7 Waste-Free Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Let’s talk GREEN GIFT WRAPPING!!!  Let’s face it, traditional wrapping paper is really not good for the environment. What are some waste-free alternatives to wrapping paper?

You’ve picked out the perfect gift and it’s time to wrap it up.  Do you turn to wrapping paper, newspaper, a paper gift bag or just slap a bow on it and call it a day?  Maybe you’re super creative, have a theme for your gift and the package is part of the gift.  Over the past few years, I’ve turned away from wrapping paper and moved to gift bags, simply because they can be used again and again.  According to Hallmark, Americans spend $3.2Billion on wrapping paper each year.  A figure I saw on WSJ.com was triple that.  In any event, we spend a lot of money on gift wrap.  Why not check out some waste-free alternatives to wrapping paper that will help you spend less, waste less and help the environment?

Lightbulb Moment

The idea hit me over the head like a reusable water bottle!  Why not make my own reusable gift bags?  My daughter was at gymnastics practice and I had about an hour to kill.  I thought I would go to the fabric store and find some cute holiday fabric, sew up some bags and call it a day.  I realized time was not on my side and my store choices were either Target or Kohls.  Then it occurred to me that Kohls probably had some cute holiday sheet sets and just about everything is on sale at Kohl’s so BINGO!  Y’all, there was not one set of holiday sheets to be found, seriously!?!  How is this possible?   As I was leaving the store, I passed the section where they have tablecloths, jackpot!  I found one and off I went.   I didn’t want all the gifts to be the same so I stopped at Target to see if they had any holiday sheet sets.  Sure enough, they had some.

My daughter is quite the crafter and talked my mom into giving us her old sewing machine.  I was hoping I would show my daughter the sheets and tablecloth, share my idea with her and she would just make it all happen.  Y’all, I am not crafty, I know my limitations.  Well, things didn’t go according to my plan so I had to do it myself.  My first attempt looked more like a pillowcase so I cut that into thirds and made 3 bags! I’m not sure exactly what is going to fit in them but I’ll worry about that later. It’s all about the long game.

Over the course of my sewing adventure, I ran into some snags and had a few setbacks. Listen to me, I talk about it like it was some super important, life-altering project. HA! One of the spools on the sewing machine ran out of thread so I had to break out the manual and figure out how to fix that. I knew how to add more thread to it but couldn’t figure out how to get the spool back in the machine. It set me back a bit but no worries, I got it figured out. I must say, I didn’t realize how much fabric comes in a twin sheet set, you can get a lot of cloth gift bags out of that one set. When this amazing idea came to me, I was thinking how great it would be to make a bunch of cloth bags, not only to use for family gifts but really for any gifts – teacher gifts, neighbor gifts, co-worker gifts, etc. Then those recipients could gift gifts in the bags in the future.

I mean think about how much money you spend on quality wrapping paper every year. The sheet set at Target was about $20 and there’s no telling how many gift bags I can make, at least 10 I’m sure! The cost savings alone is worth it. If you don’t have access to a sewing machine, it may not be as cost effective for you.

Somehow, the idea in my head didn’t translate well to how it actually played out. My family has come to accept my “amazing ideas” and just go with it. As I said earlier, I’m not crafty and am definitely not a perfectionist. Many times, I just wing it which is probably why my first attempt resulted in something that more closely resembled a pillowcase. Who needs a pattern when all you’re cutting out is a rectangle? Surely not this gal! So, after sewing a few bags, I decided maybe it was time to think about some other waste-free alternatives to wrapping paper.

Waste-Free Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Newspaper – wrap a gift in newspaper. Newspapers are so full of ads these days, surely you can find an ad from a travel agency or hotel chain with a heavenly picture of the beach.

Magazines or catalogs – the glossy pages have already been printed and at least you know they are recyclable.

Paper bags – wrap the gift in a paper bag and then jazz it up with a hand-drawn picture (this is where your kids come in handy)

Gift Boxes – put it all in one of those pre-wrapped gift boxes and then use the box again later for a gift or storing holiday decorations or just for your 1980’s sticker collection

Package as part of the gift – give your gift a theme and use the “packaging” as part of the gift

Bows – put a bow on anything and it’s a gift!  Iron that ribbon afterward and use it again for something else.


Sure wrapping paper is fun and colorful but it’s also harmful to our environment and not really necessary.   The majority of wrapping paper on the market is unrecyclable because of the traditional dying and lamination methods used during production.  I’m not going to judge you if you choose to use wrapping paper, I use it sometimes too, but please throw it away and do not burn it.  Burning wrapping paper releases harmful carcinogens that are damaging to your lungs and contribute to indoor air pollution.  If indoor air pollution concerns you, I’ve got a few tips for you in this blog post and this blog post.


My kids love tearing open packages as much as the next kid so I wrap a present or two in traditional wrapping paper and the rest go in reusable packages or newspaper.  As with everything, small changes make a big impact.  What’s your favorite way to give a gift?


~ Heather


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Waste Free Alternatives to Wrapping Paper


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2 thoughts on “7 Waste-Free Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

  1. Love these ideas! We have been slowly working through our stash of wrapping as we have swapped to reusing gift bags, wrapping and using alternatives…I think I’m just going to donate my wrapping paper though. I bought a quilt cover from the op shop and made gift bags too 😃

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