Gift Wrapping |12 Tips to reuse what you have creatively and still make a great impression

What’s your experience with gift wrapping? Do you always pay for gift wrapping service? Or it is something you enjoy doing? Have you put much thought about the wrapping materials? Since I enjoy crafting so much, gift wrapping is a way of gifting my joy to others in addition to the gift itself. When I slowly shifted to living low waste, I have brought gift wrapping to another level - not in a luxurious way but in a more creative way. Because the baseline here is to make less waste or no waste at all. 

What I did before was wrapping with old newspapers. I’d start off by placing the gift box, or unpackaged gift on wherever I wanted on the newspapers. I didn’t place it parallel to the paper. You’ll see why in a bit. Then I improvise the wrapping, fold the paper here and there wherever needs to be covered. At the end, there will be the tip of the paper left. Here is the fun part. I’d turn the paper tip into a ‘ribbon’ or ‘bow’ or a ‘decoration’ thing for the gift. Sometimes I fold a unique shape out of it. Adjust it to display at the top of the gift. This is what makes my gift wrapping different from others every single time.

This technique I adapted from a Japanese folding technique called “Origata”. Nowadays, I still use that technique, just change the materials to whatever kind of paper I have at that time. My rule is to reuse the materials that I have without buying new ones.

Last Christmas, I reused my school sheets for wrapping presents for my relatives and my boyfriend. I painted the empty side with coffee - freestyle. I used 2 sheets of paper to wrap it, made a bouquet of flowers out of the leftover tip, and wrote a card with coffee. This, to me, besides its pretty, crafty look, is a high value and high intention gift while very low in investment in terms of materials. It shows the receiver that you care, thoughtful, and not wasteful.

Why wrapping gifts by reusing materials you have or using other sustainable materials matters?

The short answer is this, if you stick to the traditional way - use new materials every time, new wrapping paper, buy cute, luxurious, shiny decorations, you’re making more trash, trash and trash to the planet.

The thing is not all wrapping materials can be recycled, especially the ones that are metallic, have glitter or velvety flocking on them, including bows which are plastic-paper composite and long ribbons that will cause problems during the recycling process. Only plain paper materials can be totally recycled. So if you don’t reuse nonrecyclable items, you’re adding more trash to landfills.

Even worse, during Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period, Americans throw away 25% more trash. That is about 1 million extra tons per week, according to Peninsula Sanitary Service, inc (PSSI) and the Stanford Recycling Center. They also mentioned, ‘If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.’ This is a huge deal. I was shocked to learn about it. How does it make you feel? Do you think it’s worth to be more thoughtful this year and onwards?

I hope you say ‘Yes!’. So, here is a thing. If you decide to wrap gifts in a more mindful way, you can go crazy with your creation, do something advanced, or keep it minimal. Just remember that the whole purpose is to make as less waste as possible. But, if you’re stuck and not sure where to start. I’ve gathered some practical tips for you about how to wrap presents in a thoughtful way. Let’s dive on in.

Wrapping materials

  1. Reused paper - paint or color however you like. Or leave it as plain white paper.

  2. Recycled paper - grocery paper bags or lunch paper bags for example. Grocery paper bags can make a good, durable wrapping paper. Its big size allows you to finish the wrap in one shot without adding more paper.

  3. Old clothes - perfect time to use them up rather than leave them cluttered in your closet. Cut it wide open to make it easy to wrap.

  4. Old scarf - if the scarf is really long, you can wrap more than 1 piece of gift.

  5. ‘Who Gives a Crap’ wrapping paper - to all WGAC fans, you can see how cute and colorful their wrapping paper is. You can ball it up to make it evenly wrinkled, then unwind it, or use it as is. If you’re not familiar with this brand, go check it out. It’s a cool, sustainable toilet paper brand.

  6. Dish cloth - if you have a dish cloth still in a good condition to spare, this is a good opportunity to do so. It’s like you’re giving 2 gifts at once.

  7. Old gift wrapping paper - who saves wrapping paper from previous occasions? Great job! Whether it be the one you bought to wrap gifts or the one from the gifts you received. No shame to reuse it, as long as it does its job right?

Decoration Materials

  1. Old bows/ ribbons/ twine you already have

  2. Knitting/ Crochet yarn you’ve had but never touched in ages

  3. Twine you make from old clothes/ fabric - cut a long thin piece from the fabric, twist it while wrapping. Do as many as you like. This will make the gift so stylish.

  4. Natural materials - pinecones, flowers, leafs, a piece of plant, that you can get in your neighborhood.

  5. Your choice of existing materials.

Now wrap

Match your wrapping and decoration materials

  • Plain wrapping paper & colorful yarns

  • Plain wrapping dish cloth & a pinecone/ a bundle of flowers

  • Colorful wrapping materials & plain color fabric twine

  • Paint your reused paper and don’t use additional decoration

  • Free style! Pick what you have on the table.

How to wrap : Paper


Left image source:

Right image source:

  • Keep it simple with the classic way.(Left image) It’s easy and decent. You can follow along the steps on the picture. Finish it with your decoration twine, reused ribbons, bows, or a combo of twine and a piece of plants.

  • Go advance.(Right image) Experiment a new way of wrapping. It’s fun. From above, it can be both a wrapping paper and a gift container for your unpackaged gift at the same time. Just make sure that the sheet of paper is strong enough. I recommend to stick 2 sheets of reused paper together before starting to fold.

How to wrap : Fabric

  • You can easily follow the instructions on the pictures. It’s a very basic way to wrap gifts with fabric.

  • You can browse for more ideas on Pinterest using keywords like ‘Furoshiki wrapping style’, ‘Japanese wrapping style’, ‘fabric wrapping ideas’, or something like that.

How to wrap : 'My style'

It’s similar to the picture. What I do differently is that I fold a unique pattern out of the last tip of the paper as a decoration. Let me show you the example again.

By using and optimizing what you have for gift wrapping, it helps reduce the demand of using wasteful wrapping materials significantly, especially when you encourage others to do the same. A thoughtful gift wrapping is necessary for today’s world. Let me repeat. A thoughtful gift wrapping is NECESSARY for today’s world and it should be normalized. In any given special times, like Christmas, New Years, or whenever, we all want to impress, show appreciation, or express love to each other. I think we should do the same thing to our environment that, in fact, has served us since the day we were born. Let’s show your kindness to the planet now, not hurting it with more gift wrapping garbage.