Green Christmas

Dreaming of a Green Christmas Pt. 5: Gift Wrap can be Eco-Friendly, Too

Dreaming of a Green Christmas series logo If you’ve been following the Dreaming of a Green Christmas series, you should be well on your way to having a greener Christmas than you ever have before. But there’s still one important element to consider: Gift giving. Because let’s face it — people are going to shop for Christmas, and that stack of gifts under your tree is as much a part of your decor as the tree itself. But don’t fall prey to the rampant consumerism and wastefulness that comes with Christmas. When you do give, dress your gifts in eco-friendly ways.

Fabric gift wrap
Photo by HVoltmer

Wrap them up in bags

Second to the ridiculous amount of packaging that so many gifts use (especially toys), wrapping paper is one of the most wasteful aspects of the Christmas season. You slap it on gifts, the recipient tears it open in a few seconds, and in the trash it goes. Not exactly a lot of bang for your buck. Bags are much more environmentally-friendly. I’m not talking about the laminated paper gift bags you can find at every store. I’m talking about reusable shopping bags. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! The recipient gets 2 gifts in one: The actual gift that you put inside the bag, and the bag itself. And you help encourage them to go green throughout the year by replacing plastic grocery bags. And you don’t have to sacrifice style. You can opt for plain, solid-color reusable bags if you’d like, but many companies make bags in beautiful patterns that will make your gifts beautiful! Here are some great eco-bags to consider:

ReUsable Bags as Gift Wrap

  1. RuMe bags. Designed in the U.S. and made in a Fair Trade factory in South Korea. They come in beautiful patterns, including a few in Christmas-themed colors and patterns. Folds into an included pouch. $9.85 for a single bag or $22.50 for a set of 3.
  2. Envirosax bags. Made in China under Fair Trade guidelines. Most of the bags are made of polyester for durability, but they also have a line of pricier bags made of bamboo, linen and hemp. Have a great selection of beautiful prints, including kid-friendly designs. Price: $8.50 for single polyester bags and $24.95 for organic fabrics.
  3. ChicoBags. Made of polyester for durability. Availability in a great selection of solid colors in two styles and fold into an attached pouch. I have one of these, and they are very spacious. Price: $5-8/ea.
  4. Baggu bags. Available in solids and beautiful, holiday-appropriate prints. There is also a collection of bags featuring Barack Obama, so give a little piece of history. Price: $6-14/ea. Discounts available for purchase of multiple bags.

Use towels, scarves and fabric

Gift wrap doesn’t have to be made of paper. You can use anything made of a flexible material that is large enough to cover your gift. This works whether or not you have a box. If you do have a box, wrap it like wrapping paper, affix the ends with double-stick tape or safety pins, and tie a ribbon around the box. If it is awkwardly shaped (like a bottle of wine), wrap the towel around it like a satchel, bunch it at the top and tie the ribbon around the excess. Here are some suggestions:

Fabric Gift Wrap

  1. Use stylish kitchen towels like these beautiful organic towels from Ferm Living. If you’re giving a kitchen-related gift that is relatively small, wrap it in a beautiful towel and tie a nice length of matching ribbon around it. Price: $14-19
  2. For the lovely lady on your gift list, wrap her gift in a beautiful scarf from your personal collection or an organic option like this one made of organic cotton by Alena Hennessy. Price: $35.
  3. Giving a gift to the host of a party, someone who likes to sew, or an decor addict like me? Wrap their gift in a piece of beautiful fabric, preferably made of sustainable materials like like organic cotton, hemp, recycled plastic bottles, linen or modal. You can find many options in the Green Your Decor fabrics category, but I am especially fond of these lovely patterns from Umbrella Prints.
  4. You can buy fabric gift wrap kits the same way you’d buy paper. I LOVE this Kimono print gift wrap from Cut + Paste, and there are other prints in the same style. It’s not made of a sustainable fabric, but it’s still more eco-friendly than paper gift wrap. Comes with fabric & tying ribbon. Price: $13

Use a lovely box or container

While traditional holiday gift boxes are reusable for a time, an even better option is a beautiful box or container — the type you would display on a shelf in your home. They will appreciate what’s inside, but they will also appreciate the container they can reuse again and again. You can give it as is, or you can wrap it in some beautiful ribbon.

Buy recycled gift wrap

If you decide you’d prefer to use paper, there are dozens of stylish designs in both gift wrap and gift bags that are made of recycled paper, some of which are also printed with soy- or water-based inks. The great thing about recycled wrapping paper is that it is also recyclable, as long as it is not laminated or metallic. Also avoid paper with raised embellishments or foil accents. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Recycled, Soy-Based Wrapping Paper

  1. Fish Lips Paper Designs recycled wrapping paper. Made of 100% recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks. Available in beautiful everyday prints, as well as some holiday-specific prints. Price: $4/sheet.
  2. Whimsy Press recycled gift wrap. These double-sided sheets of gift wrap are made of 100% recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks. Price: $5.50/sheet
  3. Amy Butler recycled gift wrap. If you love Amy Butler’s fabrics, you’ll adore her gift wrap. It is made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Price: $12.75/roll

A few more resources:

Reuse old paper

You can wrap gifts with any large piece of paper you have on hand, including:

  • Comics from the newspaper
  • Newspaper and magazine pages
  • Brown paper bags
  • Old maps
  • Wallpaper scraps
  • Your kids’ artwork

Make gift tags or buy handmade

If you have a computer and a printer, you can make your own gift tags. Search the web for “gift tag template” and find one that you like. I particularly love the downloadable tags shown below from “SewTakeaHike.” Download this one, or any other that you find and like and print it out on recycled cardstock, which you can find at your nearest office supply store or super store. Etsy is also a great resource for handmade gift tags. I did a search for “recycled gift tags” and found literally hundreds of beautiful options.

Gift Tag template - download PDF

Use baubles instead of bows

To top your gifts, you don’t have to use cheap plastic ribbons. In fact, your gift topper is an opportunity to get really creative. In addition to fabric, not paper, ribbon, you can use Christmas ornaments, costume jewelry, hair barrettes, key chains, magnets, pins — pretty much any small, reusable item that you can think of. It helps, though, if the object is useful (like a Christmas ornament or a hair barrette). Otherwise, it will simply turn into more “stuff” that the recipient might throw away.

You can also use biodegradable items found in nature, like fresh flowers, pine cones, branches or leaves of fragrant herbs.

Search the web for eco-ideas

I have found some awesome, eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas around the web. Here are a few of my favorites:

Have any eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas? Leave them in the comments below. And if you’re wondering about green gift ideas, check out my Great Green Gifts category and stay tuned next week for more awesome, affordable ideas and gift giveaways.


Like what you’ve read today? Throughout this week, Green Your Decor will focus on key aspects of the Christmas season, including ornaments and decor, gifting and gift wrap, and entertaining guests. Other posts:


As the series continues, Green Your Decor will feature products and books that can help you have a greener holiday season. Later today, the series will culminate with a huge giveaway in which two lucky readers will walk away with prize packages that include many of these products. So if you’re not yet a subscriber, sign up for the GYD email updates or get your content via your favorite RSS reader — it doesn’t matter which. Just make sure you don’t miss out on what’s to come.

About Author

I am a graphic designer by trade who has a strong passion for interior design and doing what we can to protect the environment. This blog and my other site, Green & Gorgeous, are my ways of giving back to the Earth.


  • Gifts to India
    December 6, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Thanks there for the gifts presented .Wish you all a Happy Merry Christmas in advance.

  • Ryan Kerby
    December 6, 2008 at 5:06 am

    I love this topic. Nothing gets wasted and the wrapping serves two purposes. You have given me so many green home ideas. Thank you.

    Do you have any pics of actual spaces that have the tree with gifts set up? I am beta testing StyleEstate, a site and I would love to show this off a real space set up with green Christmas theme.

  • MyBrownBaby
    December 6, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Oh man, this was the best resource for eco-friendly Christmas decorating yet. THANK YOU for this–I promise to incorporate at least two of these things into our gift-giving. I particularly love the recycled wrapping paper, and my girls and I are going to make ornaments to top the presents this year.

    MyBrownBabys last blog post..The Best Of Us: MBB Mom Of the Week LaTonya Yvette Riley

  • jennae
    December 6, 2008 at 9:36 am

    @MyBrownBaby You are very welcome! I know that in years past, the day after Christmas was by far the day we put out the most trash. Wrapping paper, packaging, bows….we are determined not to do that this year. I’m glad it was helpful 🙂

  • Stefanie
    December 6, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    This series was great! My husband suggested I post my guide in a series, but I was determined to get it all in one post. That was a crazy idea!

    You’ve won an award 🙂

    Stefanies last blog post..The Ultimate Green Christmas and Holidays Guide

    • Nelia
      December 19, 2011 at 5:02 am

      That’s an ingenious way of tnihknig about it.

  • Fay
    December 7, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Your blog is a great place to look for green shopping…keep finding resources for us…It’s great!…

    Fays last blog post..More Holiday Style

  • jennae
    December 8, 2008 at 8:41 am

    @Stephanie Thank you! I know what you mean though. There were so many things I wanted to cover that I knew I couldn’t do it all in one post.

    @Fay Thanks for your kind words. The blog was intended to be a resource for shoppers, so I’m glad to hear that it’s working 🙂

  • Harmony
    December 8, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Here’s a list of other places that offer fabric “wrapping” alternatives:

  • tote gift bags
    January 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I found this post when Christmas is already over. Sigh. But hey, there are more Christmases to come, so I’m never too late, right? 😀

    Anyway, I am with you there when it comes to using reusable shopping bags for packaging or presenting gifts. This kind of bags are really getting more and more trendy these days, especially with more and more people becoming environmentally aware. These bags are durable and flexible, and you can use them over and over. (And because of that they add more value to your gift.) I will make it a point to get enough of these bags next holiday season. I don’t really have to be creative when it comes to gift-wrapping as long as these bags are around.

  • Reusable tote bags
    March 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    I wholly agree on you on this article. Using paper as gift wrappers is such a waste (pity the trees). And not only they are wasteful, but they also utterly drain your wallet. Just imagine everything involved in it—the paper itself, the adhesive tape, the ribbon . . . and the effort of wrapping the gift! When I see someone tear wrapping paper to open a gift, I’d think, You’re tearing away dollars, man.

    I now use these reusable tote bags as gift carriers. Every time I see loved ones use a bag that I used to put their gift in, I feel happy, thinking that I inadvertently gave them a second gift. In fact, they use the bags as reusable grocery bags (they are tough too).

    And I don’t have to go through the nightmare of wrapping the gift itself. Just shove it in the bag then send it on its way.


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