Green Holiday Gift Bags and Wrapping Paper

During the holidays and all through the year, give the gift of eco-consciousness by wrapping presents in creative and Earth-friendly ways.

Here are some fun, pretty gift wrapping solutions that protect natural resources.

Make Your Own Fabric Bags for Gifts

Begin a family tradition by making bags out of pretty holiday fabric tied with cloth ribbon, and placing your gifts in them. It is likely that everyone will really appreciate the idea of saving resources, and will save the bags to wrap their own gifts next year. Maybe someday fabric bags will be like chain letters—you give a gift to one person, who gives it to another, and maybe one day it will be given back to you!

Materials: Buy colorful fabric ribbon, and enough yardage of pretty fabric (holiday fabric is readily available in craft stores) to make the number of bags you want. You may also have some nice fabric stored at home in a drawer or closet. A little over a yard of 42″ to 45″ wide fabric will make two 20″ x 10″ inch bags.

Step 1: Choose the size bags you want to make and then adapt them to this pattern: For one 20″ x 10″ inch bag, cut out a piece of fabric 12″ x 42″ inches in size. Fold the fabric in half so that doubled it is 12″ x 21″ inches in size.

Step 2: With the “inside” sides pinned together, stitch the side seams on three sides. Turn inside out. Then turn inside the raw edge on the top of the bag and hem, either by hand or with a sewing machine.

Step 3: Cut a cloth ribbon at least 12″ long. At the seam of the bag on one side or the other, about 4 or 5 inches from the bag opening, stitch the middle of the ribbon to the bag.

Make Your Own Gift Wrapping Paper

Wrapped with natural raffia ribbon and decorated with crayons, brown grocery bags make very attractive wrapping. The straw-like look of undyed raffia makes a really lovely contrast to the brown bags.

Step 1: Cut paper grocery bags into squares.

Step 2: Tape together enough of the resulting squares of grocery bag paper to wrap the present.

Step 3: Color with crayons.

Step 4: Wrap the present and tie with natural raffia ribbon (available at craft shops).

More Wild, Worry-Free, Wrappings

Holiday wrapping can be much more fun than just covering a gift with colored paper. Delve into the options below for exciting green alternatives to store-bought wrapping.

Give a gift in a gift: A scarf with matching hair ribbon, a set of canisters, a towel, a sheet, a cup or mug, a hat or cigar box, or even a shirt all hold gifts without contributing to landfill problems. Visit a garage sale for more container ideas.

Recycled wrap: Select pictures and stories from newspapers, magazines, and old calendar pictures to make creative wrapping that thoughtfully suits your gift and/or its recipient.

  • Wrap a travel-related present with an out-of-date road map.
  • Wrap a present in old sheet music.
  • Wrap presents with used paper or in used boxes and glue magazine pictures on top for color, humor and style.
  • Reuse wrapping paper and spice it up by gluing on pictures taken from cards and magazines.

Bows: Use flowers or reusable hair ribbons instead of plastic bows. Packing: Use popcorn instead of conventional packing “peanuts” and insert a note explaining that birds can eat it.

Bag smart: Decorate used paper shopping bags (both brown grocery bags and white department store bags) with:

1. A poem hand written in bright colors.
2. Stenciled holiday decorations. (Cut a potato in half, and carve a stencil in the flat part of each half. Dip the stencil in paint.)
3. Hand paintings for a unique and personal touch.
4. Crayons as described above.

Buy smart: If you are going to purchase wrapping paper, avoid conventional wrapping paper with metallic colors. Such paper is often produced in an environmentally unfriendly manner. Instead, buy recycled wrapping paper.

By Annie B. Bond

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Sonia Minwer-Barakat Requ

Great ideas.Thanks for sharing

jenny H.
jenny H.2 years ago

Great ideas, thank you :-)

Nancy Hatcher
Nancy Hatcher3 years ago

My Mother was the original Christmas wrap recycler. As kids we had to, very carefully, open our gifts without tearing the paper. You can imagine how frustrating that was to an anxious 10 year old! When the gift bags care around Mom was in heaven.

I'm 62 now and occasionally find gift wrap that could be classified as antique. I must admit it's fun to find those old treasures!

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton3 years ago

Great ideas! Thanks for posting.

Chelsea W.
Chelsea W.4 years ago

Wow this story is old...but still so relevant! I usually make personalized gift wrap with my pics - then use the "scraps" leftover for scrapbooking! But this is definitely more economical! lol

Lenna Lim
Lenna Lim4 years ago

Cool stuff!

Shiatsu Cat
Past Member 4 years ago

So simple but good idea, thanks!

Erin C.
Erin C.5 years ago

Great tips! It is so important to reduce all of the waste that is associated with something as wonderful as holiday gift giving! I am so passionate about "greening" the gifting process that I started my own little eco-gift wrap company last year. eWrapz ( is reusable fabric gift wrap that is stylish and easy to use. Just another option for those looking for a ready-made solution that can help make their holiday gift wrapping more eco-friendly!