DIY Eco-Festive Gift Wrap

Give new life to your unused and forgotten paper products by transforming them into DIY eco-friendly gift wrap for the holidays!

According to, 4 millions tons of gift wrap and gift bags are wasted during the holiday season. A lot of the store-bought wrapping paper, while cute and festive, tends to have a large environmental impact. Dyes and glitter used to make gift wrap merry are not always recyclable. Recycle Now has an informative resource page on how to recycle used gift wrap with your local authorities. There are many online retailers that sell attractive, recycled gift wrap. Like those sold at Ecosaurus, recycled wrapping paper uses some percentage of post consumer paper, meaning that some part or all of the gift wrap was produced using paper that you, your office or your school did not waste. Vegetable and soy based dyes are usually used to color recycled wrapping paper, which have a very low environmental impact.

If you like to Do-It-Yourself for the holidays, or want to try a cheap, creative, and especially green way to rev up your gift giving, make your own eco-friendly wrapping paper!

Scope out your kitchen, cluttered shelves and closets for items like brown paper bags, old gift bags, outdated magazines and newspapers, maps, wallpaper samples, tissue paper, and even old clothes. All of these items can be embellished with stamps, paint, stickers or crayon. Anything that fully conceals the gift, is uniquely decorated, and has a low environmental impact is A-Ok for a DIY holiday.

Here we took a few paper items that were being ignored, but had potential for a new life during the holidays. Brown paper bags and maps, as shown above, are especially sturdy for gifts with sharp corners. While the map needed little, if any, embellishing, the brown paper bag was like a blank canvas to an artist.

Using one of the side creases of the bag as a guide, cut down to the bottom and get rid of the base by trimming around the perimeter. This will allow you to completely open up the bag and lay it flat for decorating. What we did was add green, art nouveau style stamps all over the bag. It took about 30 seconds, so it was super easy and it looks  totally festive. Now, wrap up your package with your new wrapping paper.

If you have a bag with handles, like we did, you can use them in place of a bow. Gently remove the handles (you can steam them off, but tearing carefully will do) and reapply them to each side of your wrapped package near the top. This adds a bit of quirky functionality. By being environmentally conscious, you can breathe new life into totally reusable items such as a simple grocery bag.

Some other ideas for eco-festive gift wrap include but aren’t limited to –

Oragami boxes. For small gifts like jewelry, folded up scrap paper is a lot more impressive than it sounds!

Rather than bows, which are not always recyclable, use yarn for that special touch.

The December/January 2010 issue of Ready Made cleverly suggests wrapping your gifts in old flannels and double-stick tape. This can certainly warm the giftee’s heart.

Don’t feel cheap for keeping used wrapping paper, reusing it, or asking for the paper back once it’s been given. If it’s not torn to shreds, then you can reuse it.

Being eco-friendly and DIY for the holidays does not have to be time consuming and does not have to produce ornate, overly elaborate results. The doer does not have to think of herself as creative. It’s the environmental responsibility and the personal touch that really makes your eco-festive gift wrap great. Have fun with it!

Tell us about some of your eco-friendly and DIY holiday traditions. Happy wrapping!


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  1. Avatar
    Melissa 12/16/2009 at 6:43 pm #

    I have been using grocery adds as my gift wrap this year. Its fun to have meat themed or veggie themed wrapped presents. Also, this is my way of sharing with my family the inflated prices of food in rural Alaska.

  2. Avatar
    Renai 12/16/2009 at 9:47 pm #

    All of my paper is made from recycled bags this year, and wrapped up with leftover yarn! I love how they turned out.

  3. Avatar
    Katie 12/16/2009 at 10:07 pm #

    I’m been using cut up plastic grocery bags as tissue paper this year.

    Using decorated brown lunch bags will be perfect for the jewelry I’m making for my friends! And also the Origami boxes! Thanks so much, guys!

  4. Avatar
    Adia W. 12/16/2009 at 11:45 pm #

    they should make bio-degradable gift wrap from the prints at the stores

  5. Avatar
    Katharine Ellis Tapley 12/17/2009 at 10:44 am #

    I actually printed out saying onto a sheet of old sticky name labels (the blank kind, not the “Hello my name is” kind) and stuck them all over ordinary paper. They doubled as the tape, looked modern and funky, saved me money (because we already had the labels in my husband’s desk for who knows how long) and we didn’t have to consume anything.

  6. Avatar
    Jewel 12/23/2009 at 11:13 am #

    I decided this year not to buy or use any store gift wrap. So far, all I have had to buy is a single gift bag.
    Otherwise, I have been using brightly colored magazine pages to wrap presents, bags and tissue paper from stores I bought gifts at, or bags from presents I’ve received in years past. I even used the shipping paper in a box I got, and stamped it all over with a homemade potato stamp to use as colorful gift wrap.
    For decoration, I’ve used ribbon from previous gifts, or I’ve shaped paper into bows and flowers.
    Every time I sample a perfume or cologne, I keep the tag, and later use it for a gift tag. It smells good, the tag is thick like card stock, and they often come in fancy designs or have mysterious French words on them. 😛
    So far I have had a lot of fun specially wrapping each gift, making everyone’s gifts unique while spending virtually nothing. (I guess I’ll have to pay for more scotch tape soon..)
    I would encourage anyone else to try it. It’s fun and saves a lot of store-bought wrapping paper from being wasted.
    Happy holidays :]


  1. ModLife » Blog Archive » DIY Gift Tags and Green Last Minute Gifts! - 12/22/2009

    […] it’s crunch time. You’ve wrapped your gifts using festive and eco-friendly gift wrap, and NOW in this ModLife exclusive, you’ll have the opportunity to print out our SUPER CUTE […]

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