Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper Options For A More Sustainable Holiday

Did you know that most wrapping paper is not recyclable? It's sad but true. Unfortunately, around 2.3 million pounds of decorative wrap (that you had originally placed in your recycling bin) will most likely end up fermenting in a landfill and releasing CO2 into the air, per Earth 911. The kicker is that 2.3 million pounds is half of what is produced annually in the United States.

But don't get down on yourself. Your intentions were good, and your heart was in the right place because when it comes to gift wrap, it's hard to differentiate what should go into the rubbish bin and what should be recycled.

When determining whether to recycle wrapping paper, if there are any extras added, attached, or imprinted into the paper (like glitter, sequins, metal, or plastic), it's got to be trashed, per Popular Mechanics. Not sure if your paper qualifies for recycling? Then try out the scrunch test by wadding your discarded wrapping paper into a ball. If it holds its shape, then it's recyclable. If not, then into the trash it goes. Don't take gift wrapping too seriously, either. Remember that part of the fun of opening a gift is admiring the handiwork that went into its presentation. Package presentation is where you get to show off eco-imagination. Still, having trouble coming up with ideas? We've got you covered with five sustainable gift-wrapping hacks to get you started.


It might seem strange to wrap your Christmas presents in a piece of fabric, but this method of presentation has been used in Japan for over a century, as noted by Invaluable. This traditional wrapping technique is known as furoshiki, which, when translated, means "bath spread." This piece of fabric is generally square and was used to wrap up and protect kimonos while bathing. 

Basic furoshiki is simple to execute and beautiful to look at, and it's also an earth-friendly way to present a gift. To wrap a package in the furoshiki style, all you need is a square piece of fabric. According to the website Japan Objects, any sort of material can be used as long as it's foldable. The most common types of fabric to use are silk, rayon, polyester, and cotton. Remember: This "wrapping paper" is also supposed to serve a function, so it's important to be mindful of that aspect.


Using newspaper to wrap gifts is not only sustainable, but it can also be an entertaining way to package a gift. How so? Well, depending on how old the newspapers are, you can search out entertaining headlines or amusing advertisements to be the focal point of each package, via Popsugar. Even utilizing just the funnies is a great way to bring an extra bit of nostalgia to the holidays.

If you really want to get creative, search out newspapers that are in a language other than English. Smaller, local ethnic food supermarkets or mom n' pop shops that cater to different global cuisines tend to have these. Be sure to decorate with sustainable cordage and natural objects, like twine, cotton string or rope, pine cones, or rosemary. 

The best thing about using newspaper to wrap your gifts is that it's 100% recyclable and biodegradable, per Sierra Club. That means, if you really wanted to, you could just toss that newspaper gift wrap into your compost pile and call it a day.

Reusable cloth bags

This is a method of wrapping that has a pretty broad range. You could use anything from reusable woven grocery produce bags to canvas totes to drawstring cloth bags. Reusable cloth bags are plentiful and can be found pretty much anywhere that you shop. Every business seems to offer some sort of reusable tote for purchase nowadays, so they're never in short supply. When you use cloth bags to hide what you're gifting, it's also like getting two presents in one.

That being said, cloth bags with a drawstring closure are probably the closest to a wrapped present than using a tote with handles. Once your giftee opens their present, they can use the drawstring tote for produce, tubers like potatoes, or even as a storage bag for other reusable bags. If you're having trouble finding drawstring bags that send the message of holiday cheer, they're pretty easy to make (no sewing machine required, but that makes the process quicker). All you need is ribbon, fabric, a needle, and thread, via Sew Crafty Me.

Old maps

If you've recently moved out of state or are still holding onto maps in your glove compartment that are more than past their prime, maybe consider upcycling them into Christmas wrapping paper. Unless you happened to acquire a map in the past 365 days, chances are that it's already outdated. That's because paper maps of all types (urban, hiking, etc.) are renewed and released every three to five years, according to Winsfield Outdoors.

Imagine how epic it would be to receive a gift wrapped in a map of the globe. You could even use a map that chartered a special place where you and the gift recipient traveled together on a memorable trip. Don't just limit yourself to maps of the states, hiking locations, or, you know, the world. Think about using maps from trips to theme parks, zoos, or even botanical gardens, per One Hundred Dollars A Month. You get extra kudos if the map you use has pen and highlighter marks from your own personal excursions.

Hand drawn artwork

There's nothing more heartwarming than receiving a piece of artwork from a child. Kids put so much time and effort into making artwork for adults; you have to admire their tenacity and untethered capacity for limitless love (and creativity). For this sustainable wrapping paper project, you'll need eco-friendly paper, like brown or white kraft paper. This is usually sold on a roll, which is great because it can also pull double time as a never-ending art project for the kiddos. If you don't have access to a roll of paper, you can also use brown paper bags, per The DIY Nuts.

Next, you'll need to "hire your artist" and be sure to pay them well (more than just goldfish crackers or Oreos). Make sure that you let your art prodigy sign their work once you've wrapped your gift with it so that everyone will be able to see this beautiful wrapping paper was a custom, one-of-a-kind piece of work made especially for them.