10 Ideas For Sustainable Gift Wrapping This Christmas

By Ali + Julie on 4 Dec 2022

Think about the beautiful wrapping paper that you spend hours picking and packing...just to get ripped up right after the present is opened (and eventually thrown in the bin). It’s wasteful - for you and the planet.

Australians use more than 150,000km of wrapping paper during Christmas – enough to wrap around Earth nearly 4 times! That’s a lot of trees we have to cut down every year for the Christmas season.

Here are some easy, affordable and sustainable gift-wrap options to surprise your loved ones with just a little bit of extra care.

1. A beautiful digital gift with GroupTogether

If you are a busy mum or gift organiser for work or school - this is for you.

Group gifts are a great way to give more sustainably – give one great gift that someone REALLY wants rather than less ‘stuff’ that ends up in landfill or in the back of the cupboard.

With GroupTogether, everyone can chip in online and sign a digital card. Then you can give a beautiful digital gift for a zero-waste option:

  • Choose your group gift: The best zero-waste gift is the GroupTogether AnyCard. It’s a digital gift card that lets the recipient choose from 70+ leading brands to pick a gift they REALLY want.
  • Give your gift & card: While you have the option to print and physically give your gift and card, for a more sustainable option simply forward it along as an email or share as a URL. If you’re giving a group card & eGift Cards, they’ll be all included together.
  • Receiving the gift: The recipient will open their card online and see a beautiful digital gift box unwrap to reveal their gift and card.

GroupTogether offers free customised digital group card designs from farewells to birthdays and everything in between. Your group card can also be signed by unlimited people with an unlimited message length. You can upload photos and GIFs. The best part – it’s completely FREE!

We’re all about helping you do good things for the people in your life.

2. Fabric wrap

Get creative with fabrics you already have around the house, like old blankets or curtains, or your kids' old clothes or Christmas theme tea towels are even better.

You can also find tailored fabrics at specialty shops. A quick tip to be even more sustainable, choose materials with a low carbon footprint such as organic cotton. You can purchase them in bulk (multiple metres), customise them with your desired shapes and sizes, and then sew or trim the frays to prevent them from unravelling.

If you do not want to spend too much time measuring and sewing, ordering pre-cut and sewn fabric gift wrap (from Etsy, for example) is a great time-saver.

Furoshiki, which is a traditional Japanese gift-wrapping method, is becoming more popular. All you need is a two-sided square cloth and some basic folding skills (you can find great tutorials on YouTube, like this one) and you’re set.

3. Old magazine or newspaper

Have old newspapers and magazines lying around the house? Cut them into cute, clever, and eco-conscious gift wrap in no time. Here’re some ideas:

  • The comics section of a newspaper makes for a great gift wrap for kids. Head to the sports or culture section for adults.
  • Magazines can be transformed into cute glossy ribbons and bows.
  • If you have a travel lover in your life, then using an old map or page from a road atlas is the perfect way to celebrate.

Breathe new life into something simple and inexpensive with a little creativity – and a fun craft project to do with kids.

4. Mason jars and glass jars

Here are some ideas for putting together amazing gifts in a mason jar:

  • Food gifts in a jar: From cookies in a jar to Christmas candy, give delicious treats that are thoughtful and with less waste. Just be mindful of food allergies.
  • Decorated jars: Just like it sounds, decorate a jar in a Christmas theme and give it as a decoration gift for your recipient’s home.
  • Mason jar vases and planters: Flowers are always a gorgeous gift! Use a mason jar as a vase or pot for flowers and plants.
  • Homemade bath and body gifts in a jar: Create your own bath and body recipes, like sugar scrub or bath bombs, and then package them in a jar.
  • Jars as gift containers: You can easily put some small gifts inside a jar instead of using wrapping paper for your Christmas gifts.

5. Kraft paper

Butcher/kraft paper is one of the most sustainable gift-wrapping ideas.

It’s easy to find, affordable to buy, and provides a clean-looking, minimalist gift wrap option that can be composted or recycled.

Note: try to avoid butcher paper that is waxed or oiled as it cannot be recycled.

Butcher paper can also be used to wrap holiday cookies and is a much better option than plastic wrap or foil. However, be mindful that if it absorbs any oil from the food, it can no longer be considered recyclable (but it is still compostable).

The thought of using butcher paper or kraft paper as Christmas gift wrap may not strike you as glamorous, but all you need is a sliver of creativity to get it going. Add a dash of charm with the help of dried plants, fruits, and other decorative elements to make the plain paper look sophisticated.

6. Shoe boxes or shipping cardboard

Have a tower of old shoe boxes in your closet or a pile of eBay boxes? Instead of collecting dust, put these boxes to work storing those gifts for your loved ones.

You can spice it up by wrapping it with old wrapping paper or any other ideas from this list. You can even paint it with chalkboard paint and attach a piece of chalk - which makes for a fun and creative child’s gift. Or use your children’s artworks as wrapping paper for close family members. Your kids will feel pride in seeing their artwork displayed on a gift, and the recipient will appreciate the personal touch.

Give it a little extra care, seal the box with eco-friendly tape, which is known as Washi Tape. It’s removable, strong, and easy to tear, making it an excellent choice for gift boxes and wrapping paper.

7. Beeswax wraps

Beeswax wraps are a fantastic wrap for smaller gifts. They are a bit expensive to buy, but they are fairly easy to make. You can find many DIY recipes on Pinterest.

The best part? They are a gift in themselves! Your beeswax wraps are a great addition to the gift. The lucky recipient will be able to use them in their own kitchen to keep food fresh. Beeswax and cotton function as natural barriers that are still breathable, so they're a great alternative to plastic food wrap.

Plus, they are 100% compostable. Once the protective wax coating wears away, you can simply bury the wrap in your garden. It will break down and biodegrade fully, leaving no trace behind.

8. Potato chip bag (yes, really!)

If decorating with Doritos doesn’t sound like the gift-wrapping hack you had in mind, this idea may change your mind!

By turning the bag inside out you suddenly get a shimmery, silvery, and elegant upcycled gift wrap. Wash off the crumbs and any oil, then cut it into an appropriate size before wrapping.

Your metallic gift will look gorgeous - and you’ll be happy knowing that your plastic-lined chip bag will live to see another day.

9. Plants, leaves and flowers

For a unique gift that truly screams earth-friendly, add a little special something from the earth itself.

Skip the plastic bows or ribbons, little sprigs of rosemary or lavender, pinecones, twigs, or even bark can all be those perfect finishing (and sometimes fragrant) touches to zero waste wrapping.

Flowers are obviously always an excellent choice - and both fresh and dried can be used.

These materials will create a rustic look sure to brighten up your newspaper or butcher paper wrapping. Use jute or hemp twine to fasten or weave it through several leaves to create a wrap-around ring of greenery on brown paper.

10. Vegetable oil stamps

Wooden & rubber stamps are 100% natural. They’re an amazing way to decorate plain brown paper wrap. When used with vegetable inks, they can ensure your brown paper gift-wrap stays compostable and recyclable.

If your local area allows you to recycle painted paper, you can create your own patterned gift wrap. Try your hand at carving an image onto a potato and use it with paint to stamp a cute pattern onto brown paper for a festive flair.

Giving not only opens our hearts but can teach us to do more with what we already have.

Luckily, many items have become popular and sustainable replacements for gift wrap and no, you don’t need to buy anything new! Most of the items on this list of sustainable wrapping ideas can be found around the house.

How does that sound for some gift-giving cheer?

As you’ll see in our list of 10 sustainable gift-wrapping ideas, there’s something nearly anyone can do - and you don’t need new items, a huge zero-waste budget, or a lot of time on your hands to make new habits happen.

Saving the planet is more fun and more impactful when we do it together, so please share with GroupTogether any creative suggestions you have for sustainable gift wrapping.

Less waste, better gifts

GroupTogether makes it easy to give one great gift from the whole gang, reducing waste and unwanted presents. Easily collect money and let everyone sign the card online!

Ali Julie Square

Ali + Julie

Co-Founders, GroupTogether

Life’s busy. That’s why we’re here to make it easy for you to collect money from a group. Less wasted time, less packaging waste, and spending a little less but giving a lot better!

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