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In the U.S., individuals toss away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than they do any other time throughout the year, according to Stanford University. While this might not seem like a big number, you should consider this extra trash amounts to 25 million tons (around one million extra tons every week).

And, a lot of this extra trash on Christmas Day is wrapping paper. Much, if not most, of this holiday wrapping paper, bows and ribbons are used once, and then people throw them out. Individuals love giving gifts by nature, but seldom think of what the beautiful wrapping is doing to nature itself.

The good news is, there is more awareness of there being better ways to wrap presents and decrease trash while also helping to keep the environment protected. An ideal way to start is to buy or use recycled wrapping materials.  However, you can get a little creative when it comes to choosing green gift wrapping.

Here are 20 reusable, sustainable gift wrapping ideas and tips to help make your Christmas morning greener.

  1. Decrease the Number of Gifts

An easy way to reduce how much trash you waste every year is to decrease the number of gifts you give. For instance, you could focus on giving just a couple high-quality gifts, instead of many smaller gifts for each individual. 

You might want to consider giving "experiences", instead of material presents when you can. For example, try giving away:

  • Museum or zoo memberships
  • Baseball tickets
  • Movie tickets
  • Trips to rock climb

These don't take any wrapping material, per se, and also promote life-long memories and family bonding.

  1. Fabric Gift Wrap

Fabric is the ideal reusable material for wrapping gifts, since it comes in many patterns and colors similar to wrapping paper. Fabric wrapping, in Japan, is so prevalent, and has even turned into an art form. This practice, which is referred to as "furoshiki", uses time-honored methods of creating a package that's both totally covered and lovely. You can search around your home for things like festive:

  • Sheets
  • Pillow cases
  • Socks
  • Old drapes

Cut them to make them the perfect size for your presents. If you don't have fabric lying around your home that's suitable for gift wrapping, you might want to consider BoBo Wrap, ReWrapables, or other pre-made versions.

Fabric can be tied, pinned, or knotted with a ribbon. Once the gifts are opened, you can just fold them up, and store them away until the following year.

  1. Tins, Jars, Dust Bags, and Pouches

You can avoid wrapping paper completely, and put your present in an alternative packaging form, like a reusable bag or container that will hide the gift from view. It omits the waste, but still leaves the gift receiver feeling anticipation. Some examples are little zippered makeup bags, shampoo bar tins, and fancy shoe dust bags.

  1. Cloth Produce Bags

Wrap your gifts in reusable produce bags. Whether you buy store-bought drawstring bags, or simple handmade bags you tie shut with ribbon, cloth produce bags are a great option.

  1. Use a Basket

By using baskets, you don't even need tape or scissors. You simply put your gift in a basket, and it becomes part of your gift. Fill up a cute basket with goodies you get from food aisles at stores, or goodies from home. Some gorgeous gift ideas you can fill your baskets up with are:

  • Candies
  • Gourmet olive oil
  • New hand towels
  • A faux plant
  • Cookies and candies

You can quickly fill up woven baskets with various items like hand soap, copper mugs for beverages, wooden coasters, and other stylish items that go great with housewarming baskets.

  1. Plain-Old Brown Paper Bags

You'll need to add a little creativity to brown paper bags, and maybe several colorful additions, so they're not boring looking. Decorate them with things like:

  • Mistletoe
  • Sprigs
  • Twine
  • Colorful gift tags
  • Small ornaments
  • Recyclable ribbon
  • Yarn
  • Holiday stamps

Cut bigger brown bags up, and use them like wrapping paper with the same colorful additions. Your children can decorate them, and turn them into a fun art project. Keep in mind, it's not recommended to use excessive sticky tape or glue, crayons, or paint because you can't recycle the paper, but chalk can be recycled. You can make your own glue to keep your bags recyclable.

  1. Buckets

If you have empty buckets around your home, they can be repurposed, or you can buy inexpensive galvanized buckets to put your gifts in. Add in some greenery and recyclable ribbon to complete your wrapping. Not only does the gift receiver get a thoughtful present, but they'll also get a bucket they can continue using over and over to serve a multitude of purposes.

  1. Newspapers

If you have any old newspapers, this is the perfect time to put them to use. You can transform old newspapers into gorgeous green gift wrapping easily. To make the package, try:

  • Using kitchen string
  • Creating roses
  • Adding red berries
  • Creating a rosette with the newspaper itself
  1. Toilet Paper Rolls

If you're planning on wrapping smaller gifts, the rolls from your toilet paper are ideal to use as the packaging. It's easy, and you can decorate the rolls any way you want. You can have your children decorate them. They're limited by their imaginations. Place the tiny gift in the roll, and fold the ends inward, and your gift is ready to give.

  1. Old Book Pages

Old recycled books can make delightful bags. It's an intuitive idea. You simply tear out the pages from the old book, and create two wings. Then you fold them up inside, tape them, and close one end to create a classic gift box, place the gift in the box, and use a bow or clothespin to close it by creating a couple holes at the top.

  1. Sticky Trick

Washi tape and plain paper, when used as sustainable gift wrapping can become an eye-catching combo. Use the paper to cover the gift, then arrange or cut out the washi tape into your desired shapes, or in a random fashion, just stick on strips for a cool punch of pattern.

  1. Old Maps

Old atlases or maps are simple to find at thrift stores and yard sales. They come in big sizes, which makes them perfect for wrapping gifts. After your package is covered, finish it off with:

  • A pipe-cleaner bow
  • Fluffy yarn
  • A feather

Then it's ready to go to it's destination.

  1. Box of Cereal

If you have a bigger gift, a cereal box might be good to use. Take the top tabs off the box, and wrap it using old newspapers or however you desire. Fold the paper, and glue it on the base, and the opposite side to the box's inside. Pierce both of the box's sides, making them at the same distance as much as possible. Now place the string and tie.

  1. Recycled Cardboard Boxes

Have some paperboard recycling? Find some patterns online, and make fun gift boxes out of them. Color them with compostable/sustainable colored pencils, and use natural raffia, organic baker's twine, and leftover ribbons to tie them. If you must purchase new materials, try to make sure they're:

  • Reusable
  • Eco-friendly
  • Compostable
  • Recyclable
  1. Old Shirts

Cut the sleeves off of an old man's shirt, and using thread and needle, sew the bottom. This is ideal for placing a bottle of wine. Now fix the sleeve cuff, and use a ribbon to close the bag.

  1. Adornments

While traditional ribbons and bows are frequently made from plastics and other types of materials, it can't be recycled. But, there are still other options for you to decorate your packages. A lot of everyday items you buy already have ribbons and bows on them. Save these in your closet or an empty drawer because they make perfect decorations.

Go outdoors, walk around, and let nature inspire you. Holly berries, twigs of evergreen, and pine cones all make perfect adornments. Are you missing one vintage earring, or brooch? Pin it on your gift for a look of elegance. Let your imagination go wild. Once you do, you'll find plenty of items you can repurpose as gift wrap, and you won't have to buy plastic ribbons or a roll of wrapping paper again.

  1. Containers

Plan ahead and start saving things like:

  • Baby food jars
  • Small containers
  • Sour cream cartons
  • Yogurt cups
  • Cookie tins

Basically any small container you can use for smaller gifts will work. Use recyclable paper to wrap these recyclable containers. Just be sure you wash them first.

  1. Mason Jars

There is no limit to what you can fill mason jars with, from small gifts to small plants to tasty treats, they're the perfect gift-giving container you can use forever.

  1. Reusable Tote Bags

These are the perfect green gift-wrapping options. They will keep things more eco-conscious, and since more states are now putting fees on single-use shopping bags, it's like you're giving a gift inside a gift when you use reusable tote bags to wrap your gifts.

  1. Wine Bags

While these are perfect to use if you're giving wine as a gift, you don't actually have to give wine as a gift. These bags are decorative and fancy by themselves, and are great for holding all sorts of gifts. Plus, they can be reused over and over. You just place the gift inside the bag, and close the top. Adding a bottle of wine might be more fun.

You might have other ideas, too. Look around your house; you might discover all kinds of ways to wrap presents beautifully with little or no waste.

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates, LIVESTRONG.com, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report, Travels.com, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.