Parenting Green: Eco-Gift Wrapping Ideas for the Holidays

Reusable & Creative Wrapping Alternatives

Alright, it’s here. We have turned the corner into winter and holiday season is upon us. There is excitement and anticipation and joy ahead (as well as a healthy dose of anxiety and stress). I usually reflect on the previous year’s gift giving and how to come up with original ideas this year that save us money, time, and just feel good. This year I’m focusing on hand-made because I know it feels good for me to get creative. I purchased materials I was excited about (felt fabric) and could create a myriad of projects from (french press cozies, pencil holders, bookmarks, ornaments, pot holders, etc). I also realized that some of the things I make regularly anyway are enjoyed by others and to celebrate that. Are you known for your cooking or baking? Do people love the photos you take? The other year we cut out family pictures and put them into old bottle caps and covered them with epoxy resin, and put a circular magnet on the back as keepsakes. Spending less on tangible things and focusing more on giving hand-made helps us tap back into the idea that it’s about the gesture and not the grandeur.

Wrapping paper is often just used once and then thrown away. I wanted to share some sweet, easy, and achievable ideas I have seen as alternatives to traditional gift wrap…  Added bonus: the wrap can sometimes double as an additional gift! Don’t feel you don’t have to go all or nothing here. Even if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! My husband loves the idea of not wrapping and hiding clues to where the gift is hidden.

If paper is the name of your game, rather than reaching for the roll, how about using non-traditional papers?



Make a simple fabric flag to finish it off minimally. Or, you can embellish with typography. Either a message, or the name of the recipient on some of the recycled papers mentioned above. Perhaps you have a lot of paint swatches for that room you are about to re-do? Cut colored circles and thread onto string for a garland that you can use to wrap with. Topping with things like fresh holly, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon sticks, or pinecones add a natural touch.


You can either make your own simple fabric gift bag by cutting out a square or rectangle and sewing up three of the sides and tying the top with yarn, ribbon, or string. You can also use it to wrap as you would with paper. Some have tried the Furoshiki technique from Japan, with a cloth napkin, sarong, or blanket.

I also love the idea of making use of sweaters! Feeling like a bottle of wine and an invitation for adult conversation is in the mix this season? Try cutting off the sweater sleeve and sewing up the bottom (the armpit side, not the cuff) and then putting in slits spaced out along the sleeve to weave in a ribbon or yarn, and then tie it at the top, and add pompoms if you so desire. Voila!

Think about it, when there is a moment in time where the majority of the population in participating in the same basic activity (buying and wrapping gifts) it creates a spike in our consumption. More than you might imagine. Fifty percent of the paper consumed annually in the US is used to wrap gifts… 50%!!! According to the Standford University study, during the weeks of Thanksgiving to New Years, we end up throwing away 1 million extra tons of waste each of those weeks! So jump on the bandwagon of reusable or recycled gift wrap to tip the scales the other way, and enjoy the flow of creative juices while you do it.

While we can aim to use less paper, we can also aim to recycle what is used. Check out these posts from the Hilltown Families archives for ideas and guidelines on recycling gift wrap:

Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture 
and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.

[Photo credit: (cc) estonia76]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: