Frugal & Eco-friendly Gift Wapping Ideas

Thursday, December 03, 2020

 December has rolled around once again, officially entering the busiest shopping season of the whole year. No matter how you celebrate Christmas, you've probably got gift-giving on your mind! Have you started to think about gift-wrapping yet? In the UK alone, around 108 million rolls of wrapping paper get thrown away after being torn open on Christmas day. Here are some eco-friendly wrapping alternatives, so you can cut down on your waster this year!

Can Gift Wrapping Be Eco-friendly and Frugal?

Every year, I witness a very predictable scene along my street. Mountains of sparkly paper, bows, boxes, and plastic coated wrapping overflow trash cans, eventually blowing over and littering roads. Yes, those shimmering packages are beautiful and exciting, but it is also damaging the environment.

As with all things eco-friendly, I think the cost and inconvenience tend to scare many of us away. Being environmentally conscious can indeed be more expensive. You pay more for quality, and simple earth-friendly options often come from small business owners which increases the price further. Despite the price, please support small businesses wherever you can! You have to think harder about what you use and how you use it. It's not as convenient as picking up a tube of wrapping paper while doing your food shop.

Types of Eco-friendly Frugal Gift Wrapping

The different types of eco-friendly frugal gift wrapping ideas I want to share with you today can be broken down into four categories: reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle. Travelling back to those school lessons may seem simple, but they are the fundamentals of eco-friendliness! 

Reduce Your Need for Gift Wrapping

Have you ever wondered why 'reduce' is the first word in the saying? The best way to save more money and produce less waste is to reduce the amount of stuff you consume. Reducing the amount you use is easy to do, so it's one of the best ways to start. If you like to have big celebrations with lots of presents, try cutting down each year instead of all at once. It can help you to reduce the feeling of deprivation! As with all things in life, budgeting and sustainable living don’t have to be all-or-nothing!

  • Buy fewer gifts - Obviously, but if you have less stuff to wrap, it’s much easier to use Earth-friendly alternatives. Stick to a handful of desirable, meaningful, or handmade items, and skip out on all the little stuff that just ends up in the trash or donation pile. You could even wrap gifts together in one piece of paper!

  • Give fewer tangible presents and more experiences - If you still prefer to go for volume with your holiday shopping, consider replacing some of it with experiences instead. You can get creative with the gifts you choose as movies and restaurants may not be available to you. To pick the perfect experience, think about what your family love to do on a day out!

  • Don’t wrap everything - Save the gift wrap for the bigger surprises! Avoid wrapping smaller gifts, stocking stuffers and large gifts that require lots of paper. You could always put the gifts into a stocking and put newspaper or tissue paper in the top to hide the contents!

Reusable Items That Become Part of the Gift

You probably have a lot of reusable gift wrapping options sitting around your house. Instead of wrapping paper that gets wasted after use, consider these alternatives. They can be used again or even serve as part of the gift! Fabric is by far the easiest item to use, but maybe a few other ideas pop into your head! Make sure your fabrics are responsibly sourced or sustainable!

  • Reusable shopping bags - Reusable bags are easier than ever to find and come in cute holiday prints. As a bonus, your loved ones have adorable reusable shopping bags they can carry to continue the eco-friendly life! 

  • Scarves - You might have already heard of Furoshiki, the Japanese method of using squares of cloth to wrap gifts. It’s elegant, beautiful, and eliminates the need for paper altogether. The problem is that those gorgeous traditional cloth wraps don’t come cheap. Hit up thrift stores, garage sales, or budget clothing shops, and look for large, square scarves in pretty patterns to try out this gift wrapping method. Then your loved one can wear the scarf and enjoy the gift!

  • Holiday print tea towels - Much like with scarves, you can usually scoop up Christmas printed towels for wrapping small gifts. If the recipient likes to decorate for holidays, they might appreciate wrapping that doubles as décor!

  • Raw fabric - Your local craft store box has lots of patterns of fabric at reasonable prices. If you’ve got a seamstress on your shopping list, get them some much needed crafting supplies. Then wrap in a fun printed fabric, and watch the recipient realize that the wrapping is actually their next project! 

  • Old wrapping and gift bags - Do you save every single bit of salvageable Christmas wrapping that you get your hands on? If so, you’re probably already using those scraps to wrap your presents this year! 

Repurpose Your Trash

The truth is that you probably have tons of packaging that can double as gift wrap. You just need to add some chalkboard labels, paint, crayon, paper, or ribbon or twine to the outside. Here’s a nowhere-near-comprehensive list of ideas for eco-friendly frugal gift wrapping with stuff you’d normally throw away.

  • Baby food jars that hold trinkets, jewellery or loose craft supplies
  • Old Pringles containers carry homemade cookies 
  • Coffee tins and oatmeal canisters can be decorated and hold more delicate items
  • Paint or decorate old 6 pack containers to hold jams, jellies, salsas, spice blends, and more. Otherwise, put together an arts and crafts kit for artistic loved ones. 
  • Toilet paper and paper towel tubes become gift poppers or pockets for candy, small toys, and other stocking stuffers. 
  • Brown paper bags from the store make a great alternative to craft paper
  • Make your own gift envelopes with craft paper, construction paper, newspapers, paper bags… any scrap paper you can find!

Recycling Household Items

If you still want something that feels like traditional wrapping paper, you still have options! When you’re done, you can at least put the packaging in the compost or recycle bin instead of the landfill.

  • Use your delivery boxes - Did you do your shopping online? If your goodies are delivered in blank boxes, keep the gifts in the box. Let the little ones go to town on the boxes with crayons, markers, or biodegradable paint.

  • Craft or construction paper - Go for the classic vintage country vibe with plain craft paper tied up with twine or dress up your packaging with stamps or paint. Just like with the boxes, you can also let little ones decorate the wrapping. This is especially fun if you’re gifting to parents, grandparents, or close relatives because they can keep their favourite part of the wrapping and display the art!

  • Newspaper - Go classic with black and white print or have fun with the comic section.

  • Old maps - I always find cheap maps at thrift stores or second-hand bookstores! These make really fun wrappers for your loved ones with a bad case of wanderlust. 

  • Recyclable gift wrapping - Sparkly, shiny wrapping paper is not recyclable. The recycled paper probably can be pricey, but you can buy wrapping that’s safe to recycle. Recycled paper may not be as pretty, but wrapping paper is torn through instantly, so you aren't missing out! 

Whether you want to have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas, or you just want to cut down on your trash load a little bit, there is no shortage of ideas and materials you can use! What’s your favourite eco-friendly frugal gift wrapping idea? Want to take things a step further?
 I'd love to hear what you're doing this year to cut down on your Christmas waste and have an eco-friendly holiday! 

Mrs P&P is a teacher, mama, and content creator on Problems & Projects, where she shares her experiences and helps people conquer challenges in the home and budget. You can also check out how her family is chipping away at tens of thousands in consumer debt through monthly budget reports that detail real-life spending, savings, and debt payoff. If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out the blog and follow on social media!

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  1. Reuseable shopping bags are such good ideas! I work in a schuh shop and we sell reuseable bags and around the festive time as soon as you say to them this makes perfect gift bag theyre on it! I recently bought some wrapping paper that's actually recycleable and i didnt even know!

  2. You had so many amazing ideas! I have been trying to get better at more eco-friendly gift wrapping. This year I reused some wrapping paper I had from last year that looks like Mickey Mouse and Peanuts comics. And I thought, why didn't I just buy a newspaper? lol but I also used gift boxes that can be reused and paper bags with a cute print.

    Grislean |

  3. I love the reusable shopping bag idea! We're not exchanging gifts this year due to Covid, but I'm going to start looking for cute bags ready for next year and family birthdays throughout 2021!
    Thanks Em x 🎄