY, I’m not sure either gender will get this one right first time around…

Furoshiki originates from ancient Japanese culture. It’s the name given to a wrapping cloth used to transport gifts and other items, but literally translates as ‘bath spread’. This is because historically the method was used in public baths to bundle clothes together. (US-based BOBO wrapping scarves pictured above)

In the same vein as origami, the practice involves using a single piece of square-shaped cloth, which is then folded and tied in specific configurations, usually resulting in a decorative bow on the top. The technique continues to be used for gift wrapping or carrying grocery shopping. So reusable and so multipurpose. blue furoshiki eco friendly wrapping clothAbove is a design from Etsy seller ZusetsuStore*. The Japanese Shop also have some beautiful designs to choose from. You could however use pretty much any kind of fabric for this, so for affordable alternatives, search for pretty scarves or fabric napkins in charity shops and thrift stores – you’ll be also be reusing on more levels than one!

Ending up with something that’s both securely wrapped and aesthetically pleasing will probably take some practice. Below is a video from Live Green to help you get started:

And if the tying element of Furoshiki seems far too taxing, an alternative fabric gift wrap brand is WragWrap. The gift wrap has a cord and button system which helps to keeps everything in place. I particularly like the sound of the crackle wrap range, which makes a satisfying crackling sound every time you pick it up. Etsy seller ForeverWrapsStore* have also designed a user friendly envelope design.


Drawstring gift bags made from deer print fabric by Sew and Tell Handmade

If folding, tying… and really just gift wrapping in general is not your thing, what could be easier than a drawstring fabric bag? Canada-based Sew and Tell Handmade* has some great designs to choose from. If the gift is going to a friend, they can either regift it to someone else, or keep it for another purpose. They can also be continually reused at home for family birthdays or Christmases.


Gift wrapping paper made from magazine pages string and berries by Erin Boyle

This is a great example of how eco gift wrapping can actually save you money. Erin Boyle from the beautiful blog Reading My Tea Leaves decided to use up an old copy of The New Yorker to wrap up her Christmas gifts. She suggests using magazine paper over newspaper, as there’s no danger of the ink rubbing off onto the gifts and you have perfectly straight edges to work with. She suggests sticking the pages together to make larger sheets and adds silver string and red berries for a festive touch. You can read the full post here.


Gift wrapped in brown paper with bow made from recycled maps

You can buy these recycled bows readymade from Etsy seller PopularDesigns*, but it’s actually quite a fun (and achievable) DIY project you can try at home. According to Handimania, it requires little patience or skill and seems like it could be quite meditative once you get the hang of it.

Here is yet another a video that shows you how to do it:


seeded eco friendly wrapping paper

Lotka wrapping paper by US Etsy seller flowerseedpaper* enables you to give two gifts in one. Named ‘Of the Earth Seed Paper’, the gift wrap is screen printed in water based inks and contains embedded wildflower seeds. After use, the paper can be planted in the garden and will eventually grow into beautiful flowers.

The handmade paper is made by craftspeople in the highlands of Nepal by rural craftspeople and is made of 50% recycled content. The raw material for the paper is the Daphne bush, farmed and harvested from 3-4 year old plants that are cut down and stripped of their bark. The plant is not destroyed when cut down as it regenerates from the root.


Desk space with boxes covered in gift wrapping paper

Open your presents gently (easier said than done) and it’ll stay in a good enough state to reuse for future gift giving. Although there are lots of ideas online for reusing gift wrap to create home accents, some of them are more durable than others.

One idea that appealed to me is using gift wrap to decorate cardboard storage boxes, or even shoes boxes. Take inspiration from Amy who has the most beautiful DIY and design blog Homey Oh My. Amongst her excellent DIY tutorials, she created these stylish boxes for her home office using a minimalist grid style gift wrap. Find out how she did it here.

Will you make the switch to eco friendly wrapping paper? Happy wrapping! 🎁

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Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).