DIY Wrapping Paper Alternatives for Creative and Sustainable Gift Giving

Wrapping paper plays an important and very fun role in holiday celebrations. It makes packages look beautiful and cheery, adds mystery to the gift-giving process, and can help gifts to stand out as unique and exciting. It makes sense then to take things to the next level by using creative wrapping paper alternatives! Using something unique means no one else’s gifts will show up matching yours and it’ll add even more excitement and intrigue to your gift. 

collage of photos showing diy wrapping paper alternatives


There are also environmental reasons to turn to wrapping paper alternatives. Unfortunately, traditional gift wrapping is not a very environmentally friendly option. It is made from hard-to-recycle materials that go straight into landfills. And think about how much we all use around the holidays! In fact, it contributes to the waste that increases by 25% over the holiday season.

Fortunately, there are lots of both sustainable and attractive wrapping paper alternatives. They will help your gifts stand out from the pack and make your gift more memorable. So let’s get into those ideas, shall we?!

supplies for diy wrapping paper alternatives
Photo source: danielfela / Getty Images


Fabric wrapping paper alternatives

There are various techniques you can use to wrap holiday gifts with fabric. Not only is this a beautiful way to wrap gifts, but it’s also sustainable, too! Fabric wraps can be reused year after year and some materials may even be recycled once they are no longer used.

gift wrapped in cloth and decorated with dried orange slice
Photo source: Mila Naumova / Getty Images


There’s actually a name for this art of wrapping gifts in fabric- “Furoshiki.” This is a Japanese technique that involves using a cloth to wrap around gift items.  You can buy Furoshiki wrapping cloths in stores or make it yourself. The DIY option requires you to cut the cloth to fit snugly around gifts while leaving enough fabric to secure your package with a knot or bow. Here’s a quick guide on how to wrap and tie your furoshiki.

various sizes of gifts wrapped in furoshiki fabric


Furoshiki is available in various fabric materials. You can choose from:

  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Hemp
  • Upcycled Fabrics- I love the idea of thrifting cute scarves that double as a gift all on their own

DIY cloth pouches

DIY cloth pouches are simple to make. Sew two pieces of fabric together to create a pouch design. String ribbon through to make a drawstring. Add bead, button, or lace embellishments to make your pouch more attractive. You can even use old sweaters to make your gifts extra cozy looking for the season! Check out “Scrap Fabric Love” for a tutorial on how to make these adorable gift pouches!

homemade gift pouches made of fabric


Decorated brown paper bags

You can also substitute your wrapping paper for a brown paper bag. Cut your bag open and wrap it directly around your gift.   Decorate it with paints, stamps, and crayons. Or tie it with a simple ribbon or yarn to create a minimalist, rustic design. Here’s a great example from “A Pretty Fix


They are also easy to work with. Place your gifts into your bag and decorate it with stickers, tinsel, or create tissue paper Christmas trees like this idea by “Something Turquoise” we featured in our diy gift bags post! Give it to your kids as a craft activity, and they can easily stamp and color their bags to create a unique piece all their own.

brown paper bags with fringed tissue paper christmas trees on the front of each one


Brown paper bags are a sustainable choice thanks to their biodegradable properties. Double check with the manufacturer or brand you purchase, but most brown paper bags should be compostable provided you don’t cover them in paint when you decorate them.

Decorated craft paper

Paper bags aren’t the only form of brown paper available to create your alternative wrapping paper. Craft paper is an easily accessed, budget friendly starting point to create something beautiful. Simply stamp, paint, draw, or stencil your way to your very own wrapping paper design.  I love how this project featured on “Mode Podge Rocks” focused on one theme and created multiple coordinating designs.

four gifts wrapped in craft paper that has been stamped with nautical theme symbols


The great thing about this method is that you can buy one roll of craft paper and then create new designs for each gift you wrap. Even simple little drawings can create a beautiful pattern for your diy gift wrap.

gifts wrapped in craft paper and decorated with ribbons and diy designs
Photo source: yvettefang0604 / Pixabay


Repurpose tin, metal, or wooden boxes

We tend to accumulate boxes we no longer need because they are too attractive to throw out. They can be ideal for gift-giving purposes. Here are some examples:

Cigar boxes

These are the perfect size for many small gifts, and wooden boxes feel extra luxurious when many other gifts come in cardboard.

Mint tins

Save those tins after you finish off your favorite mints- these make excellent little gift boxes for smaller gift items! Here’s a quick tutorial on how to dress them up super easily! There are also lots of creative ways to reuse these little tins, and many of them would make great stocking stuffers– and you know we love some diy gift ideas. Check out some mint tin craft ideas here.

decorated mint tin for gift giving


Electronics boxes

The best wrapping paper alternative may be one that requires no paper at all! Many agree that phone and laptop boxes are too nice to throw out, so simply paint them to reuse them as gift boxes! These will be reusable for future holidays, too!

Jewelry boxes

after receiving a jewelry gift, don’t throw that box out! These nice boxes make the perfect container for future gifts, too!

Cookie or popcorn tins

 Depending on the box’s appearance, you may want to redecorate it or leave it as is. Add tissue paper inside to provide an attractive unboxing experience. The paper will also prevent the item from rolling around.



Looking for sustainable options? Try newspaper! I know it doesn’t seem like the prettiest idea, stay with me here. A little creativity goes a long way, and you can wrap your gifts beautifully with newspaper. It’ll also give your gifts a funky, unique appearance that’ll stand out among the rest! So, before throwing your newspaper into the recycling bin this time of year, give it a new life under the Christmas tree!

gift wrapped in newspaper stacked on a stool


Reusable gift bags and totes

Reusable bags and totes are typically thought of as an environmental alternative to plastic grocery and retail bags. But guess what, they can also act as a great wrapping paper alternative. There are plenty of options available on Amazon, or you can create a gift all your own by customizing a canvas tote! I did this for some winter themed host gifts for a shower ahead of my wedding last year. They were so easy and I loved how they turned out! Unfortunately, I forgot to get a picture of all three bags together with gifts and tissue paper inside, so here’s the one picture I did get. 

hand painted canvas tote bag


I simply used acrylic paint to decorate the bags with basic greenery (super easy I promise). Here are some more fun personalization techniques:

  • Embroidery: Embroider bags with holiday sayings like “Seasons Greetings” or “Feliz Navidad”
  • Iron-On Fabrics and Patches: Iron on patches with vintage images that represent the holiday season.
  • Paint: Use fabric paint to add a seasonal vibe to your tote bag aesthetic. Stencils and stamps make this even easier!
  • Sew on Accessories: Sew on beads and baubles to make your bag look more attractive.
  • Use Tie Dye: Tie-dye your tote with the colors of the season
  • Use Holiday Photos: Holiday photos can be integrated into sew-on designs that will make your gift wrap totes personalized and meaningful

Glass jars and containers

Glass jars and containers are ideal for gifting homemade treats, candy, bath salts or bath bombs, and DIY candles. You can make them look more decorative by adding ribbons around the top. Use the ribbons to fasten tags or chalk paint labels onto the jar.

Natural elements

No gift wrapping is complete without a finishing touch! While we traditionally use bows and ribbons, it can be more fun to turn to items from nature to adorn your gifts. Not only do they provide an elegant, rustic touch, but hey are free and 100% sustainable. Examples include twigs, dried winter flowers, pinecones, and more. “A Piece of Rainbow” has lots of ideas to create beautiful gift embellishments with natural elements here.

three gifts wrapped in brown paper and embellished with natural elements

These are all  eco-friendly alternatives to gift bows which are made of synthetic materials and plastics. Combine them with twine or hemp string to create a rustic appearance.

Use your own beautiful DIY wrapping paper alternatives this year!

I hope this post has shown you that you don’t have to sacrifice style and cheer with your wrapping paper alternatives. There are lots of great sustainable alternatives. Fabrics, brown paper bags, tin or wooden boxes, newspapers,  glass jars, and containers are all ideal eco-friendly substitutes, and now you’ve seen how creative you can get with them! How will you be avoiding unnecessary waste in this season’s gift-wrapping efforts? Let us know in the comments! Keep up the holiday cheer by checking out our posts on DIY mid century style paper ornaments, DIY snow globe ideas, and DIY Christmas stockings and patterns!

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Remi Bagwell

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