Design

3 Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Three Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Have you started wrapping gifts? My friend Linsey Laidlaw has some fantastic ideas. “Our family is trying to take steps to be cleaner and do better with our sustainability,” she explains. “I read in the Guardian that the amount of wrapping paper that gets thrown away in the U.K. alone can wrap around the globe nine times!” To that end, here are three ways to wrap presents by reusing materials around the house…

1. Children’s drawings (above)
There are many things to do with kids’ art, but this might be one of the best. “We always have an abundance of kids’ art — you can only save so much of it!” Linsey says. And it looks surprisingly sophisticated as wrapping paper. “Grandparents especially love getting drawings; it’s a bonus to get that extra special wrap.”

Three Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

2. Calendars
Old calendar pages make great graphic gift wrap, don’t you think? Desk calendars work well for small gifts, while oversized wall calendars are perfect for larger packages.

Three Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

3. Newspaper
“Most of the wrapping paper you’d buy nowadays isn’t actual paper — it’s mostly synthetic stuff,” says Linsey. So, if you’re a regular newspaper reader, wrap your presents in newsprint. Some tips: Choose pages that are visually pleasing (the travel section is good for this), and try it paired with bright ribbons or fun washi tape.

Three Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

And there you have it! “Besides these options, we’ll be flipping Trader Joe’s bags inside out, smoothing packing paper from things we need to have shipped, using washi tape (biodegradable!) instead of scotch tape, and may even try the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki wrapping cloth for a few special packages,” says Linsey.

How will you be wrapping gifts? Any other ways to have a more sustainable holiday season?

P.S. 10 wonderful holiday rituals, and Linsey’s house tour.

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. Styling by Linsey Laidlaw.)

  1. Lauren says...

    My husband has wrapped every one of my gifts in New Yorker covers. I love it. We started using our sons artwork too – i mean how many scribbles do i need from daycare!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that!

  2. I sell vintage, so I am always at the thrift store! One the years I have accumulated a nice collection of secondhand wrapping paper! There is usually at least a couple rolls at every thrift store-so go hunting!

  3. Can we all please start putting a tally mark on the bottom of gift bags as we reuse them? I would love to see how many times they can get used before they are totally shot!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that idea!

    • Em says...

      haha I’m into this!

  4. Brynn says...

    My husband and I have been wrapping our gifts in Trader Joe’s bags! Either the plain brown side and decorating them ourselves or using the candy cane striped side!

  5. Lucia says...

    This year we wrapped presents up in colorful cotton dish towels from Trader Joe’s, and in reusable cloth bulk bags from our local coop. We’re giving jam so it worked well to wrap in reusable kitchen textiles.

  6. I highly recommend a company called Wrappily! They’re paper is 100% recycled newspaper, beautiful, and unlike traditional wrapping paper, can be recycled afterward.

  7. Amy says...

    A friend of mine always gave baby shower presents wrapped in a swaddle blanket! You could do that for Christmas presents too with a tea towel or a blanket!

  8. Cindy Farnham says...

    Use your old or small weird cut pieces of wrapping paper as filler! Put it through your shredder, the ones that shred in long curly streams. Then use it in place of tissue paper. Looks so pretty with all the colors!

    • Emily says...

      I love this idea! I’m going to save all my old wrapping paper from this year and do that!

  9. Cynthia says...

    I save and reuse gift bags until they are worn out. When our girls were little, Santa left the presents unwrapped under the tree after they went to bed. My parents did the same thing and we saved gift wrap to use again.

  10. Nina says...

    I pretty much always use newspaper for wrapping! Occasionally I will get fancy for Christmas and buy actual Christmas wrapping paper… but mostly the job gets done with newspaper

  11. Elizabeth says...

    I have zero problem buying some Christmas wrapping paper. I mean, newspaper? I would argue you can just get your news on the internet and save that daily or weekly waste. Also, newspaper rubs off on things.

    • Trish says...

      Right, but the idea is that newspaper is biodegradable. So yeah, it is producing waste, but that waste won’t outlive us. And I’m not sure about other people but even though I don’t subscribe to a physical newspaper, I end up with a good collection of papers/magazines by the end of the year – more than enough for wrapping!

  12. Maria says...

    I’m a librarian and part of my job is to throw away old and damaged children’s books. The large pages of a colorful picturebook makes perfect wrapping paper, both for kids and adults!

  13. Kate says...

    For those who want to create gift bags but don’t sew, you can buy a product called Steam-A-Seam, available at craft/fabric stores. It comes in sheets, of course, but also rolls of 1/4″ and 1/2″ wide. Use an iron on Steam setting to create seams. (This product was developed in Alaska to create heavy, insulated window covers = strong, washable.)

  14. cg says...

    My family and I only use gift bags. While it doesn’t sound like we’re helping to conserve, we reuse these bags year after year until they’re looking quite worn. It’s been great to not have to go out into the crowd to get the wrapping.

    • mym says...

      Same! We also reuse bags from nicer shops and department stores because they’re usually thick and sturdy, and often also really pretty. We just need new tags.

  15. Amy says...

    I do use wrapping paper–but I save lots of it (bows, bags) to reuse. A sturdy bow or bag can be used three or four times with no problem–my boyfriend’s gift this year is arriving in the same bag it has the past two years. I often write names directly on presents, or put stickers over old labels. And this year I’m using the scraps to make paper chains for next year’s tree. But in future, I may try some of these in lieu of the traditional paper.

  16. Alex says...

    My grandmother always used to wrap our gifts with comics pages from the newspaper. This just brought back fond memories of her. Thank you!

    • My mom always used newspaper when we were growing up. Now, as adults, we’ve expanded to old maps and sheet music from the local thrift store. After a gift is unwrapped the paper goes into the fireplace to feed the fire that roars all Christmas morning and any bows and ribbon go into a big plastic tub to be reused next year.

  17. becky says...

    I love this! We have soooo many brown bags from the grocery store that we use for our recycling collection, for painting projects, to collect book and clothing donations from around the house but now I’m thinking of using them for giftwrapping with some stamps or splotches of paint to dress them up.
    I was also considering fabric. I have alot of canvas and neutral tones that would work with any ribbon. Not sure how to secure it though 🤔 I can sew but for those who cant it would probably be easy to make a gift sack with draw string using a hot glue gun and fabric. It’s depressing to see a bag of trash christmas morning that is only filled with paper. I never consider the waste in advance but now I will!

    • cg says...

      safety pin the fabic!

  18. Liz says...

    For gift tags, my family has always used the fronts of Christmas cards from the years before (or cut out parts of them) – it’s getting harder now that most have big family photos instead of Christmas-y illustrations, but it’s still fun to go through the cards from past years and pick one that matches your wrapping paper! And it’s a good way to reuse something that would normally go right in the trash/recycling.

    • Alice says...

      YES, we do this too! However, I’ve also started just…. reusing them? Like, I buy presents for the same people every year, and the majority of us are all together on Christmas morning, so why not just take them back and store for next year, haha!

  19. Kim S says...

    our birthday gifts as kids were always wrapped in the comic section of the newspaper. it was always so fun to read before you opened :)

  20. Kristin says...

    I didn’t have that many presents to gift this year so I used the brown kraft paper that online orders came with, sewed a few zigzag lines across them and sewed them shut!

    • Emily says...

      That sounds so pretty!

  21. Rachel says...

    Love these ideas! Thanks for this post!

    • Tiffani says...

      I buy the big rolls of brown paper that you find in the postal supplies area or I get wrapping paper that has that same texture. I tie them with butcher’s twine or ribbon and sometimes decorate them with stamps. I also save any gift wrapping supplies that I can from year to year. I’m literally sitting there as my daughter opens her gifts and squirrelling away all the things that can be used again. It’s one of the very few areas where I’m very organized.

  22. Harriet says...

    I’ve rarely bought wrapping paper, except if I were wrapping a really huge gift. My go to has always been pages from magazines. I choose the prettiest pages from Vogue or W magazine, the latter for the most part since the pages are quite large and use them to wrap gifts. I recycle ribbons from Net-a-Porter, since they are usually so generous with their ribbons and I find them hard to throw away .

    • D tiz says...

      Love this! I find craft paper frustrating to tape up, totally stealing your sewing idea!

  23. Gill F. says...

    We had a super fun tradition as kids that was born out of a mother’s desperation and late night creativity. My mom was up the night before Christmas years and years ago and ran out of wrapping paper. It was too late to go buy more and she had a house full of sleeping children so she was stuck. Instead of panicking she grabbed some scratch paper and starting writing out clues…and she hid the unwrapped gifts. My youngest brother wasn’t reading yet, so his clues had to be pictures and she even took the time to draw out all of his! In the morning, high on Santa adrenaline and a lack of sleep, we gathered around the tree and my mom handed us each clue #1, along with our stockings. And we all got to go on the most exciting scavenger hunts ever! We lived in a pretty small trailer, and she had to hide for four kids, but she got creative. Gifts (and the next clues) were found in cupboards and under tables and with the dog food and in the shower. She tailored them to our age levels (impressive considering we ranged from a toddler who couldn’t read to preteens), used puns and jokes, and made it all flow together. We went wild for it! And it became our thing…from then on my mom skipped the wrapping paper and took the time to plan a hunt for each of us. I can only imagine how much more time and energy that took, especially for an overworked single mom, but it was always so thrilling and fun and we talk about it to this day. We continued our hunting up until my youngest brother and I were teens and it made Christmas so magical <3

    • Rachel says...

      Your mom is amazing! What a cool tradition.

    • Kathryn says...

      This is amazing and inspiring, on so many levels. Thanks for sharing!

    • This is one of the most loving and creative parenting and family stories ever. You’re lucky!

    • Alice says...

      This is the BEST IDEA IN THE WORLD and I’m absolutely going to steal this for my tiny nephews next year. AMAZING!!!!

    • Emily says...

      What an amazing mom and fun tradition!

    • Amber says...

      Your mom sounds epic!!!

  24. BeckyB says...

    Last year, I started a new tradition with our family. I bought nice, reusable gift boxes of varying sizes, then wrapped them with festive wrapping paper, with each child getting their own pattern. On Christmas Eve, our kids will put out the empty boxes and will wake to find them filled. We’re clear about how many gifts will be under the tree, so determining the number of boxes is easy. Some years, not all gifts will fit precisely into the boxes, and that’s okay. It will still be joyful to put out the boxes and find the gift in the morning!

  25. Heather says...

    I save all tissue paper and ribbon and gift bags, and it’s more than enough.

    I haven’t bought wrapping paper in years – makes me cringe just to think about it!

  26. Elizabeth says...

    I have a friend in the construction business who uses old architectural drawings for wrapping paper – very cool.

  27. Joanne Kang says...

    I always use brown paper bags from Trader Joes for wrapping gifts! Whether you stick with the TJ side or the plain side, they always look great and are sturdy enough for traveling with them long distances too.

  28. Genevieve Martin says...

    Brown paper is great and seems to be very trendy, I think it looks really chic. I always wrap presents in ribbons and have a big jar but haven’t bought new ones in years. Most of the time I give a present in person and then usually end up taking the ribbon back again (especially on Christmas morning once everything has been unwrapped)
    Reduce, reuse, recycle!
    Thanks for bringing this to people’s attention :)

  29. Liz says...

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s so important for us to look at all the ways we can help curb unnecessary waste.

  30. Marnie says...

    We re-use the same gift bags over and over – they have layers and layers of sticker name tags stuck to them! I just found one that was tagged for my in-laws, both of whom have now passed – one of those happy/sad moments.

  31. Kristian Olson says...

    I try to reused bags. I drew little houses on them years ago and it creates a village the christmas train drives around. If I do need something wrapped instead of bagged, I’ll use shipping paper and draw the houses there.

    Love all of these ideas. They look so neat!

  32. Hanna says...

    I made it a goal this year to not buy or use any wrapping paper. I have been using scarves, pillowcases and cloth napkins from around the house – tied with beautiful, reusable ribbons, the presents look festive and fun. Best part, when the unwrapping is done, I can just put everything back in the closet to use again! Happy wrapping!

    • jessica says...

      I love this idea, thank you!

  33. Kelley says...

    We cut up whole Foods paper bags and lets the kids decorate the underside that’s blank. It’s sweet and recyclable. My daughter wrote a note on her nana’s about what a special person her grandmother is.

    • Amber says...

      Love this :-)

  34. Bee says...

    In a bid to avoid wrapping paper, I bought 2 huge Santa sacks this year & plan to just pull unwrapped gifts from them. These sacks can be reused every year and I’m hoping the anticipation of waiting for a gift rummaged from a huge red sack would add to the whole gift-receiving experience as well!

  35. Viv says...

    Whenever we get a package in the mail, I try to repurpose the packaging, often into gift wrap. Those long, crinkled rolls of cheap recycled paper that are sometimes used as buffer inside packages make excellent wrapping paper (and also can serve as butcher paper or a drop cloth for my son’s craft projects). I also occasionally shop from a “green” website here in Germany (waschbaer.de) that mails things with no tape or glue, but instead binds all the packages with thread spun from textile remnants. These I save and use for EVERYTHING, but they make especially pretty ribbons on presents!

    I’ve also embraced Furoshiki and use my son’s play scarves (just glorified squares of fabric) to wrap small stuff. The free weekly newspapers that get dumped on our building’s stoop are also a go-to for gift wrapping, as well as the occasional brown paper produce bag (tweaked with the aforementioned thread and a lot of decoration from my two-year-old!). I weirdly love wrapping gifts, and even more so with the challenge of trying to be zero- or low-waste about it.

    • Viv says...

      Also, as happy as I am to reuse the package materials we sometimes get in the mail, I’d like to add that, obviously, waste from mail-order anything (especially somewhere like Amazon!) is appalling, and the better option is to buy things from real stores, if possible. (Obviously, this is not always a geographic possibility for everyone, but we live in a large city and try to take advantage of this option before ordering online!)

  36. Hayley says...

    that sounds absolutely gorgeous! (as are the Bach Preludes and Fugues!)

  37. julie. says...

    Since my 1st child was born in 2005, I’ve been using drawstring cloth bags for gifts…I sew a few in various sizes every year out of cute gingham or flannel. I am NOT talented with sewing but can do a straight(ish) line. Actually I haven’t had to sew any bags the past few years as I have lots by now. Many many advantages to this besides saving $$ on wrapping paper. For one, things are SO easy to wrap: buy gift, shove in appropriate size bag, pull string, add gift tag. Also, when opening gifts is nice and quiet, no noisy paper tearing and scrunching, ha. After Christmas morning, I gather up my bags, remove tags, fold up and put in a little box for next year. They store flat and take up very little room. I like how all the colorful bags look under the tree and my kids haven’t really complained or cared, they grew up with this system. :)

    • This is totally brilliant! I come from a crafty sewing family-why haven’t we thought of this!

    • Morgan says...

      I do the same. This year I also made reusable gift tags by covering card stock in white duct tape and punching a hole for string, which I can write on with a sharpie and reuse.

    • Lindsay says...

      This is great, I’m gonna make some this year! I wrapped a few gifts in Christmas fabric. love the no waste and how quiet…..thanks!

  38. Margaret says...

    I started a fabric bag collection this year! Etsy has some really cute holiday patterns and you get to support small businesses. I will have to use some paper this year, but we have some old rolls that I need to use up. Once my sewing machine is back up and running I plan on working on some birthday bags.

  39. Carol says...

    About 12 years ago I made a bunch of pretty bags out of fabric. Some bought, but other vintage Christmas fabric from the thrift store. I made lots for us and for a gift made them for my mom who has 15 grandkids. Since then, most of my siblings have switched too. Its made everyone’s wrapping so easy. It is pretty, and the kids love getting the special bags that are extra cute. Vintage Christmas kitten fabric!!
    For gift tags I used thick paper and had my kids do drawings on one side. A loop of yarn to attach with the ties of the bag. For our family this works great and we re use them each year. It makes wrapping so fast and it is amazing to have absolutely zero trash or recycling afterwards. I just stack the tags and bags nicely back in a bin for next year.
    We also do this for birthdays— just cheerful fun fabrics.

  40. Amanda says...

    If you order gift-wrapped presents from Amazon they usually come in a sustainable, reusable fabric gift bag. I have many in red and blue!

  41. Camille Falkenham says...

    TJs bag and some cute twine!

  42. Tiff says...

    My mom taught us as kids to always save the bows (whether ribbon or a stick on bow”, the bags, and the tissue paper. So i every year at my in laws, i make a my pile to keep and use next year. All the adults in my life get their gifts in bags with reused tissue paper… but I usually do some wrap for the kids, esp for their Santa gifts ;)

  43. Alice says...

    Oh my god this post just made me realise that I was literally dreaming about wrapping presents last night hahahaha.

    Personally, I’ve gone for basic brown paper (kraft paper?) and am jazzing up with ribbons. I’ve got quite the collection from years of doing this, and it always looks SO pretty under the tree!

  44. Maggie says...

    The newspapers lately don’t quite put me in a festive spirit… 😫

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      Hahaha

  45. K jozsa says...

    When we built our house we had to provide”blueprints” for the permit process. The kind man that did ours provided sooooo many copies ! We are still using them ,also tea boxes are great!

  46. Laura Shylko says...

    We decided that from now on “Santa’s” presents and stocking gifts are not wrapped. With three kids this reduces the amount of clean up for me on Christmas morning and is so much more eco friendly. Family gifts will still be wrapped so they get the joy of unwrapping some gifts.

    Throughout the year we use the leftovers from the rolls of Christmas paper as wrap for birthday gifts – it’s usually white on one side and my kids get to draw all over their friends’ present once wrapped.

  47. Jimjam says...

    This year I sewed loads of drawstring bags of various sizes for all our family presents. I want to use them for years to come! I got some really cheap fabric just after last Christmas which I put aside for this year.

  48. Ellie says...

    My personal favorite is the paper drop cloth that you can buy at your local hardware store. There is a pinkish “rosin” paper variety that looks beautiful when tied with a satin ribbon (blue, brown, red… all gorgeous). Plus (!) it’s multipurpose- use it to protect your floors when painting, roll out a few feet for kids to draw on, or if your really ambitious, giant origami. Then recycle :)

  49. Veronica says...

    my MIL started making simple fabric bags with a ribbon tie that we have kept over the years and send back and forth to each other. Now we have a good collection of sizes to choose from. Every year when I open the box of fabric bags I remember all the years of exchanges and it makes me so happy.

  50. Veronica Vega says...

    my MIL started making simple fabric bags with a ribbon tie that we have kept over the years and send back and forth to each other. Now we have a good collection of sizes to choose from. Every year when I open the box of fabric bags I remember all the years of exchanges and it makes me so happy.

  51. Brittney says...

    I save the paper that comes as filler inside of packages. The brown paper looks rustic and simple, but you can get fancy with the string. When I receive a package with filler paper that I like, I fold it up and keep it in my little “wrapping paper box.” Little know fact – you can iron paper. It won’t burn!

  52. Nicole says...

    I have regular gift bags/tissue paper that get reused randomly, but my mom has used the same Victorian-esque gift bag for my presents for over a decade…makes me happy and nostalgic every time I see it! (she jokes that she has to give gifts of the appropriate size, so they’ll fit in The Bag)

  53. M. says...

    Ikea has sturdy, reusable cardboard boxes in black and white for under $2. They are about the size of a shoe box but a bit taller. I wrap many small things in newsprint and place in the box which is then tied with a ribbon. Both my mom and mother-in-law reuse them and they’re great if you are the visitor who then has presents to haul away.
    Ikea always has them in black and white [could also be fun to paint a simple pattern on to] and they seasonally have some fun colors or illustrations on them.

  54. Catherine says...

    My mother in law is an architect and often wraps gifts in her old drawings. We all love it and tell her to sell it.

  55. Jenn says...

    I’m a child of the 80s. I feel like at one point it was really trendy to wrap birthday gifts in the comics pages from the newspaper, yes?

    • Amy W says...

      Yes! I remember this trend!

  56. Emmie says...

    Love this! Glad to see CupofJo doing an eco-friendly post!

    • Haley Feldman says...

      Me too! I would love to see a continuation of this content, maybe even a series. I love ideas like this one above, that don’t sacrifice style for eco-consciousness.

  57. Amy says...

    A friend wraps all her children’s gifts in pillow cases straight from the linen closet! She drops the gift in the pillow case, knots the opening and ties it with a festive bow or ribbon. Done and done! The most sustainable idea I’ve seen yet!

    • Amy says...

      What a great idea! I will have to steal it for next year!

    • Kathleen says...

      Yes! I have accumulated a good stash of holiday themed pillowcases from Goodwill over the years and use them to wrap gifts for my kids and husband. I also made gift bags about 10 years ago from a large tablecloth and some other fabric I found at Goodwill (a little more work) but pillowcases are ready to go. We are also big on gift bags and I always save the tissue paper and fold it up for re-use. My mom and I are always trading them back and forth.

    • Aude says...

      WOW. Brilliant idea. Thank you for sharing!

    • Stephanie says...

      Similar to the pillowcases: We made fabric bags of all sizes out of holiday-themed fabric. We put a present in an appropriate-sized bag and tie it with a ribbon. For a few years we tried to wrap the presents in fabric, but it didn’t work so well. The bags are great and super easy to make. We no longer have a huge pile of paper at the end of Christmas morning, and everything still looks great under the tree!

  58. Rachel says...

    When I was little, my parents had my sister and I decorate Hanukkah pillowcases. They would put our gifts in them instead of wrapping. I have vivid, wonderful memories of them coming down the stairs with our pillowcases behind their backs, stuffed with whatever gifts we got! I had my 5 year-old decorate his last year and it was so fun to see his face when we pulled it out from behind our backs with his gifts. He’s already asking when his almost 2 year-old brother gets to decorate his.

  59. Katie says...

    I love using old maps too! An old car atlas could last for awhile as wrapping paper!

  60. maywyn says...

    Great wrapping tip this morning on the Today Show, place box on diagonal, when the rectangle paper is cut too short, and then fold paper like an envelope.
    I sometimes use fabric remnants to wrap gifts. A small tablecloth is neat for larger boxes.

    • Alice says...

      I’ve seen this doing the rounds a lot this year and I have to ask- did people not know about this before?! I’ve always done it, so it feels intuitive to me- I think I must have learned it as a very young child or something!

  61. Margaret says...

    We have a great second hand art supply store in Chicago called The Waste Shed and I love picking up maps from there and wrapping gifts in maps! It’s fun to find a map of a city where a friend is from or a town two love birds are traveling to!

    • Ro says...

      I am so happy you posted this comment. I live in Chicago and have never been to The Waste Shed. I cannot wait to go there!

  62. Charlotte says...

    Dear COJ-Team,

    thank you & also I would be so bloody proud if you could keep up the brilliant work and put a really really really clear & concise emphasis on sustainability (in all it various facets), not only here and there but consistently (make having ONE cotton tote bag & actually using it a cool thing; make investing in a sustainable banking system a fun thing; make not buying clothes for 3 month a doable thing, show people who changed their lifestyle and how … just imagine if your 203K Instagram-followers (and many more who read anything you write beyond that) would join you in a 1 week “let’s give it a try”-test/task because you invited them to join etc. and do a regular follow-up, learn about the latest environmental (academic) developments (like in Alex’s NY Times interview with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson from Ocean Collectiv). Mind blown away in the best possible way just thinking about it! :) Thanks, you’re all brilliant & greetings from Europe :)

    • GoldenMoon says...

      Yes! Bravo! I welcome this for myself and to share as a community together.

    • Sarah says...

      Great vision!

    • Aude says...

      I absolutely second this comment. It doesn’t have to be dreary at all. You’d know how to keep it both light-hearted and committed. This was a great post and I imagine not a super time consuming one. Maybe you could do a bi weekly sustainability post? One could be related to food/drink and how to become less wasteful in that regard (how to make beeswax wraps, alternatives to cotton pads/paper towels etc, vegetarian recipes that cost less than $10 for four people etc), one could be about fashion, or you could profile individual families from all over the world about the changes they’re making in the name of sustainability in the spirit of the motherhood around the world series. It would inspire all of us and bring different viewpoints to the table. Of course sustainability was not originally in your DNA and we understand the need not to become a blog focused solely on that, but i am sure so many of your readers have an appetite for genuine advice on how to be better.

    • Maryann says...

      Kudos to Cup of Jo for this type of content, and for attracting readers like Charlotte with these great ideas. This post and comment gives me hope! And I would totally do a challenge. :)

  63. Kate says...

    I use towels and/or pillowcases, “tied” with bungee cords.

  64. Nina says...

    I’m a musician and this year I’m using the pages of an old book of Bach Preludes & Fugues that has finally disintegrated too much to be played from any more, plus the red string I save from our veg box each week, and tags made from offcuts of gold card – super thrifty and green but the combination looks reeeally fancy!

    • Kate says...

      That sounds really cool!

    • shannon says...

      Sheet music as wrapping paper! Swoon!

      I hope someone gifts you a new Bach songbook. Those pieces are absolutely magical.

    • Sydni Jackson says...

      How dreamy!!!

  65. Ann says...

    My grandparents always wrapped our gifts in the funny papers/comics. I loved and still live how it looks! We don’t get a newspaper but my neighbor does and she saves the comic section for me for this purpose. Then it all goes on the compost pile!

    • Sarah E says...

      My family always did and still do the same! Also any gifts that we received from elsewhere that were wrapped in proper paper were carefully unwrapped and the paper saved for re-use. Although in the beginning I’m sure it had more to do with frugality than anything else! :)

  66. Kate says...

    Growing up my mom would always wrap gifts in the comics (or the funnies as we called them) as they tended to be more colorful than the text part of the newspaper. Our friends would always know which gifts came from us because of this fun way they were wrapped and always got such a kick out of it being the funny pages!

    We also were used to reusing larger pieces of wrapping paper year after year with some pieces still being used almost 15 years later! We would always ask before opening any gift if we could rip the paper or not because we knew would most likely have to be keeping the paper!

    Never thought my mom would be an early adopter to anything…but am so glad for her example! :)

    • Katharina says...

      Yes to reusing wrapping paper!

      My grandma made a point in not using any tape and she tied the ribbons without knots so one could open the package without tearing anything. The paper was then reused again and again. Even now at their house we use paper I remember from my childhood days.

  67. eva says...

    I love this article, everyone can do this and even something small as wrapping paper can make a difference. This year I bought beautiful fabric, used zig zag scissors to cut it into napkins, place mats and table runners and wrapped the presents using raffia as ribbon. Beautiful patterns and they can use them throughout the year, plus the raffia is compostable!

  68. Jackie says...

    We used to live in Japan and I’d save the bright sections from the free Japanese newspapers that were put in our mailbox almost every day and use them as wrapping paper. I’m still on the lookout for any stuff printed in foreign languages because I think it looks so pretty.

  69. Elise says...

    Fabric!! I have a bunch of fabric from failed sewing projects, including some Christmasy stuff, and I’m wrapping most of my presents with it. I watched some videos about Furoshiki-style wrapping and am attempting that – so far the presents look beautiful and I feel better about having a bit less waste this year.

  70. Elizabeth Sheddy says...

    My dad’s signature wrapping paper has been the comics section of the newspaper for as long as I can remember. He wraps at the workbench in his basement (where he stashes read newspapers), and then smuggles the gifts upstairs on Christmas Eve. I always smile to see his gifts nestled under the tree–even before I read the “funnies”!

    • Marcie says...

      A Canadian friend told me they don’t bother wrapping gifts- they remove all packaging, insert batteries, etc., then leave toys next to each kids’ stockings. The kids wake up, and rush right to playing. No (extra) waste, no last minute wrapping, no frustration. I’m gonna try it this year!

  71. Megan says...

    We often use reusable shopping bags as gift bags. Plastic bags are illegal here in parts of the PNW and everyone can always use a few extra.

  72. Katherine says...

    I have amassed a collection of fabric wrapping bought from op shops that I use for all family birthdays and another set for Christmas. I also bought a big roll of fabric Christmas ribbon that I reuse every year. I use it to tie around the fabric wrap but I’ve also tied bows and pinned the gift tags with big nappy/safety pins, so each year I reuse them too. It’s environmentally friendly, sure, but it saves a heap of time and money every year too. I just get the family to return my wrapping to me at the end of gift giving.
    Some tips: look for second hand tea towels, pillowcases (put presents inside and tie up the top), small tablecloths etc where the fabric is already hemmed (and have bonus pretty patterns or pictures), and knit/stretch fabrics that don’t need hemming if you cut them and can stretch around whatever shape you’re wrapping.
    The Japanese for sure would not be impressed with my wrapping techniques but I make it work for me!

  73. Kristyn says...

    I use a Baggu reuseable bag and tie the handles into a bow.

    • Jen says...

      Same for me, this will be our fifth year in a row doing it that way! Saves loads of time on wrapping, looks cute under a tree or on a table and completely reusable. We do a friend’s gift exchange every year and they get so pumped to find out I had their name because they know part of the gift is the bag it’s wrapped in. Ha!

  74. Anna says...

    I use reusable gift bags! Ordered one set 5 years and still using them! They’re colorful and easy — just put the gift inside and tie a bow with the ribbon that comes with the bag, super easy and they look SO pretty. You just have to be upfront about asking the gift-receiver to open the gift in front of you so you can take the bag back! :)

    Something like this set: https://www.qvc.com/Kringle-Express-52-piece-Drawstring-Gift-Bag-Set-with-Gift-Tags.product.H220223.html

  75. M says...

    Also, I managed to score many rolls of wrapping paper at an estate sale for 10 cents a roll a few months back. I still need to trash it when it’s used, but those rolls would’ve probably ended up in a landfill if I hadn’t bought them. Just a reminder to get materials second hand or at a thrift shop.

  76. M says...

    I bought these huge plastic gift bags that zip up from five below. They’ve eliminated all need for wrapping paper for my kids’ gifts. These Santa sack-type bags can also be made out of pillowcases.

  77. Agnes says...

    Sorry, but that stat from the Guardian about the amount of wrapping paper is ridiculous! That’s 510.1 trillion square meters of wrapping paper… x 9!! For just 66 million people, not all of whom celebrate Christmas.. ?? C’mon. And more to the point, for wrapping, I often use gift bags, most of which are re-gifted (I save them :) That’s my few trillion square meters saved for this year! Haha

    • Agnes says...

      Haha I just realized they probably meant the circumference of the earth. I could go with that. I was picturing the whole earth’s surface wrapped up like a giant Christmas present. Haha!

  78. CS says...

    Fantastic post! Wrapping paper is NOT recyclable!
    Also good alternatives: old maps, paper from used brown paper bags. Decorate the gift with twine, pine cones and dried flowers and twigs. Looks so much nicer than commercial paper!

  79. Grace says...

    I have an old school trapper keeper from high school that I use to store flat folded tissue paper that I get throughout the year. Order a pair of boots that comes with white paper in the box? Fold it and store it. Get a birthday gift bag with decorative paper? Fold it and store it. When Christmas (or birthdays!) come around I have a huge variety of tissue papers saved that are ready to be reused! The trapper keeper keeps everything nicely contained and from getting ripped.

    • Sadie says...

      I do this too! .. Though not in a trapper keeper :) I keep all the paper throughout the year, and fancy-up gifts with pretty tape!

  80. Kristin says...

    I am an architect and always use old 24×36 drawings!

  81. Bec says...

    Tea towels are another great way to wrap a gift, and really get two gifts in one! I love all the topics touching on sustainability by the way!! :)

    • Stacey says...

      I love wrapping homemade food gifts in tea towels! Added bonus- no tape, and the recipient can hopefully use fewer paper towels!

  82. Our family has been re-using much of the same paper for decades – until it falls completely apart. People have gotten very sentimental about certain patterns and get creative about re-purposing gift tags. I keep a couple shopping bags handy when we’re opening presents and people open stuff gently (no ripping!) and it gets folded and goes right back into storage. Easy

    • Rae says...

      Our family as well! Even the kiddos carefully peel the tape off. We’ve brainwashed them all – they are shocked at friends parties when paper is ripped and tossed away : )

  83. Andrea says...

    Thank you for this!!! More sustainability tips on the regular, please!!!! ❤️❤️❤️

  84. Lydia says...

    My grandma has been sewing drawstring bags (often from old fabrics) of every shape and size for years, specifically for gift wrapping. Each family has a good collection for birthdays and Christmas. It’s so simple and lovely.

  85. Holly says...

    Actually, if you use string or ribbon as in the demo above, you don’t need tape at all – the ribbon will hold it all together. I learned this on Downton Abbey when Mrs. Hughes was wrapping a gift. Mind blown.

    • Margaret says...

      My grandmother did this! I could never figure out how she got the paper to stay while she tied the ribbon! It was her superpower when I was a child.

  86. Carissa Lee says...

    Love this! I love using outdated transit maps to wrap gifts!

  87. Jess C. says...

    I have also started being more environmentally conscious with my wrapping this year. I have loads of lovely scarves – which of course are reusable, as long as the gift recipient knows it’s not part of the gift! ;) Even with two different family Christmases and a few gift exchanges with friends and coworkers, there will be no overlap, and I’ll be able to use the same scarves several times in one season!

  88. Maeve says...

    Such great ideas. I was tempted to buy wrapping paper this year and instead said, “no, I’m going to use what I already have at home”. :)

  89. Beth says...

    If you don’t have them, Kwik Stix (tempera sticks) are AWESOME! Whenever I’m out of gift wrap I put paper bags or old scrap paper out and have my boys draw all over it. I always get involved too because they are so soothing and satisfying to draw with. Think drawing with chapstick that comes out in vibrant colors and dries almost instantly!

    https://www.amazon.com/Pencil-Grip-TPG-604-Tempera-Paint/dp/B07SG15QMC

    • Susie says...

      I use catalogs. Anthropologie, REI, Patagonia, and others have lovely photos and even pages with no product descriptions/pricing. (But I use those pages too :)

  90. Diana says...

    In the past I bought the end rolls of newspaper from our local town newspaper office. We had a roll that lasted for 3 years and only cost me $5. It didn’t have any black ink to come off on the gifts and we decorated it with kids drawings or added a nice ribbon. The only thing is the paper is thinner than store bought wrapping paper so it does require careful wrapping. And of course, you do have to store a HUGE roll of paper.

  91. Emily Lott says...

    My dad used to wrap presents using the comics section of the newspaper!

  92. Mallory says...

    I’ve already done my wrapping this year, but does anyone have a recommendation for washi tape that actually sticks well? I would LOVE any product recommendations. I tried to use some a few years ago and my presents were unwrapping themselves under the tree.

    • Sonja says...

      keep trying different brands – some washi tape is stickier than others. I’ve had the same problem with a few of my rolls of washi tape, but others work really great. Also make sure to use actual *paper* wrapping paper, anything with a lot of plastic in or on it (to make it shiny or smooth) resists washi tape…

    • Steph says...

      I really like mt washi tape. You can find it at any good art supply store or online, lots of beautiful colors, solids, or prints.

    • Maybe try painter’s tape? at least it’s bigger…maybe that will mean that it works better :)

    • Rae says...

      Yes, yes I can! I’m an art teacher and have tried them all. My basic take is that you get what you pay for with washi tape: Scotch, MT tape, Rifle paper all make tapes that have worked well for me. They work best with matte papers that have some tooth to them and they don’t work on very heavy paper. Scotch brand makes colored masking tape in big rolls that is much cheaper than the lovely, decorated washi tape but is also recyclable. I use this for the actual wrapping chores and the washi tape to attach gift tags

    • Erin says...

      Depending on the situation, I sometimes just put a ribbon directly around what I’m giving! Also, reusable bags make a great gift and you can wrap something else inside them! AND for the Trader Joe’s paper bags, you don’t even need to turn them inside out. The cute ones they have now with red and white stripes for the holidays are great for wrapping!

    • Charlotte says...

      I second mt washi tape, like Steph says. I just bought some this year after being super disappointed with my self-unwrapping gifts last year and it’s miles ahead of the other stuff, for sure.

  93. Katie Weltner says...

    For the record… art projects aren’t just for kids! My family turns paper bags inside out, and then has a big painting party. :) All adults, all non-artists!!! It’s always fun.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so cute, katie!

    • Charlotte K says...

      Love this idea!!!

  94. Nina Nattiv says...

    Not as creative, but we always use gift bags. And since almost everyone I know also does, they just get recycled around. Really, who has the energy to perfectly wrap a gift anymore? (actually, I do, but lets not tell anyone about my obsession with perfectly wrapped corners)

  95. Kaylie says...

    I like to hunt for beautiful / festive silk (or silky) scarves or nice linen napkins at thrift stores year round and then wrap up books to give to friends! My favorites are when the fabric / book match!

    • Kristin says...

      Ooooh love that!

  96. Wendy says...

    I reuse colorful magazine pages to wrap the little gifts I put in my kids’ stockings. Home decor mags and Oprah’s are my favs for this.

  97. Meg says...

    This year we’ve tried using fat quarter and half meter sets of quilting fabric tied with thick ribbon : )

    • Tricia says...

      This is a terrific idea.
      (Quilt enthusiast that I am..).

  98. agnes says...

    fabric are great, they make like a second gift. I just got a gift this morning wrapped in fabric, I love it! I will use it to embroider something…

    • Bonnie says...

      I love that idea, Agnes! I make cloth napkins for us and for gifts and would LOVE gifts wrapped in fabric! I use the inexpensive IKEA dishtowels with ribbon for friends and they’re always appreciated.

  99. Robby says...

    We usually reuse the same old gift boxes and bags from previous years. My parents keep them along with the coloured tissue paper and we wrap our gift up at their house. Seems to work!

  100. Quinn says...

    Love these ideas! Now I’m wishing I hadn’t already recycled all of my 2019 Stendig calendar pages…

    My family does have a bunch of festive cloth bags that get reused every year. This may be the inspiration I need to make some more this year. :)

    Question about washi tape — is there a trick to getting it to actually hold? I find it doesn’t secure nearly as well as traditional tape and will often unpeel itself. (But it does look so pretty!)

    • Zoe P says...

      omg YEP! I bought one roll of brown kraft paper to stand in for wrapping paper this year and my cute washi tape would not secure it! all my presents undid themselves! LOL

  101. Don’t wrap at all! Put a ribbon or twine around a box and embellish with a pretty bow or piece of greenery. Sew fabric bags and tie them with a ribbon. (They are super fast–just sew two squares together.) We keep the bags in our family, so we can re-use them year after year. These not only reduce waste, but they are faster than wrapping, too!

    • Sarah says...

      Yes to the fabric bags! My husband’s family just started doing this two years ago, and it is SO easy and fun (especially when we all need to ship gifts to their house and wrap when we arrive). We each have our own little patterned fabric, with reusable gift tags to tie on. We’re doing this Christmas at my parents’ instead, and I’m surprisingly disappointed to be missing the fabric bag tradition this year!

  102. Cheryl Strong says...

    Over the past few years I have made drawstring bags that I require my family to give back or reuse. It’s worked really well and significantly speeds up the wrapping process- once you have made them all. They should last many years.

  103. SarahN says...

    I buy Who Gives a Cr*p toliet paper, which each roll is paper wrapped. They even do Christmas editions, so you can bet I’ve saved last year’s papers from the christmas delivery and wrapped some gifts. Normal TP paper is black and white patterns, which coincidentally matches mum’s theme for her Christmas, so yep, presents wrapped with that, and washie tape, and my baubles that act as annual ‘gift tags’ reused for a good five years if not more.

    • Anna says...

      I just ordered my first set of Who Gives A Crap TP and this is a GREAT IDEA!!!

    • Katie says...

      I buy that toilet paper too! What a great idea!

  104. We’re using the most beautiful compostable wrapping these days at Little LAMMA – its newsprint printed with artists illustrations. My 3 and 5 year old girls love to reuse the scraps we have left over for projects too!

    • Kiera says...

      Ooooh you use Wrappily paper – I love that stuff!!

  105. Sadie says...

    When my brother was a teenager he couldn’t be bothered with wrapping gifts so instead he hid them and gave us a clues where to find them. One time he forgot to hide them so he had a pile of gifts under a blanket and would pull them out with a flourish and present them to the recipient. These are now some of my favorite Christmas memories.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this :)

    • Em says...

      This is so cute :-)

    • Sarah says...

      We did something similar one year! When my husband realized that he had shipped his siblings’ gifts to their houses instead of where we were gathering for Christmas, we spent the plane ride writing limericks for them to guess their Christmas gifts, à la Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me :)

    • Claire says...

      So funny! If my parents had gone on a quick trip and brought back a souvenir, they’d tell us to close their eyes and put it in our hands. No need for fancy wrapping but it still made things feel fun!

    • Samantha says...

      This is adorable! Presentation with a flourish beats any wrapping paper!

    • Tricia says...

      Terrific holiday memories!

    • liz says...

      I’m laughing out loud, I love this so much!

    • Hahahahaha – this is ME (I am almost 50!) — any large gifts are assigned the hot/cold game and hidden in random places around the house (shower, back seat of husband’s car). I cannot bear the waste around wrapping large gifts and the kids (and my husband) love the game! Win/win!

  106. Lauren says...

    I save brown packing paper that comes in amazon boxes throughout the year. Even thought it’s crumpled, it has a lovely look to it once you flatten it out and you can decorate however you like. I also tend to open gifts I receive carefully and reuse the paper. Fabric scraps or drawstring canvas or linen bags are another great alternative. I’m definitely the family member who walks around asking everyone if they are keeping their bows and ribbons after a gift exchange, and the most lovely ribbon I “keep in the family” and have used year after year!

    • Jill says...

      Did you know you can press paper with your iron on low? Takes out the wrinkles and creases.

    • Rae says...

      You can iron that packing paper! I do it all the time to use to cover tables in my art room, for wrapping paper, for collage…

    • Julie says...

      Gah! going to start hoarding that amazon box paper immediately – what a great idea.

    • Jill, below, mentions ironing paper. If it is printed gift wrap paper it may contain inks that are harmful when heated and breathed in- so do it in a well-ventilated place.

  107. Caitlin says...

    We are also trying to reduce our waste this holiday season. Our son is 16 months old and we have a TON of muslin swaddles from when he was tiny that were gifted to us. This year, I’m planning on using those to “wrap” as many of his gifts as I can and leaving larger, more cumbersome gifts unwrapped. The added plus is that most of the swaddles have adorable prints – who cares if they aren’t Christmas themed?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great idea!

    • Jessica says...

      I was planning on doing the same thing! We got way more swaddles than we needed. I read an article about somewhere in Asia (I can’t quite remember where) where its traditional to wrap gifts with cloth with the intention of reusing the wrapping and it gave me the idea.

    • Jen says...

      We like to do the same with our sons’ playsilks :)

    • Neela says...

      Ooohhh, good idea, we have loads of white ones- could even potato-stamp them Christmas-style with big brother!

  108. Georgie says...

    A note on the last suggestion – a friend once gave me a cookbook with a white cover which she’s gift-wrapped in newspaper and all the newsprint came off and permanently stained it – it’s so annoying! So I would reserve that one for dark-coloured gifts.

    • Amy says...

      On the very first episode of Downton Abbey, the staff is ironing the newspaper. They explain it is so the family won’t get black stains on their hands from holding it while reading. I wonder if that works and would solve the problem ?🤔

  109. Rebecca Biscocho says...

    I use tote bags and drawstring bags that I decorated. I’ve also recently switched to using kraft paper to wrap gifts.

  110. Where is that orange tape from in the bottom gif? I love it!!!

  111. Katie says...

    Paper bags are also great! Then kids can draw on them, or leave them clean for a classic parcel look.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! such a good idea.