I recently found out that half the paper consumed in the U.S. every year is for wrapping and decorating items. So, I’m challenging myself to wrap all gifts I give more creatively than in newly-bought paper.

Eco-friendly, green gift wrap could mean lots of things, but for me, this means reusing and recycling as much as possible. A few more thoughts:

1. Use what you already have.

Don’t buy any more gift wrap supplies unless you have to. Find inspiration from things lying around your house—shopping bags, newspaper ads, and the like. Once you start looking at material as potential gift wrapping aids, the possibilities are many.

2. Reuse as much as possible.

If your recycling bin overflows, you have plenty of wrapping paper and containers. I’m starting to save my yogurt containers for gifts!

3. Buy sensibly.

If you do need to buy wrapping material, look for paper and bags that can be reused and recycled.

4. Less is more.

When you use unconventional materials for gift wrap, it’s easy to get carried away and think you need to make up for your approach by overly decorating the wrapped gift. Just keep wrapped gifts simple. A little bow, a picture, or hand-written message on a brown box goes a long way, and it looks classy without looking like you tried too hard.

Ideas for Gift Wrap


  • Save paper shopping bags from stores
  • Ask for plain brown paper bags at stores
  • Save interesting newspaper, magazine pages, and newspapers
  • Save your child’s artwork
  • Save plain white paper you’d otherwise recycle


  • Gently-used scarves, t-shirts, thin towels, and washcloths are great for wrapping oddly shaped gifts
  • Use new tea towels and make them part of your gift


  • Bottles and tins are great for packaging edible gifts
  • Small baby food containers are great for jewelry


Keep these on hand for decorating wrapped gifts:

  • Crayons (great for drawing on gift wrap)
  • Small ornaments
  • Little pieces of artwork (to cut and glue to gift wrap)

A few gift wrapping ideas in action

1. Cloth

Cloth is great to wrap oddly-shaped gifts. This technique has been around for centuries and is still really popular in Japan.

fabric gift wrap
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Learn more about furoshiki—the Japanese art of fabric gift wrapping:

Furoshiki—the Japanese art of fabric gift wrapping.

2. Brown bags

Brown bags are super versatile.

Brown bags for gift wrap
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I have a friend who always gives her gifts in simple brown packaging with a little bow. Classy and eco-friendly.

3. Brown paper from cut-up brown bags

We have dozens of paper bags from Trader Joes—they make great wrapping paper.

Brown paper packages tied up with string
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4. Plain paper with tape embellishments

Plain white paper with fun duct tape you already have on hand = lots of fun.

Duct tape and paper
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5. Children’s art work

I love children’s artwork because they’re so unpredictable and look great as unique wrapping paper. The kids can also create the gift wrap after you wrap the gift.

use children's artwork as wrapping paper
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It’s also a great way to reuse all that artwork you can’t bear to toss (a particular hit with grandparents).

6. Bottles with a handmade label

It’s easy to transform bottles and tins into special gift packaging with a custom handmade label. All you need is a little white paper and some creativity.

My husband gave me a necklace in this bottle years ago. It is something I’ll save the rest of my life.

7. Newspaper

I’m a big fan of newspaper as gift wrap.

Use newspaper as gift wrap

Use either the comics section with a simple bow or just the printed newspaper (no color or ads) for the classiest look.