9 zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas for a more sustainable way of giving

Be inspired by our stylish no waste Christmas wrap solutions, for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional paper wrapped presents

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas
(Image credit: Molly Mahon)

We all want to do our bit to aid a more sustainable future which is why zero waste gift wrapping ideas are such a great place to start this festive season.

While many brands and companies are thinking more about where they source their paper and wrapping from, opting for more recycled and brown paper wrapping ideas, it’s still down to us to make sure we’re being as mindful as possible with our choices.

If we can all avoid buying new if we don't need too, papers that can’t be recycled (that’s anything with glitter on it) and tags that include one-use plastic, we can at least take some positive steps towards being kinder to the planet this Christmas and still execute many of our Christmas ideas.

Zero waste gift wrap ideas

From brown paper packages to gifts tied in fabric off cuts, opting for zero waste gift wrapping ideas will not only result in sustainable alternatives, but beautiful ones too. And think outside the box too, Christmas eve box ideas are getting bigger each year and each gift thats popped inside doesn't need to be individually wrapped.

Molly Mahon Founder of Molly Mahon says, “Rather than buying rolls of traditional wrapping paper, it's fun to have a go at making your own.’ 

‘If you give someone a present wrapped in a piece of paper you’ve made- it's already special before they’ve opened it! You can be sure that your printing efforts will not be thrown away by the recipient, but treasured alongside the gift’

‘Our Block Print Gift Set is a veritable box of possibilities, containing everything required for creating your own block-printed Christmas stationery, including plain wrapping paper, card sets and gift tags, plus water-based, Soil Association-approved paints, stipplers, and three of our brilliant Christmas-themed block prints.’

With so many possible zero waste gift wrapping ideas, you’ll never look back to traditional methods again!

1. Draw on brown paper

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/Carolyn Barber)

Create a super-cute ‘driving home for Christmas’ wrap. Start by wrapping your gift in recyclable brown paper and then simply draw your own unique vehicle design directly onto the paper using marker or metallic pens. If you’re not a confident drawer, sketch out your drawing in pencil first, then go over it in black marker once you’re happy with the design.

Pop a small wire Christmas tree on the top of each gift and tie with cotton stripy string for a festive finishing touch.

2. Utilise fabric off cuts

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/Carolyn Barber)

Put fabric remnants to good use and create linen cloth-tied presents. Adorn with clear baubles filled with winter foliage for a fresh take on seasonal wrapping.

Known as Furoshiki, it's the traditional Japanese art of wrapping and transporting gifts with squares of silk or cotton. While it can look pretty amazing (once you nail the knack of it) it does take a few goes to get it right, and you will have to either ask for the fabric back, or encourage your recipient to reuse it.

Fiona Austin, Founder of Cabban & Co, says, ‘Using fabric is the most stylish and sustainable alternative and there are a few options out there. Here at Cabban & Co we use a unique combination of cotton squares and ribbon.’ 

‘The ribbons are tied, not the fabric; meaning you get a clean, traditional wrapping paper & ribbon look. We have also thoughtfully provided an ‘Etiquette Tag’ to ask the receiver to “return the present to the giver, with thanks” so you can guarantee their use, time and time again.’

3. Add old book script to your wrap

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/Carolyn Barber)

Pages from old books or even sheet music make beautiful wrapping paper to delight your friends and family. Combine script at a different scale for gift tags as an added decorative touch.

Scour charity shops or car boot sales for pre-loved books and use a sharp craft knife to cut the pages free from the spine.

Use silk, velvet or chiffon ribbon to add a touch of glamour to this simple wrap.

4. Recycle paper gift bags

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/Carolyn Barber)

Add glitz to gifts using gold and white striped paper bags. Punch a row of holes along the top edge to thread through gold raffia or velvet ribbon in a contrasting colour, and tie of hand-written paper tags, for a simple finishing touch. 

Small-sized gift bags make a great vessel for place setting gifts at the dinner table, or even advent gifts come the countdown to Christmas. With so many different use, they are a great staple to have on hand so it’s worth stocking up on ones such as these Striped candy bags, £4 for 100, Amazon.

5. Use up leftover lining paper

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/Carolyn Barber)

Using paper acts as the perfect foil to a shimmering sprayed fern frond. Simply spray-paint a clean, dry leaf and secure in place on top of your gift with a gold buckle and length of velvet ribbon, for an elegant seasonal flourish.

And don’t stop at lining paper, leftover wallpaper of any design or pattern makes a great alternative to buying new wrap. 

6. Give paper maché boxes a twist

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/Carolyn Barber)

Embellish paper maché boxes with lengths of hessian and add sprigs or mini wreaths of rosemary for a festive look that is natural and easy to achieve.

Start by cutting two lengths of hessian, long enough for each to wrap around the sides of the box, then secure both ends on the top.

Next cut a circle from card to make a label and place in the centre of the attached hessian, using a pen of your choice to write your giftees name.

Finally gently bend some rosemary sprigs to form a mini wreath shape and secure the ends with florist’s wire, attaching to the top of the written label.

7. Make your own designs

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Molly Mahon)

There’s nothing as satisfying and joyful as designing and making your own wrap for enveloping gifts this Christmas. Block printing is a traditional technique that has been used in India for decades and is easy to achieve even for novices (as long as you equip yourself with the right tools!)

Molly Mahon Founder of Molly Mahon says, ‘The paper in our wrapping paper & cards is made from waste garments - unwanted fabric remnants and waste garments from the fashion industry which is then turned into quality paper by pulping then pressing them into beautiful, cotton paper sheets.’

‘One of the great joys of block printing is its huge gifting potential. At Christmas, I buy rolls of recycled brown paper and the children and I go to town. There is nothing more heartfelt than a piece of hand-printed wrap - or even a simple, printed card. Our wooden print blocks are expertly hand carved from Indian rosewood and make lovely gifts or stocking fillers in themselves.’

8. Look to a festive staple

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

If you’re inspired by the block printing techniques in our last idea, but really need to keep the costs down this Christmas, then look no further than to the humble spud. Not just (arguably) the star of the Christmas lunch, a potato has great potential as a DIY block to create festive patterns on paper.

Simply cut your potato in half, sketch a design (the simpler the better in our experience) and cut away the excess using a sharp knife. Layer on some paint, like the Anhenian Black chalk paint, £23.95 for 1L, Annie Sloan and get printing! 

9. Opt for a Santa-style sack

Zero waste Christmas gift wrapping ideas

(Image credit: Future Plc/David Brittain)

Turn an old housewife pillowcase into a sack for stashing goodies! Start by turning the pillowcase inside out and open up a side hem by about 4cm from the top. Fold both raw edges back in on themselves and stitch into place. Create a drawstring channel if you’re feeling whizzy or otherwise use ribbon to tie the top shut once your gifts are inside.

For extra festive flair, add bobble trim or pom poms to the ribbon and stencil on snowflake shapes using chalk paint.

But if the thought of unearthing the sewing machine is bringing you out in sweats, Olivia Walter, Marketing Executive at Paperchase, advises an alternative. ‘Not the best at wrapping? No problem! Our reusable drawstring gifting bags, £12 for 2, are just what you need. Designed to bring joy for years to come, they have been crafted from durable cotton or recycled polyester and are a great way to gift sustainably – simply pop in your pressie and tie (no tape required!).’

What can I use instead of traditional wrapping paper this Christmas?

Almost anything can be used to wrap your gifts instead of traditional paper, so think what you can utilise in your home before you buy anything new. Any kinds of fabrics, papers or gift bags that you have lying around from previous gifting is great to reuse, so avoid buying new at all costs.

Olivia says, ‘Paperchase have plenty of sustainable alternatives to traditional wrapping this holiday season. Our Kraft range is the eco superstar of our wrap world. Recycled and recyclable, all papers, bags and accessories have been thoroughly considered to be naturally better for giftees and the planet (while still brimming with holiday cheer, of course!).’

‘Plus our festive Kraft roll wrap is 100% recyclable and FSC approved, so won’t harm the planet. And, we’re pulling back on plastic and all of our festive roll wraps are protected with fully recyclable sugar cane film, perfect for those who wish to have a conscious Christmas.’

What is the most eco-friendly way of wrapping?

Olivia says, ‘One of the most eco-friendly ways to wrap this festive season is with our fabulous Seed Paper products. From gift bags to boxes, tags and cards, this range is 100% biodegradable with a secret surprise. Just rip up the paper when you’re done, pop into soil and watch beautiful blooms grow –gift wrap that gives back! Our Reindeer Seed Paper Card is a particular favourite, especially with the little ones. The paper holds carrot seeds that can be grown, ready for when the reindeers return next year.’

But fabric is another great way to wrap gifts to ensure they look fabulous too. 

Fiona says, ‘While fabric gift wrap is an investment initially, Christmas is the ideal time to start as there are so many presents to be wrapped and it’s easy to get it back. The investment will pay off within a couple of years.’

'Fabric gift wrap has been used in Japan for centuries and they have an established etiquette of returning the gift wrapping to the giver. Until fabric wrapping becomes the norm in the UK, we have to ask for it back and explain the etiquette. Cabban & Co have helpfully provided a Free Etiquette Tag that does the explaining for you.'

Holly Walsh
Content Editor

Holly Walsh has been Content Editor at Ideal Home since 2021, but joined the brand back in 2015. With a background of studies in Interior Design, her career in interior journalism was a no-brainer and her passion for decorating homes is still as strong as it ever was. While Holly has written for most of the home titles at Future, including Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Homes and Gardens and Style at Home, Ideal Home has always been her ideal home, and she can be found sharing her expertise and advice across both the printed magazine and the website too.

With contributions from