Sustainable Wrapping Guide

Jenny and Michaela with sustainably wrapped gifts

Wrapping gifts is not a necessity – of course, leaving gifts unwrapped is the most sustainable option to reduce material production and waste! But, we know (and agree!) wrapped gifts are adorable, so we’re sharing some sustainable wrapping ideas to help reduce waste this season, or anytime you want to wrap a gift for a loved one.

If you’re struggling to find a gift, read our Sustainable Gift Guide for ideas.

Reuse what you have! 

We save packaging paper from shipments because it makes great wrapping paper, and you can style it with some twine or colorful ribbon! Save any shopping bags you get (like the odd occasion when you forget your reusable tote!) and bring them to life with markers or paint, or deconstruct them and turn them into wrapping paper!

You may have leftover wrapping paper tucked away in a closet from last year, or a box filled with gift bags from over the years. Reuse those precious items, and encourage your loved ones to reuse these, too! Be sure to let them know what is recyclable, or you can offer to recycle (or reuse) for them!

reused gift bag and packing paper

Wrap with fabric!

Wrapping with fabric can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like. You can purchase reusable Japanese wrapping cloths called Furoshiki, wrap with a tea towel or scarf that your loved one would like, or use fabric from around the house! You can also find plenty of fabric options at thrift stores.

We used a pillow case, a holiday napkin, and a Marley’s UNpaper towel in place of traditional Furoshikis and touched each one up with some greenery, twine, or a thrifted ornament. Watch the video below to learn Furoshiki wrapping techniques from a first-generation Japanese woman.

fabric-wrapped gifts 


Stuff a stocking!

Santa’s not the only one that can fill a stocking! Our Karm Christmas Store has tons of secondhand stockings that you can use for gifting this year. Use some old packing paper to stuff the bottom of the stocking, or drop your gift in and tie it off with a ribbon!

stuffed stockings

Upcycle glass jars and metal tins!

We know most of our KnoxFillers hoard glass jars and unique containers because it’s just so hard to let them go! Jars are perfect for gifting treats, spices, or baking mixes – and you can remove the label on any glass jar with these tips, plus some elbow grease. Thrift stores usually have metal tins or unique boxes that are great for wrapping!

If you’re gifting a drink like wine or kombucha, don’t waste a bag! Just add some greenery, ribbon, and a thrifted or homemade ornament.

wine bottle and jar with wrapping touches

Baskets are an elf’s best friend!

Baskets are an adorable way to wrap a gift set or a group of gifts. Pro tip: stuff packaging paper or tissue paper under the gift to make it peak out of the basket! 

gift baskets

Sustainable special touches!

Thrift or make homemade holiday cards and ornaments to add a festive touch to any of your gifts. You can also find rolls of ribbon at thrift stores – or if you buy new, go for twine or raffia, and avoid plastic ribbons and bows. 

Nature has plenty of organic materials like greenery, herbs, or berries that you can grab from around your home. Plus, one of our favorite decorations is dried oranges (or any citrus fruit) – they’re easy to make and look beautiful tied to a gift! Pro tip: let your roommates and/or partner know what you’re doing so they don’t eat your decorations (speaking from experience!).

And that’s a wrap (almost)!

Keep these things in mind if you’re buying any new wrapping materials:

  • Avoid anything with plastic, glitter, or metallic accents – these can’t be recycled
    • Compostable and 100% recycled wrapping paper options can be found online
    • Compostable tape is available online (or use string to hold together a gift!)
    • Buy supplies that are meant to be reused (wrapping fabrics, fabric bows, twine, etc.)

    And be sure to save wrapping materials from this year to reuse and repurpose next year! Check out the City of Knoxville's Holiday Recycling and Donating Guide to find out what is recyclable here!

    Have more ideas or fun wrapping techniques? Share with us on social media or in the comments below!

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