Before you wrap your presents this year, let’s take a moment to talk about what you’re wrapping them with!

Did you know household waste increases nearly 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in the United States alone (via Ohio EPA)? One BIG contributor to the increase in waste – other than the food waste generated by big family meals – is the gift wrap paper adorning the millions of presents given throughout the holiday season. In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons!

While some wrapping paper is specifically made to be recyclable (or some brands are now even compostable!), ‘green’ and/or sustainable wrapping paper can be hard to find, and expensive.

So, one of our gifts to you this holiday season is this list of eco-and-budget-friendly gift-wrapping alternatives that will help keep your holiday waste pile to a minimum!


christmas gift wrapped with scarf

Find a new life for shirts, socks, scarves, blankets, tablecloths, or towels by reusing them to wrap your gifts. Or buy them new and include them as part of the gift! Fabric gift wrap can be a present itself, whether it’s a new scarf tied like the photo above, OR ReWrapables sells fabric wraps that come with snaps making any present a “snap to wrap” – and then the receiver of the gift can reuse it for future gift wrapping too. It’s the gift (wrap) that keeps on giving!

Flower Pots

Flower Pots

With a little paint, some markers, or even just some festive ribbon & bow, you can turn any flowerpot into a vessel for gifts while using the plastic tray for catching water as a makeshift lid to fit over the top. These pots are usually found a-plenty at your local dollar stores and could also be part of a “green-thumb themed” gift – perfect for gardeners or, depending on the size of the pot, those needing a little personalized desk storage for pens/rulers/office supplies!

Newspaper or Flyers


Free wrapping paper that gets sent right to your doorstep – what’s not to love? Wrap a gift with a section of the daily Journal/Star/Sun/Gazette/Nugget that may interest the “giftee” – whether it is sports, local news, comics, or horoscopes. Newspaper is very commonly recyclable, is something you likely have around your house daily anyway, *and* it comes pre-cut in handy rectangle-sized sheets!

Maps or Calendars


Maps can serve as a fantastic substitute for gift wrap – and make a great themed wrapping paper for that world-traveler on your gift list! The same goes for old calendars that you may have lying around, or are about to get rid of at the end of the year. Take the opportunity to clear out your car’s glove box and/or your kitchen cabinets, and create a gift bundle just as unique as the person receiving it. Just remember to double check if you can toss these wrappings in the recycling when you’re done, as some laminated/wax-coated papers might not be recyclable through your municipal waste programs.

Reusable Gift Bags

Gift Bags

Giving presents in gift bags is a fantastic way to reduce waste since they can be reused over and over again. And there are so many options these days from dollar store cloth & drawstring bags to some higher-end designer square gift bags. Your gifts will definitely be on-trend – and if you collect enough, you’ll never have to worry about buying gift wrap again! Keeping it green while saving some green is always welcome during the holiday season.



Rather than leaving wallpaper to clutter up your closet or basement, use any extra you have (the tackier, the better) to show a loved one your eco-friendly side as well as your questionable interior design choices. ;)

Recycled Paper Gift Wrap

Recycled Wrapping Paper

You don’t have to sacrifice gift wrap entirely to be more sustainable during the holidays. Brands like Wrappily and Greenfield Paper Company use post-consumer recycled waste and have put chemical-free processes in place while making their gift wrap. Always keep an eye out for wrapping paper made from high amounts of post-consumer products, especially if it can be recycled again when you’re done with it!

Flower Seed Wrapping Paper

diy flower seed paper gift wrap

This option takes a bit more effort, but is bound to be a splash with any green thumb – homemade seed embedded plant-able paper! A biodegradable substitute for wrapping paper, this paper can be planted in warm soil (you’ll need to wait for the spring/summer, or start these seeds indoors!) allowing nature to take care of the rest. Wrapping paper that sprouts some greenery while turning into compost? Talk about a winning combo!

And finally, you can also –

Skip the ‘Stuff’

In this blog post from our Senior Advisor Alec Cooley talks about moving away from gifting ‘things’ and looking into gifts of experiences instead – that also don’t need any wrapping at all! Check out Alec’s blog, along with Simplify the Holidays, a site with a wealth of ideas for gifting alternatives and activities to do with others, including sections grouped around DIY / handmade items, quality time / skill sharing, food, donation, and experiential gifts.

Have any other ideas, or some tried-and-true alternatives? Drop them in the comments below!

And with that, that’s a WRAP on this blog (sorry, sometimes we can’t help ourselves!).