13 Sustainable Ways to Wrap a Gift: Your Guide to Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas

Whether it’s the lingering glitter that keeps appearing long after the holidays or the twinge of guilt you feel as you throw out all the scraps and discarded trimmings, single-use wrapping paper leaves a lot to be desired. But, for many people, the look of wrapping paper and materials brings back fond memories and sets the mood for celebrations. 

The good news is that you can hold onto the beauty and tradition of gift wrapping without contributing to the waste and pollution that traditional wrapping paper causes. 

From a good excuse to visit your local thrift shop to a meaningful way to repurpose your toddler's last finger-paint masterpiece, we’ve put together a list of our favorite sustainable gift-wrapping ideas to get you started on your way to a more sustainable holiday.

Table of Contents

  • Why Sustainable Gift Wrapping? 
  • 13 Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas
  • Swahlee: Sustainability has Never Been Simpler or More Stylish

Why Sustainable Gift Wrapping? 

Why is sustainable, reusable gift wrap so important? 

It is estimated that, annually, Americans send roughly 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper to the landfill. 

Even when you put your old wrapping paper into the recycling bin, it rarely makes it all the way through the recycling process. The glitter and ink make recycling very difficult and it can be nearly impossible to extract enough fibers to use for anything else. 

By opting for sustainable gift wrap, you’re doing more than just keeping microplastics out of the environment. Reusable gift wrap allows you to: 

  • Create creative masterpieces 
  • Gift your loved ones something they can also reuse 
  • Feel better about your holiday celebration’s impact on the environment
  • Create a new holiday tradition 

From using your old scraps to making the wrapping part of the gift, there are many ways to keep sustainability and beauty at the core of your celebrations. 

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13 Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas

We’ve compiled a selection of our favorite sustainable gift-wrapping ideas. If you have an old paper grocery bag on hand or a few fabric scraps, you're well on your way to a more sustainable holiday tradition. 

Reusable Gift Wrap Ideas - Thrifted Vintage Scarf

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #1: Thrifted Vintage Scarves

If you've ever walked the aisles of your local thrift store, you already know that you can find some incredible and unique items. Next time you go thrifting, take a look in the scarf section and see if you can find some beautiful, quirky, or vintage scarves and bandanas. 

We love wrapping gifts in thrifted scarves for several reasons:

  • Each one is unique and special 
  • It’s an incredibly affordable option
  • Your giftee gets to enjoy a fun new scarf purchased specifically for them
  • You’re supporting your local thrift shop (which usually, in turn, supports an organization working to make a difference in your community)

A fun way to add some additional flair to your thrifted find is to incorporate a hair scrunchie into the wrapping. Not only does it hold the package together and add a bit of class, but it also gives your recipient another special gift.

Sustainable Gift Wrap Idea

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #2: Swahlee Gift Wrapping Cloth Set

At Swahlee, we love sustainability and gifting so much that we decided to find a way to combine the two. 

Meet the Swahlee Gift Wrapping Cloth Set. Available in both Natural and Chambray, these cloths come in a set with three different sizes, perfect for wrapping all sizes of gifts. 

We love these gift wrap cloths for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re machine washable
  • They are high quality and can be used many times over for years to come
  • They are made from 100% natural fabrics 
  • They are made in an ethical sewing house by seamstresses who are paid fairly and provided with a safe, healthy working environment
  • They create simple, beautiful, elevated gifts

You can style them with a simple knot or add some extra cheer and beauty with dried flowers or scraps of colorful fabric.

Reusable Gift Wrap Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #3: Paper Grocery Bags 

Next time you’re out shopping for groceries, opt for paper bags and use them instead of conventional wrapping paper. 

You can try cutting the bag open to create a large, single sheet of paper. Wrap your gift with any grocery bag labels facing inwards and secure with twine or ribbon. 

If you have kids — or a love for DIY-projects — try hand-stamping the bag before wrapping your gifts. 

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #4: Old Maps or Sheet Music

If you have a wanderlust or musician on your gifting list this year, this is a great way to show extra care and love for them. 

Just like the scarves, you can pick up old maps or sheet music at your local thrift store. 

Some ideas include:

  • An atlas 
  • An old book of roadmaps 
  • Hymnals
  • Classical music books

If you want a more vintage look, you can use coffee or tea to yellow the pages but take care to make sure the ink doesn’t smear too much.

A Sustainable Way to Wrap a Gift

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #5: Fabric Tote Bag

If you love practical options, this sustainable gift-wrapping idea is for you. 

Find a reusable fabric (preferably a natural fabric like cotton!) tote bag and use it to wrap the gift. You can tuck the handles inside and use the bag like a single piece of fabric to wrap or you can simply place the gift inside the bag. 

You can easily add a festive flair to this one by tying a bit of holly or foliage to the handle.

Sustainable Gift Wrap

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #6: Old Pillowcases

If you have some old pillowcases lying around that you no longer use but don’t want to simply throw out, try repurposing them into gift wrap. 

You can cut one long side and the short side to create a large piece of fabric for wrapping or you can leave it as a pillowcase and wrap it so that you have a perfect pocket to hold a card or sprig of flowers. 

Alternatively, you can often find beautifully patterned, vintage pillowcases at thrift stores if you don’t have any on hand. 

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #7: Newspaper

Especially if you live in an area where you can access newspapers in a different language, this is a great sustainable gift wrap idea. Newspaper is notoriously sturdy yet pliable and is the perfect material for gift wrapping. 

Your recipient can then use it for all projects, from collages to housecleaning. (Your grandmother was correct: wiping with newspaper does leave the cleanest window!)

Tie up the gift with a red or green ribbon for a classy yet fun color palette. 

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #8: Children’s Drawings

If you have littles at home, this can be a fun way to involve them in gift-giving. This is an especially great option for people like grandparents, aunts and uncles, or teachers. 

Have your child create a piece of art specifically for the recipient and let their creativity run wild. If you need to wrap a larger item, you can easily purchase large sheets of paper (or even rolls of white paper) from your local art/office supply store or an online vendor. 

The result will be a unique and sentimental gift that your child is proud of and your loved one is thrilled to receive. 

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #9: Kraft Paper 

If you love a simple, old-time holiday ambiance, then this sustainable gift wrap option could be exactly what you’re looking for. 

Purchase a roll of simple brown kraft paper and use it just as you would any gift wrap. While still considered single-use, this paper is much more easily recycled than regular wrapping paper. 

We love this wrapping method because it is simple yet elegant and timeless. Play with different ribbon combinations for added texture and visual appeal.

Furoshiki Gift Wrap Idea

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #10: Furoshiki Cloths

Furoshiki is growing in popularity as a way to organize suitcases, repurpose scarves and other large squares of fabric, and much more. 

What does furoshiki mean? Furoshiki is a piece of cloth used for multiple things. Originally practiced in Japan, this cloth and folding method has spread throughout the world and is known for its simplicity, beauty, and functionality. 

By definition, a furoshiki cloth is simply a hemmed, square piece of fabric. You can use multiple things for furoshiki including your thrifted scarves or the Swahlee Gift Wrapping Cloth Set. 

Furoshiki is a popular way to wrap everything from books to bottles of wine.

Sustainable and Simple Gift Wrap Idea

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #11: Cardboard Box

If you’re an online shopper, chances are your garage is overflowing with shipping boxes. 

One easy and sustainable way to package a gift is to use the box it came in. Try out these steps to create an easy, sustainable gift box:

  1. Cut and peel off as much tape as you can.
  2. Cut the box along one fold seam so that the whole box lays out flat. 
  3. Pull the sides you cut apart back together, this time with the outside of the box facing in. 
  4. Use a bit of tape from the inside or glue to hold the box together. 
  5. Fold up the bottom and place the gift inside. 
  6. Fold up the top and use a wide ribbon to hold it all together. 
  7. Optional: decorate the box with holiday doodles, stamps, or a sweet message.
Practical Reusable Gift Wrap Idea

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #12: Swahlee’s Travel Bag Set 

Perhaps one of the most practical sustainable gift-wrapping ideas, Swahlee’s drawstring  Travel Bag Set makes a great gift-wrap option. 

Each set comes with three bags; a large, medium, and a small. Each bag is sewn in-house at our workshop in North East India by empowered women who take pride in creating high-quality, beautiful pieces. 

The Travel Bag Set comes in three different colorways:

  • Chambray - 100% cotton
  • Sage Green - 70% cotton, 30% linen
  • Coral Pink - 100% handloom cotton

Our Sage Green set makes a simple, elegant, and practical gift wrap. Once the recipient opens the gift, they can hold onto the washable, reusable bag and use it for dozens of things, including travel.

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrapping Idea #13: Fabric Scraps

As an ethical, slow fashion sewing house, we tend to always have some fun fabric scraps on hand and we love repurposing to give them a second life. 

If you or a friend loves crafting and happens to have some fabric scraps on hand, they can make for excellent gift-wrapping material. 

Larger pieces can be wrapped around items while smaller pieces work well as ribbon and embellishment. 

Swahlee: Sustainability has Never Been Simpler or More Stylish

At Swahlee, we are committed to creating high-quality, ethical, sustainable goods that enrich the lives of our customers. From every stitch in our Upcycled Sari pieces to the carefully curated dimensions of our Gift Wrapping Cloth Set, we do everything with intention.

We love simple elegance and natural beauty which is why our timeless styles are always made from 100% natural fabrics like cotton and linen. Whether you’re shopping our luxury loungewear in the Rest Collection or scrolling through the Remnants Collection to select the perfect color for your new Gift Wrapping Cloth Set or Travel Bag Set, you can order with confidence, knowing that your items are of the highest quality and that your purchase empowers women in North East India to live with dignity and safety.

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