Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Ideas & Free Printable Gift Tags

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I’ve been a little lazy with my gift wrapping this year, and I’ve used more paper than I’d like. So for the rest of my wrapping, I’m determined to get creative and reuse gift bags, boxes, fabric and anything else I can find. Here are some of my favorite green gift wrapping ideas:

Use boxes and bags from last year

My family has been reusing the same gift bags and boxes for years now. As we unwrap (or inbox or unbag) gifts on Christmas morning, I neatly fold them up and put them in a stack. I also save bags and boxes from birthdays, Valentine’s Day, etc., all in my gift wrap bin. As a result, we are able to use the same gently used bags and boxes over and over. We simply replace the tags, or use the same bag for the same person so the existing tag still applies :)

Use what you already have

Before you purchase another roll of wrapping paper, look around the house to see what you already have. Chances are, you’ve ordered some gifts online and had them shipped to you. I’ve personally received a LOT of boxes over the past month or two. Many of them came stuffed with paper instead of packing peanuts. I’ve been reusing a lot of that paper to wrap gifts.

To wrap the gift above, I reused two sheets of crinkled brown paper from a package I had received (and I actually like the crinkled look). Then I used some tulle that I had leftover from a tutu a made my niece for Christmas. I simply wrapped two colors of tulle around the package and tied them in bows. Easy, and beautiful! (NOTE: Please ignore the extremely blue coloring of these photos. I forgot to change the white balance on my camera when I was taking them :) )

There are other ways to reuse that brown paper, though. I used it to wrap another gift, then used a couple of craft sponges to paint circles on it in our chosen Christmas color scheme (turquoise, gold and lime green). I also used those colors to paint a gift tag that I printed for free! Looking for more free printable gift tags? Click here or scroll down. The finished look is handmade and luxe at the same time. And it took only a few minutes.

You can also take a cue from green guru Danny Seo and use newspaper to wrap gifts. Believe it or not, it will curl much like ribbon. This is a great way to wrap a bottle of wine. Simply put the bottle in the middle and fold the newspaper up around it, then secure it at the top with a rubber band. Cut the excess into strips and use scissors to curl it just like you would curl ribbon. Makes a really festive host gift! I would show you the video, but it looks like Danny has removed it.

Lastly, you know all those tote bags and shoe boxes you have in your closet that you never use? They make great gift packaging :)

Wrap a gift in a gift

See that gift above? It’s not wrapped in just any piece of fabric. That’s actually a pillow cover. I put the other gifts inside it, then carefully folded and wrapped it with ribbon. Of course, this works best when the other gifts are small, but it can work in other situations as well.

For example, I put together a personalized gift basket for someone using a $2 basket from Goodwill. I was trying to figure out how to conceal the items in the basket, and I remembered that the recipient has been wearing a lot of scarves lately. Inspiration! I made her the circle scarf that you’ll find on the DIY gift ideas page in the Green Gift Guide. I then used the scarf to enclose the gifts inside the basket, then tied it all up with a stray piece of tulle (see below). Easy peasy, and she’s getting 2 gifts in one!

This can work with sooooo many gifts: A recipe book wrapped in a tea towel. A pair of earrings inside a decorative, lacquered box that the recipient could display on their dresser or a bookshelf. Candles wrapped inside fabric napkins. An organic stuffed animal wrapped inside a baby blanket. Anything at all inside a reusable shopping bag (like a ChicoBag, Envirosax or RuMe bag). The possibilities are endless. (aff)

Use paper just for the kids

Let’s be honest — part of the Christmas magic for kids is tearing their gifts open with wild abandon. It’s just not the same with a gift bag, or if they have to carefully untie a piece of fabric. Adults and teens will be better equipped with the patience required to open a carefully wrapped gift.

So if you’re going to use paper for wrapping, use it just for the kids — and make sure that paper is either made of recycled materials or at least recyclable. Even Walmart, Target and Dollar Tree offer recycled wrapping paper if you take the time to look. And please stay away from shiny foil, velvet flocked, or glitter-covered paper, because it is generally not recyclable. Simple printed paper is best.

Print Your Own Gift Tags!

There are tons of free, printable gift tags to be found online. I’ve been printing out a bunch of them on card stock to top my gifts. Here are my favorite free, printable gift tags from around the web. Click the images or the links below the images to go to the download pages:

Tags with a hand-drawn look from Creature Comforts


Modern, fancy gift tags in a variety of colors and styles from West Elm

More modern, colorful gift tags from sass&peril

Monochromatic printable tags in several colors from Jones Design Company

Two different gift tags from Paper Crave

Blue & gray winter bird gift tags from Creature Comforts

Peace, Love & Reindeer Hugs gift tags from Eat Drink Chic (how awesome are these?!)

Colorful, festive gift tags from Amy Butler

MY FAVORITES: Hand-drawn typographic tags from Eat, Drink Chic, as seen on one of the gifts above, hand painted to match the paint on the paper.

Enjoy the tags!

What are you doing to make your gift wrapping more eco-friendly this year? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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3 comments… add one

  • Kathleen W. December 20, 2011, 7:29 am

    Love these ideas! And thanks for the great printables.

    One of these years I’m going to sew some reusable gift sacks in all sizes from my fabric stash.
    Kathleen W. recently posted { Jude at 5 Months }

  • Condo Blues December 20, 2011, 9:43 am

    After the holidays last year (AKA when I had time to breathe again) I sewed cloth gift bags from the fabric and trims in my costuming stash. This year the tree looks gorgeous with gifts “wrapped” in brocade and velvet! I LOVED that it took me less than an hour to wrap all of our gifts!
    Condo Blues recently posted { I Made a Gift Tag for Portland }

  • Samantha January 12, 2012, 1:20 am

    Such great holiday ideas, come to think of it, all year round!
    Samantha recently posted { Great Holding Product for Natural Hair + Tutorial on How it's Used }

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