Condo Blues: 33 Realistic Ways to Green Your Gift Wrap

Thursday, December 17, 2009

33 Realistic Ways to Green Your Gift Wrap

I like wrapping gifts. I have quite the reputation as a good wrapper, yo. It doesn’t have to be hard, expensive, or wasteful. I’ve developed many tips and tricks for wrapping beautiful gifts through trial and lots of error. To do this I rely on two essentials:

1. My box of boxes. I have a box full of different size gift boxes, gift bags, and gift tins that are always ready and waiting for me to use and reuse.
2. A box of gift wrap and supplies. Gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, tag making supplies, old Christmas cards, gift toppers, scissors, and tape are waiting for me to use and reuse too.

After the holiday I replenish both with items that I can reuse from the gifts we’ve received on Christmas day. How green and thrifty is THAT?

Although most of my recipients don’t realize that the item in their hands is wrapped in a green in your face manner. All they see is a pretty package. And that’s the way I like it.

So what do I specifically use to wrap my holiday gifts in a green, festive, and inexpensive manner? Let’s take a look.

Gift Wraps

1. Save and reuse paper gift wrap from year to year – Well gee that one’s easy, inexpensive too.
2. Buy gift wrap made from recycled paper – If you can find and the price doesn’t blow a hole in your budget, have at.
3. Maps – It’s not like you can fold them back up like you’re supposed to anyway. Why not reuse those vacation maps as gift wrap?
4. Kids drawings – Best for smaller gifts and make sure the kiddos are OK with the possibility of their masterpieces being cut to size during wrapping or ripped during unwrapping first.
5. Brown paper bags – I like the rustic look and use green cloth ribbon or real twine and top with pine cones or seedpods. Very masculine, very green, and very cheap.
6. Newspaper – I don’t use this anymore because I don’t get the newspaper. When I do it’s my local alternative weekly and I feel weird wrapping a gift in the personal ads (unless it’s as a joke for the newly single.) Your mileage may vary.
7. Fabric – Great for odd shaped gifts. I once got a handpainted flower pot and herb books wrapped like a gift basket in fabric because I sew. And yes, I loved and used both gifts.
8. Kitchen towels/cloth napkins, tablecloth, etc. - My mom does this with wedding shower gifts. Last year my father gave wine he had made wrapped in new kitchen towels. Mom said she liked that idea and will do it when she wraps her homemade soy candles as gifts. (Gifts of wine and candles? Oh tell me they aren’t not-so-subtly asking for grandkids, I dare you.)
9. Scarves – Sometimes the wrapping can be an extra gift. Like say wrapping the new winter hat and gloves your husband so desperately needs in the scarf.
10. Put the regular wrapping paper you used in a city recycling bin – Some cities will recycle wrapping paper. If so, great! OK, so it may not be so green on the front end but it is on the back end. Sometimes life gives you circumstances where you just have to punt.

Reusable Non-Wraps AKA Containers so Pretty They Don’t Need Paper Wraps

Slap a bow on top and you’re done. Pretty, quick, and reusable – I like! This is an excellent solution for those of you who are convinced you can’t wrap/hate to wrap gifts.

1. Cookie/popcorn/food tins – Excellent for experience gifts like tickets or membership paperwork because it makes the gift look more significant than just handing over an envelope. If the tin is a little worse for wear, spiff it up with some leftover spray paint first.
2. Chinese takeout style boxes – I found a bunch of new plain white ones in a thrift store, decorated them with stickers and got raves – easy and cheap! Great kid project too.
3. Printed/decorated box – This may not work out so well if you have people who like to peep at their gifts under the tree before Christmas.
4. Gift bag (fabric/paper/decorate a store bag) - I save and reuse gift bags from year to year. In a pinch, I’ve decorated and reused paper shopping bags. This is another excellent kid craft. I use undecorated store shopping bags for pet gifts because Christmas is the one day out of the year that Blitzkrieg is allowed to shred paper and he likes to unwrap his own gifts.
I can pull my gift out by myself if it’s wrapped in a gift bag. I’m very careful which allows Lisa to reuse my gift bags.

Gift Bag/Box Stuffing

1. Save tissue paper from previous years – If you can. Sometimes it just doesn’t hold up from one year to the next.
2. Use/buy shredded/crinkled paper – Once I found this stuff I switched over to stuffing gift bags with this instead of tissue paper. It’s much easier to save and reuse from year to year.
3. Shred old wrapping/colored paper – A good solution if you have a paper shredder and gift wrap that your city doesn’t recycle or you run out of #1 and #2, the store’s closed, and you’re about to leave for a party. Guess how I know?


I love packages tied up with strings. And ribbons. You can still have ribbons and be green about it too.
1. Natural raffia – You can compost it afterward. Watch out for the plasticy fake stuff unless you think the person will reuse it
2. Paper craft ribbon – Yes, it’s difficult to reuse or recycle in a bin but you can compost it because it’s paper.
3. Colored twine – As long as it’s made from a natural fiber it’s compostable too.
4. Wired ribbon - Easy to refluff and reuse for the following year. I use this a lot because I love topping ribbon with big poufy bows made from more wired ribbon.
5. Cloth ribbon from your sewing/gift wrap stash.
6. Cloth rick rack from your sewing/gift wrap stash.
7. Reuse old video/cassette tape – One divorcee I know used her old wedding video. *Ouch*
8. Yarn from your craft/gift wrap stash.


1. Save and reuse bows – to save a smashed bow snip through the loops and fluff so it looks a bit like a chrysanthemum. If it still looks a little anemic, tape a second smashed, clipped and refluffed bow inside the first one. Then be cagey when the recipient asks where you bought such cool looking bow for her gift.
The formerly squashed bow. My apologies for the picture quality

2. Fronts of Christmas cards – I usually do this on gifts I have to mail since bows get smashed during shipping.
3. Make a bow from recycled magazines or chip bags – I’m doing this for Mr. H’s gift this year because he proudly told me that he won an award at school for recycling (you go Mr. H!) I think he’d appreciate the extra effort. Thus clinching the title of World’s Most Fabulous Aunt (trademark pending) for yet another year.
4. Greenery/pine cones/seedpods/leaves – Tie a little cluster with some ribbon and no-one will ever realize that you ran out of traditional gift bows and ribbon. They will talk about your Martha Stewart gift wrapping powers instead.
5. Silk or dried flowers – I have these from old bridesmaid’s bouquets in my gift wrapping box. I pull a few flowers/greenery out and tie them together w/ ribbon. If the silks are a little worse for wear I give them a quick spiff up with leftover silver or gold spray paint and make them festive again.
6. Old garland - Tie a loop of old garland together with string to make a bow – like cluster or use in place of ribbon.
7. Christmas ornaments – If it’s a personalized ornament it doubles as a gift tag! Minimal effort and maximum impact – what’s not to like?

Gift Tags

I’ve never purchased a gift tag. Ever. I use a combination of the following:

1. Fronts of old Christmas cards I received from previous years.
2. Wrapping paper scraps cut into a rectangle and folded over – You can spiff them up or cut them down to size with decorative scrap booking scissors if you have them.
3. Make gift tags from old business cards – I glue 2 business cards together front sides facing in, shape with scissors or a decorative corner punch, and punch a hole in the top to tie to the gift. Easy!
I make blank gift tags up ahead of time to make wrapping go more quickly.

4. Cut gift tags from paper w/ scrap booking stamps/cuttersRenovation Therapy makes round gift tags by punching out and gluing together two different sizes and types of decorative paper. Pretty!

What is your favorite way to wrap gifts?

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Robj98168 said...

I have to admit that I am a Gift Bag Junkie- but last year used only Canvass Bags for presents. And for the kids I put their bounty in stockings (wearable ones)

Morgan said...

Ooo I love this post, it makes me want to twirl around the room holding ribbons! a gift wrapping fool. Truth statement: it's one of my favorite parts about Christmas. I'm so weird. I'm just about the presentation, I guess. These are really great ideas!! I love getting crafty with wrapping...but unfortunately, two things were in my way this year: 1) ridiculously cute paper I found that I had to have and 2) I just NOW started Christmas shopping.

I love this post, though. Going to bookmark it and refer back to it!


Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom said...

Great ideas! I don't think I've bought gift boxes, bags or tissue paper for years, I save and reuse them. I love your idea of shredding old wrapping paper for stuffing as well. We use this year's cards for next years gift tags...

Almost Mrs Average said...

I think this has to be the best gift-wrapping post I've seen. It's fabulous. This year I'm startig the tradition of using Christmas fabric that will be reused and passed on each year. I had intended to make gift bags but not being good with a sewing machine and needing to work quickly, I ended up just using a pinking shears and tying up the fabric with ribbon. I haven't spent a penny on wrapping paper this year. I know the fabric was more expensive but next year we should see some savings :-)

valentine unique gifts said...

For a package perfect for girls or boys stick to themes that are universal. Animal themes can be fun to follow by wrapping gifts in faux fur and tieing zebra or lion stripped pencils, or animal masks into the topper with curling ribbon.

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