Christmas is almost here! Where does the time go? Still shopping and wrapping? Yup, me too! Here are lower waste gift wrapping ideas for pretty presents and ideas for gifts that don’t require any wrapping at all. Plus check out the DIY details at the end of our post on how to make reusable homemade fabric wrapping like the feature photo above (and more). See our Christmas gift ideas for gardeners if you have a gardener on you holiday gift list and need some help!
Lower Waste Options for Wrapping Paper
Selecting a Paper for Lower Waste Gift Wrapping:
- Use what you already have before buying more.
- Opt for products with post-consumer content.
- Choose papers that are recyclable in your local area (no glitter, foil, metallics, etc.).
- Choose papers that can be (further) shredded and composted or fed to worm farm.
- Save and re-purpose paper from packaging, shopping bags, etc.
- Substitute butchers’ paper or brown paper (plain or drawn/stamped with your own DIY designs).
- Choose embellishments, cords, ribbons, etc. that can be reused, composted, or recycled (see more on embellishments below).
If you’re crafty or have young artists in the family to lend a helping creative hand, making painted, stamped, stencilled, drawn, or otherwise embellished wrapping paper (or bags, boxes, etc.) can be a fun project. Some or all of it may still become waste (if being ripped), but you get all the joy of making it and the bonus function of wrapping and sharing your art. Creative fun can sometimes be tricky if you’re aiming for lower waste, so a multi-function craft project is a nice compromise.
Lower Waste Gift Wrapping When Using Paper:
- Consider before cutting to reduce off-cut waste.
- Cut to size and try not to over-wrap (or over-embellish).
- Wrap without using plastic tape (use paper tape or secure with string/ribbon).
- Avoid sticky tags that can’t be recycled.
- Attach reusable embellishments is a way that makes it easy to remove them without damage.
Paper Gift Wrapping in Our Household
Reusable Alternatives to Wrapping Paper
Most papers are typically single use, but if you avoid using sticky tags or tapes, many gift boxes and bags can be reused multiple times before they’re too worn out for reuse. The perpetually returning gift bag that cycles between friends or relatives could even become a tradition.
For wrapping, really, anything goes! Many of the other alternatives to paper wrapping can become part of the gift itself. Baby blankets are my favourite way to wrap shower gifts, and I discovered how to make socks (like the photo below) an extra popular present by using them as bottle wrapping.
Reusable Gift Wrapping and Packaging Ideas
- Gift boxes and bags (avoid damaging them with tape or sticky labels).
- Reusable fabric wrapping (see our DIY details below).
- Useful fabric items as fabric wrapping, such as scarves, napkins, tea towels, tablecloths, pillow cases, etc. If you’re using one item from a set, tuck the others inside as part of the gift.
- Fabric drawstring bags.
- Fabric tote bags.
- Decorative boxes.
- Jars, tins, and canisters.
- “Naked” gifts topped with simple ribbons or bows.
Eco-Conscious Gift Embellishments and Toppers
Choosing a Using Embellishments for Lower Waste Gift Wrapping:
- Use what you already have before buying more.
- Use embellishments, cords, ribbons, etc. that can be reused.
- Embellish with holiday decorations, ornaments, or other small keepsakes.
- Swap a decorative bow for a ready-to-use hair bow, fascinator, bow tie, or broach.
- Slide a pretty hairclip, bookmark, or oversized paperclip over the cord/ribbon for double duty decoration and card holder.
- Use embellishments that can be eaten (with care as to how they’re wrapped).
- Embellish with fresh or dried flowers or foliage that can later be composted. The gift pictured below uses dried miniature roses from the garden and homemade seed paper cards.
- Make your own reusable/recyclable paper bows, flowers, pinwheels, or origami shapes.
- Make embellishments by reusing materials from previously used wrapping. paper, cards (great for cutting tags), etc.
- Use embellishments that can be recycled.
Presents that Aren't (or Can't Be) Wrapped
Aiming for lower waste wrapping is good, but skipping the wrapping altogether can be even better for some gifts. Here are some ideas for presents that don’t need to be wrapped at all:
- Concert/sport/event tickets.
- Gift vouchers/certificates.
- Charity donations.
- Local or online classes/short courses.
- Contributions to an education fund or special savings plan.
- Outings or activities together (free or your treat).
- Personal vouchers for time/tasks (e.g. babysitting, cleaning, yard work, etc.).
Other Holiday Waste
Bonus: How to Make and Use Reusable Fabric Gift Wrap
DIY Reusable Fabric Gift Wrapping
When prepping my fabric for stash busting, I had a ton of fat flats and small fabric cuts bought for dog bandanas (one of my guilty pleasures) as well as cute prints and patterns snapped up in sales and clearances. With the Christmas holidays coming up, I was planning to make some bandanas as well as fabric napkins. Both of these items are great for double-duty gift wrapping and can be part of the gift, so I decided to do a little DIY fabric gift wrap demo feature here on the blog.
Selecting Fabric for Reusable Gift Wrapping
Fabric can be used for the Japanese gift wrapping style of furoshiki, but it can also be used in place of cellophane or paper for other wrapping techniques and held with ribbon instead of tape or ties. The material should be light and flexible enough to wrap and (if using furoshiki) tie, but sturdy enough to hold the wrapped item(s) and opaque enough to hide what’s all wrapped up inside. Fabrics can be single layered, but lightweight or see-through fabrics may be better with a backing or liner to give structure/support and create opacity.
Finished vs. Raw Fabric Edges
For homemade fabric wrapping, fabric can be used with raw edges or pinked to reduce fraying for a no sew wrap. It’s quick and simple, and a cute idea for wrapping a gift for a sewist or crafter who can then use the fabric. For a more durable wrap, the edges can be finished with fairly simple sewing.
Sewing Options for Finish Edges on DIY Fabric Wrapping
- Single layered, double fold hem.
- Double layered, sewn right-side in, inverted to right-side out, and top stitched.
- Single layered, bound edges.
- Double layered, sewn right-side out, bound edges.
- Single layered, overlocked or narrow/rolled hem.
- Double layered, overlocked or narrow/rolled hem.
Making Homemade Reusable Fabric Wrap
To make similar fabric sheets for wrapping (or napkins, dog bandanas, etc):
- Wash/dry fabric to preshrink, if/as needed depending on fabric type.
- Iron flat, fabric permitting. If the fabric is heat-sensitive, smooth out the wrinkles as best you can by hand instead for even measuring and cutting.
- Cut to preferred shape/size.
- Sew to finish the edges in your preferred method.
- Trim any loose threads.
- Optional: For a smooth wrapped look, iron again to prior to use, fabric permitting.
Making Homemade Reusable Fabric Ribbons
My napkins/bandanas are square, which often leaves me with a skinny offcut to linger in my fabric stash. Not so in this case! Those offcuts were snapped up and finished to make matching fabric ribbons. It is extra wrapping material, but I really like the versatility of using string or ribbon over knotting the fabric itself and it’s also easy to reuse/repurpose. Way better than languishing in my fabric stash. The ornament offcut was finished single sided to preserve the pattern, whilst the floral fabric was sewn into a long tube right-side-in, inverted, pressed, and the ends finished.
Methods for Wrapping Gifts with Fabric
Folding and Self-Knotting Fabric (Furoshiki)
For furoshiki wrapping, a large flexible cloth will give the prettiest options. Making beautiful knots can be tricky with fabric, especially if thick or stiff. Sizes will limit wrapping options and styles. A cloth the size of a typical bandana or napkin (both items are similar in size for our big dogs) maxes out with a small object, like a book, which is what we wrapped in the example photos below.
Securing Fabric Wrapping with Ribbon or String
Knotting can be elegantly simple, but it’s not always the easiest or prettiest option. If wrapping with fabric and ribbon or string, there is much more versatility in how a package is wrapped as the tie-off to secure isn’t done using the wrapping itself. The example below shows a similarly sized book wrapped with the same size of cloth as above, but tied with coordinating fabric ribbon. So pretty!
Different Approaches to Folding
Depending on your personal preferences, there may be slight differences in how you choose to fold the edges to point the corners. For example, the box below is folded much like I would a paper present; however, the rectangle above is only slightly tapered to turn and then wrap.
The size and shape of your object vs. the wrapping fabric will also influence the approach you might want to take for wrapping. For example, round objects may be easier to wrap by gathering or twisting. More angular objects may look better if tightly folded. The collage below shows different example styles of wrapping on canisters and boxes. Have fun experimenting with different approaches to discover what works and looks best for your wrapping project.
For most shapes, a smooth start helps the finished wrapping look its best. Unless your fabric is heat sensitive, it can be helpful to start with pressed fabric. You may need to re-iron if changing methods.