9 Stylish and Sustainable Ways to Wrap Gifts

Bag with christmas presents wrapped in brown paper and burlap sitting on a wooden table

ArtistGNDphotography / Getty Images

Give virgin paper and plastic bows the heave-ho-ho-ho with these chic and earth-friendly alternatives -- several costing nothing at all! So many frolicking flocks of reindeer and rosy-cheeked Santas are sacrificed each year in the name of disguising presents. The average consumer wraps 20 gifts each year, just imagine all of that holly-decked paper whose destiny is a one way trip to the landfill. What an ignoble fate for the trees that gave their lives to be printed with holiday cheer! According to Stanford University, if every American family wrapped three presents in reused materials, the saved paper would cover 45,000 football fields! With that in mind, here are our favorite alternative wraps that rely on recycled materials and/or recycled paper -- several of which are completely free, employing materials around the house or in nature. Make the recycled comic book bow here yourself, or pick some up from Etsy shop Mumre for $2 each.

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Make Typographic Gift Wrap

Pages from multiple books

MOURIER NINA / Getty Images

And the award for best gift tag alternative, best use of old books, and best avoidance of candy cane wrapping paper goes to: DIY Typographic Gift Wrap.

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Perform Magic with Scraps and Bits

present wrapped in handmade gift wrap

erika g / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Flickr-er erika g. provides a classic example of the magic that can happen with "an old paper bag, toilet paper rolls, sweetgum fruit from a tree on my street, collaged magazine pages, Joss paper, and found ribbon." Beautiful!

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Borrow from Nature

Wrapped box topped with a handmade bow and sweetgum fruit

erika g / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Erika g. also shows us that we don't need plastic bows and pompoms when we have trees that drop their own pompoms on the ground for us to use. Think pine sprigs, pine cones, seed pods, dried flowers, little branches, et cetera.

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DIY Plantable Flower Seed Paper

Two pots of seedlings sitting by a window

Troy Tolley / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Open present, bury wrapping paper, grow a garden ... or, how to turn giftwrap into a gift as well. Although making your own paper isn't as easy as unrolling a sheet from a tube, this tutorial makes it a pretty simple process: DIY Plantable Flower Seed Paper.

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Get Crafty With a Bag

Gifts wrapped in stamped brown paper

wundoroo / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

There's a natural tendency to want to wrap with brown paper bags; take a tip from wundoroo at Flickr who not only stamps the paper first, but them sews it together with a festive zig-zag! No tape, no ribbon, totally cute.

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Raid Your Desk

Pile of envelopes mailed from all over

SorenP / Getty Images 

If you have an abundance of odds and ends in your office supply drawer, you'd be surprised at how nicely they can come to your assistance when gift wrapping. Reuse old paper and envelopes; also good for labels and other shipping supplies that may be collecting dust now that actually sending things from home is increasingly rare.

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Go Furoshiki

Gift wrapped with a cloth with a cherry blossom pattern

imagenavi / Getty Images

Oh, for the days before the single-use plastic shopping bag, when people would use fabric to create their satchels. The traditional Japanese art of wrapping and carrying goods in cloth, Furoshiki, works splendidly for gifts. Kind of like a very functional fabric origami, it also leaves the gifted with an extra gift of the cloth (like a pretty scarf). You can see a long list of styles and techniques here.

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Choose Mustaches, Owls, and Bikes

Gifts wrapped in mustache wrapping paper

Ruff House Art

Letterpress and design studio, Ruff House Art, offers paper emblazoned with all things hipster, including mustaches, owls, and tandem bikes. And all printed with vegetable-based inks on recycled paper. (Ruff House Art, from $7)

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Dress up a Gift with a Bow

Bow made from sheet music on a gift wrapped in brown paper

mumre / Etsy

Plain recycled wrapping looks fabulous finished off with a clever bow ... like this one made from an antique song book from the early 20th century. All bows by Etsy shop, mumre, are handmade and sealed together using their homemade glue. (mumre, $2)