Zero Waste Gift Wrapping Ideas: For Christmas, Birthdays, etc.

The holidays can be a really daunting time for anyone who is trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. It seems as though once you are enlightened to the amount of waste that you can make in the world, the more you see it in your everyday life and realize how wasteful everything truly is. An unnecessary evil of any gift-giving occasion is gift wrap.

It’s really something that we don’t think about. Gift wrap is paper, so it’s eco-friendly right?

Wrong. While paper is a better alternative to plastic in almost every instance, creating paper takes logging, which when done incorrectly can lead to deforestation. Not only that, but the gift wrap that many people buy at the store when the holidays comes around is coated and shiny, making it super hard to recycle since there is usually some plastic on your shiny gift wrap.

There is of course now that shiny coated gift wrap that you can buy now that is made with recycled paper, which I could see being a lesser evil, but once that gift wrap is used, the lifecycle of that paper stops, since recycling that gift wrap again is difficult. Gift bags are also culprits of this plastic shiny coating. And don’t even get me started on gift wrap and bags with the abundance of glitter, so much so that they litter it everywhere after every bump.

Let me say this once loud and clear for everyone: GLITTER IS MICROPLASTIC.

I will probably save most of my distaste for glitter for a zero waste rant later on, but just know that everything with glitter is just tiny tiny particles of plastic that will never breakdown and get into the water supply, so you are effectively drinking plastics.

So… what can you do to try and make the holidays not so much of an environmental nightmare?


My family is notorious for reusing gift bags. They are easily stored after you use them is a large plastic tub in out basement, and fold flat so they don’t get all crushed. It’s kind of reminiscent of reusing totes bags whenever you go to the grocery store. So if you get a nice gift this year in a nice holiday themed bag, save it and use it for next year for someone. You can also buy your own holiday bags and once whoever opens your gift does so, you can just kindly ask for your bag back.

Another way you can reuse is reusing packing materials that you get in the mail from any packages. A lot of the packages that I get have large sheets of kraft paper that are just perfect to wrap a couple of small presents, and I’ve used a lot of it for my Christmas gifts this year already.

Buy Kraft Paper Rolls

If you go into any Walmart, there is a section in the office supplies aisle that is all for packaging goods, with boxes and envelopes and packing tape. Another beauty that you can find there is large rolls of kraft paper that you can then use as your wrapping paper. These rolls are super thick, so it would hopefully last you a long time. Now this isn’t the most ideal way to sustainably wrap your presents since you are going out and buying something new, but kraft paper at the end of the day is more easily recyclable than the plastic coated gift wrap.


If you are someone who still get the local newspaper or magazine subscriptions, consider using some of those older editions in order to wrap your presents for this year. Newspaper can have a trendy look under the tree and for smaller gifts, you can maybe find a holiday themed ad that has the classic colors of red, green, silver, or gold.

Use Fabric

This is another way that I am definitely going to try to do this year for my gifts. The only problem that I have is that I don’t quite have any spare fabric or scarves laying around to do this, so I might have to make a trip to the thrift store and see what I can find.

Wrapping presents in fabric is actually something that people did a long time ago, and there are a ton of tutorials on Pinterest and Youtube that can help you figure out all the folding and tying that you have to do. In a way, the practice reminds me of oragami.

For the Christmas season, I recommend finding plaid fabrics. If you really wanted, you could even have your wrapping be part of your gift to the person by wrapping their present in a blanket scarf or a hair scarf. They would never know until they unwrapped it that it was part of the gift.

Add a Tote

Get this tote here on Etsy:

Another cute idea is to help out your friends and love ones on their own zero waste journey by adding a cute tote that you can put the gifts into.

Paper Tape

Tape is another small aspect of wrapping gifts that I don’t think a lot of people think about. Normal scotch tape is just small adhesive piece of plastic, but did you know that there is a paper alternative? Paper tape is a much more secure version of masking tape and mostly comes in a kraft paper finish. It’s also much more adhesive that masking tape and is better for the environment.

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