5 Ways to Wrap Holiday Gifts Without the Waste

homemade fabric bento bags and gift wrapping for zero waste and plastic free shopping and gift giving

Choosing gift wrap requires too much brainpower that could be better applied elsewhere. Because glossy wrapping paper contains plastic, it cannot go in the recycling bin. Never put any wrap slathered with glitter in there either. Metallic wrapping paper? It goes in the trash. You can recycle simple matte wrapping paper, however. Phew! But good luck finding rolls of matte paper packaged without plastic shrink wrap.

This year, consider opting for more environmentally friendly gift wrap. The ideas below include reusables, homemade-ables and a hybrid of the two. They also happen to look beautiful.

Bento-style bags

homemade fabric bento bags and gift wrapping for zero waste and plastic free shopping and gift giving
Several homemade bento bags and a couple of Furoshiki wraps

You don’t actually have to put anything into these bags. The bags alone make a lovely gift. But of course, you can also fill them with gifts. Find the bento-style bag pattern here.

If you don’t sew, you can buy bento bags made of natural fibers from Non-Disposable Life, which popularized the bento bag. Check out Non-Disposable Life’s bento bags here.

Furoshiki gift wrap

Nestled in with the bento bags in the above picture, the small pink package on the bottom left and the large blue package on the bottom right are examples of Japanese Furoshiki wrapping. You can wrap many, many items with a simple square of thin fabric. After cutting my squares, I finished the edges with a rolled hem on my serger. A zigzag stitch on a standard machine also works.

Again, if you don’t sew, you can buy fabric to wrap your gifts using Furoshiki techniques. You’ll find thousands of choices on Etsy.

Image: Government of Japan’s Ministry of Environment

Cloth produce bags

Purple produce bag upcycled from a donated linen sheet, filled with avocados
Purple produce bag, upcycled from a donated linen sheet

Like bento bags, produce bags serve as bonus gifts. Go here for a tutorial on how to make these with a standard sewing machine or with a serger. You can fill them with all kinds of gifts and not just avocados, although I would appreciate a bag of avocados if anyone wants to give that to me. Don’t sew? Buy produce bags for your low-waste loving recipients.

Brown paper packages, tied up with tape

Earlier this fall, I shipped the above parcels, packaged in custom-made boxes cut from an upcycled cardboard box that we taped closed with homemade paper tape. This paper tape also works well to wrap up presents. To make homemade paper tape, first make the glue (wheat paste), then brush that onto paper strips (the tape) and apply the tape to seal your package.

For the gift wrap you’ll apply the tape to, you could use newspaper, magazines, decorated or plain craft paper, your kids’ artwork, brown paper shopping bags and so on. Go here for a full blog post on paper tape.

Upcycled jars

The wheat paste for the paper tape also works to adhere paper labels to jars. You can score some pretty amazing jars from restaurants and bars simply by asking for them. Go here for information on removing existing labels from salvaged jars. Make new labels and fill your jars with homemade food or whatever else you’d like to put in them.

Of course, you can also forgo the wrapping and give gifts of experiences instead. You’ll find a list of ideas here.

7 Replies to “5 Ways to Wrap Holiday Gifts Without the Waste”

  1. I also use newspaper and flyers.

  2. A lovely post full of great ideas…Thank you for the glue recipe 🙂

  3. I collect tissue paper etc whenever I get deliveries and use string to tie the presents. Love the instructions for plastic free glue! I bought some plastic free, biodegradable, masking tape a while back and use it both as tape and for labels.

  4. Another option that my friends and family do is that we hold onto the same gift bags and tissue paper and rotate them between each other for years at a time. You could get them from thrift stores, even, and do this. I think my family used the same 10 gift bows for a decade when I was a kid! We did it to save money but often times things that save money also are low or zero waste. I think this year I’ll reuse one of those bags, and wrap other gifts in fabric. I need to make one of those bento bags, they look awesome!

    1. Thank you for sharing this great idea, Lauren. I agree about the connection between frugal and zero waste. My dad had low-waste tendencies by default because he was incredibly frugal. I’m glad you like the bags. They are fun to make 🙂
      ~ Anne-Marie

  5. I love all of these ideas! And thank you for the glue/tape recipe 😊

  6. Any suggestions on how to gift bread in a sanitary and low waste way? I’d like to gift them to neighbors, but I live in the PNW and it’s WET outside. Trying to figure out a cost effective and waterproof way for contactless gifting (thus no wax clothes, glass/wooden boxes…etc. bc it’s good, I don’t know abt old boxes either…) thank you!

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