Zero waste gift wrap step by step - beautiful gift wrap, zero waste

Wrap your presents waste - and guilt - free this Christmas with our easy how to

Brown gift boxes with hessian ribbon and handmade tags
(Image credit: Future PLC)

The festive season means gifts galore, as we all take the opportunity to treat our loved ones to something special. What's more satisfying than giving - and of course, receiving - a perfectly wrapped gift with a pretty bow on top, ready to be opened on Christmas morning. 

The adverse side of giving Christmas gifts is the waste that usually comes with it. As we all make the effort to be more eco-conscious, it's harder to ignore the rolls of wrapping paper that end up in the bin after the big day. That's where zero waste gift wrap ideas come in, to salvage us from our guilt and let us continue to indulge in the joy of gift giving, but without contributing to landfill.

'Christmas is a great time to have fun with creative present wrapping, but it’s important that we’re careful not to create a lot of waste,' says Scott Hawthorne, Director, 'Keeping your packaging more sustainable will also mean that you won’t have as much waste to clean up or organise after Christmas, which can be a great bonus, too!'

If you want to do Christmas a little more sustainably this year - for yourself and the planet - we've tried and tested the perfect zero waste gift wrap method, so you can wrap your presents beautifully without worrying about the excess. Keep reading for some dreamy zero waste gift wrap step by step, and we're certain you won't go back to buying rolls of wrapping paper in the future.

Brown gift boxes with hessian ribbon and handmade tags

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Zero waste gift wrap step by step

Our favourite zero waste gift wrap idea involves swapping paper for boxes, and ribbon for hessian. They work together to create a charmingly rustic effect, and look perfect when topped with a hand-made rosemary wreath gift tag. 

To create this earthy gift wrap style, and reduce waste to the minimum, you'll need to first get your hands on the items below.

Shopping list

Brown box, scissors, hessian, rosemary and cards for gift wrapping

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Once you've got the necessary supplies, you're good to crack on with zero waste gift wrap step by step.

1. Fill your boxes

The first step with zero waste gift wrap step by step is simply to fill your boxes with their gifts. This one kind of goes without saying, but we did think it worth mentioning in case you completed the steps below on empty boxes (oops!).

2. Cut the hessian

Next, cut two lengths of hessian, long enough for each to wrap around the sides of the box. You don't need to cut excess to allow for a bow to be tied like you would with regular gift wrap ideas. 

Trim the length so it's just long enough to meet in the middle at the top of the box.

3. Stick the hessian

Brown box with hessian being stuck on

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Stick the two ends of hessian on to the box using double-sided tape. Repeat with the other piece of hessian so that they meet in the same place.

4. Make the gift tags

Gift tags being made and stuck to brown gift box

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Grab your card and cut into circles for the gift tags, or you may have purchased card that was pre-cut, further eliminating waste from your end. If you're feeling creative you could cut your tags into star shapes instead. 

Write names onto the tags using your nice metallic pen or marker. We love how gold looks with the neutral brown of the boxes and hessian.

5. Create the rosemary wreath

Rosemary wreath being stuck to gift tag on brown box

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Gently bend the rosemary sprig to form a mini wreath shape and secure the ends with florist's wire. Rosemary is ideal because it can be easily bent into the shape you want without snapping, if you don't pull it too harshly. You may need to join two sprigs together to go around the full circle. Trim the ends of the florist's wire once you've tied the rosemary in place.

Tape the mini rosemary wreath onto the gift tag. Trim the tape so it's hidden by the rosemary and isn't overlapping round the edges.

6. Add the gift tag

All that's left is to tape the gift tag on top of the hessian ribbon, at the point where the ends meet. 

And that's it! You've learnt the best way for zero waste gift wrap step by step, and you can admire your beautiful presents ready to be given to the lucky recipients. 

How do you make eco friendly wrapping?

Green and white fabric gift wrapped presents

(Image credit: Joy of Print x Tori Murphy)

There is an environmentally friendly option if you still want to wrap your gifts in paper. Instead of buying new wrapping paper from the store, you can take any sheets of paper that you don’t need anymore, and turn them into beautiful gift wrap!

'Newspaper will work, or larger sheets of craft paper you’ve got lying around. You could also reuse the packaging that your orders arrive in and decorate this,' says Scott from Skipsandbins. 

'If you don’t already have spare paper, try buying recycled brands of paper to print, or even brown paper that you know can be recycled, as opposed to the more plastic-based types of wrapping paper.'

Scott outlines the following steps to make your beautiful eco-conscious wrapping paper.

  • Roll out your spare paper ready to stencil your own pattern on it
  • Simply cut out some stencils — you can find free ones online, or draw your own designs
  • Then, lay the stencils over your wrapping paper, and paint the designs with metallic paint, or another colour of your choice. Use an eco-friendly paint if you can, such as one marked as being free from harmful chemicals

'The patterns can be as bold or as subtle as you want, depending on the colours you choose,' adds Scott. 'So have fun and find a palette that works with your home Christmas aesthetic!'

There's also the option to wrap gifts in reusable fabric. Fabric wrapping looks great and doesn't crease the same way as paper does. 'Consider using a scarf or cloth and try Furoshiki – the art of Japanese fabric wrapping – to gift wrap your items and provide a gift within a gift!,' suggest the experts at Ecover. 'With so many tutorials online, this is a simple way to level up your gifting easily and sustainably.'

How do you use the waste gift wrapper?

'After the big day, resist the urge to bundle wrapping materials into the recycling as this will contribute to the masses of landfill created around Christmas,' say the sustainability experts at Ecover. 'Instead, give them a new lease of life for future celebrations and gifting opportunities.' 

We often see Christmas wrapping paper as single-use, but this doesn't have to be the case at all. It's such a shame to use the beautiful gift wrap only once before throwing it away, so this year try and save as much as you can and store it away for next year.

There are plenty of DIY Christmas decor ideas that would benefit from leftover paper. You could try shredding the wrapping paper to make decorations. Fill empty baubles with the paper scraps and make a wonderful alternative tree decoration. Or, get creative and stick a mixture of scraps to a box, creating a lovely festive patchwork design.

'You could even use off cuts of wrapping paper to make bags of all sizes,' suggests Hema Chauhan, Founder, Curlicue. 'To make the gift bags last longer, fold over the opening and the top, then punch a couple of holes and thread through some twine or ribbon along with a gift tag. They can easily be folded, stored in a drawer and be ready for whenever you need, so you don't buy more. This way you reduce the waste that must be processed, which is much better for the environment.'

How to recycle Christmas wrapping paper

Neutral brown paper with twine and Christmas trees

(Image credit: Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan)

If you are disposing of packaging and wrapping paper, it's important to do it in a responsible and eco-friendly way. 

'In the aftermath of the festive celebrations, it can be easy to mix up different sorts of rubbish, but this can contaminate an entire batch of recycling, so it’s well worth taking the time to sort through all your used wrapping properly', says Scott from Skipsandbins.

Any wrapping paper printed with glittery designs or plastic metallic or holographic details cannot be recycled. If you’re in doubt about whether a sheet of wrapping can be recycled, scrunch it up into a ball — if it stays that way, it can be recycled. 

Lastly, always try to remove sticky tape from wrapping before recycling where you can. The glue can cause problems with the recycling processing machines, so it’s best to remove as much of it as possible.

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.