Frugal & Green Gift Wrapping Ideas

The average family will have a living room full of Christmas wrapping paper this year…all headed for the trash pile? Why not consider a more sustainable, frugal and re-usable alternative? Include the kids in being creative and giving a little more thought and love into each gift.

Alternative Wrapping Ideas

1. Brown Paper Bags – reuse brown paper bags from the grocery store. Turn them inside out, wrap your gift and decorate with your children’s hand prints, sponge paint, or various art work. If you have a larger gift, cut the paper bags flat and tape two or more together. Cut a potato in half and cut out a stencil or design, dip into paint and have fun! Write a poem or special quote on the outside. Use twine or hemp to tie it. Here is a great idea for using simple stickers to decorate the exterior of your package as displayed below.

2. Newspapers – drop by a recycling center or use your own piles of newspapers. The comics add an extra touch to increase laughter!

3. Gift Bags/Re-useable Shopping Bags – Gift bags can be re-used again and again, but an even more long-lasting and enjoyable gift would be to use some cute shopping bags. You can find them in an assortment of styles, shapes and sizes at Reusable Bags. I love the ACME bags because they fold up into a compact size for easy travel inside your purse. What a fun way to encourage the use of reusable bags!

4. Gift Baskets
- you can find a array of cute wooden gift baskets or tins at your local Goodwill or thrift store. Dollar stores also have tin containers that do not have to be limited to food gifts.

5. Maps – wrap a travel related gift in an old map. Educational!

6. Fabric Gift Bags – learn how to make a cute fabric gift bag here. You can simply take some fabric and wrap with an extra strip of fabric as a bow. Find fabric at your local thriftstore or cut out from an old shirt, sheet, etc. You can actually buy an assortment of fabric gift bags at WrapSacks.

7. Give a gift in a gift - a scarf, towel, sheet, mug, hat, various household linen, cloth napkin, or even a shirt will do and be a nice gift as well!

8. Sheet Music - for a musical person, wrap your gift in sheet music for an added touch and maybe they will even want to explore playing the piece.

9. Old Children’s books – use pictures from old children’s books for wrapping!

Alternatives to Bows/Ribbons/Fillers

1. Danny Seo, author of Simply Green Giving, recommends using old VHS and cassette tape (both curl nicely on a sharp scissors’ edge), old Christmas lights, tape measures, shoelaces—really anything from the junk drawer that’s long enough to tie around a box—for a vintage look.

2. Instead of plastic bubble wrap to cushion the contents, try unshelled peanuts, dry pasta or polyester fill from old pillows.

Sources and Further Ideas:

Top Ten Green Gift Wrap Ideas
Green Holiday Gift Bags & Wrapping

It’s Frugal Fridays!

Any further green alternatives to gift wrapping? I’d love to hear!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

15 Responses to Frugal & Green Gift Wrapping Ideas

  1. Aidan November 2, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    I wrap with the picture part of old calendars.

  2. Lanette December 24, 2008 at 9:21 am #

    We’re a brown paper bag family all the way. The girls paint, stencil, draw, place stickers, or whatever else they’re in the mood for to decorate. I save the Christmas cards, name tags, pretty wrapping paper, etc. from the previous year to decorate packages and make cards the next year. We also make Christmas postcards out of the front (unwritten in) portion of last year’s Christmas cards.

  3. Matt D. December 17, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    I like the old map wrapping paper idea. I’ve never thought of that before, and I have a ton of large U.S. road maps that could probably be used to good effect. I’ve used Danny Seo’s cassette tape ribbon idea before, and I have to say it creates awesome looking basically free ribbon.

    I also recently wrote a review of Danny Seo’s book on my site if you’re interested in checking it out.

  4. Kristin December 16, 2008 at 8:33 am #

    My mother-in-law does the CUTEST green wrapping technique….she uses empty 2-liter soda bottles! She cleans them out and takes off the label, then cuts a flap where she can insert goodies like socks, ‘stocking stuffers’, stuffed animals, whatever can fit! She puts everything in there and then seals the flap closed with clear packing tape. She covers the flap with a pretty, handmade name tag (you could even make it look like a Pepsi or Coke logo but with the person’s name) and tapes that closed, then she ties pretty ribbons around the top of the bottle. It’s a cute presentation and it’s hilarious watching someone try to open in for the first time! (I won’t lie, it took me a little while to figure it out, lol.) Sometimes she will even ship gifts like that…it’s a unique gift to get in the mail, that’s for sure!

  5. Megan December 15, 2008 at 4:56 pm #

    My main reason for using newspaper for gift wrap is b/c I don’t have the space to store rolls of wrapping paper. When I run out of newspaper I start using magazine pages. One year I wrapped presents in ESPN magazine pages.

  6. Julieann December 14, 2008 at 4:01 pm #

    OHH, I so agree–I think the brown wrapping makes the most prettiest wrapping, so elegant. :)


  7. Courtney December 13, 2008 at 6:02 am #

    My favorite brown paper decoration is using the kiddies feet and hands to make a cute reindeer. Brush brown acrylic (i.e., Folk Art brand..its like $0.88) paint on their feet/toes, press onto the brown paper before or after wrapping. Make sure the toes are pointed down. Then, Brush green paint on their hands, and place strategically on the “reindeer’s” head. Finish up with a red dot for the nose, and two black ones for the eyes! So cute! We did this on all the packages last year, and this year we placed them on placemats for the Grandparents!

  8. Julia December 12, 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    Hi, The japanese tradition of Furoshiki is a lovely way to present gifts. Check out these you tube links, it is so cool!
    Regards Julia

  9. Sweetpeas December 12, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    Along the same lines of “wrap a gift in a gift” for kids, playsilks are an awesome gift (and can be made very cheaply, I buy the silk scarves from and dye them, either with dyes from there (if I’m also dying cotton clothing, I get basics like leggings for under my girls’ dresses from there as well) or, if you’re just dying silk &/or wool, they can be dyed w/ koolaid (google for directions). Then use the playsilks to wrap kids’ gifts. I also re-use our playsilks for my kids’ gifts, they have just as much fun unwrapping the silks as they would paper and then the silks go right back into their basket for more play.

    Also for gift tags I save Christmas cards from the year before & cut off the front picture, which generally doesn’t have writing on the back, write the to/from on the back and it’s a pretty, recycled gift tag. Within our family we’ll often save the gift tags to re-use (so as we’re cleaning up the mess at the end of the day I’ll send the tags that say “from grandma and grandpa to ” home w/ grandma so she can use them again next year.

  10. Shellie December 12, 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    We re-use the gift bags a hundred times over. It’s actually become a bit of a tradition. We put the gift tag right on the bag, from shellie to brian. then next year, brian has to leave the tag on, and give that bag (with a gift in it, of course) to someone other than shellie. It has to stay in the family, and it has to be given to someone who’s name does not appear on the bag. It’s more fun to wrap presents when you know it’s a game. :-)

  11. Lisa December 12, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    You can also call your local newspaper and ask for the leftover newsprint rolls. Most newspapers don’t print all the way to end of the roll, so they give them away or sell them extremely cheap. (Like $.25 or $.50 per roll.) You can then decorate the paper the same way you would the brown paper bags.

    • Bethany ~ Sustainable Food For Thought December 27, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

      My mom used to buy old newsprint rolls all the time during our home schooling days. Endless craft projects and posters and wrapping…. :) Thanks for the memories!

  12. Andrea in Alaska December 12, 2008 at 10:32 am #

    I’ve seen the “gift in a gift” idea used often at baby showers. The main gift is wrapped in a baby blanket and attatched with diaper pins. Too cute! Also, my mom used to pop plain popcorn to use when shipping packages long distances.

    Cute ideas! I love the brown paper with the stickers! Dots are really “in” now too. They look like cute birthday gifts.

  13. JC December 12, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    We just colored on some brown paper bags and wrapped gifts today. Grandparents, etc. love it because the drawing is part of the gift! Of course, my 18-month-old was trying to eat the crayons, but he did color some too!

  14. Denise December 11, 2008 at 10:42 pm #

    Oh, I like the suggestion to “try unshelled peanuts, dry pasta” for protecting items. You can have a snack after you open the gift. ;)

    Very nice ideas!