see all cities »


15 awesome alternatives to wrapping paper!

We’re coming up on the 100th anniversary of when Hallmark invented Christmas wrap and obliged us all ever since to buy a shiny disposable outer layer for the gifts we already bought and wrestle it onto a box in a pleasing fashion. Back in 1917, Hallmark literally invented the wrapping paper industry when J.C. Hall’s store ran out of the plain tissue paper that people traditionally bought to wrap Christmas gifts. An enterprising employee took decorative envelope-lining paper from the printshop and sold it in the storefront in lieu of the tissue paper; it was so popular they brought the decorative paper back the next year, and soon expanded the line.

Of course, it’s not surprising that the wrapping paper industry took off. There’s just something magical about a beautifully wrapped gift – who doesn’t love a big shiny package, sitting silently under the Christmas tree, enticing you with the possibilities of what’s inside? Gift wrap lets you enjoy having your cake before eating it. Until your cake turns out to be socks anyway.

I know that actually wrapping the presents isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – judging by how my husband wraps gifts by hiding them behind his back – but I love it. Figuring out the smallest amount of wrapping paper needed to perfectly cover a box is my kind of math. My eyes light up over choosing funky wrapping paper, matching it to cool bows, adding cute tags. Some years I even have wrapping paper themes for my gifts such as White Christmas or Let It Polkadot (any wrapping enthusiasts out there just get a bow-ner?)

I have to admit though, I feel a little guilty about the huge amount of waste gift wrapping generates. It is, after all, a product designed specifically to be thrown way. But how to solve the conflict between my righteous environmental anger and my love of wrapping presents? Well, Hallmark may have invented wrapping paper but they didn’t invent the concept of wrapping gifts. If you want to get yourself off the Hallmark Heroin but still love gorgeous gifts, here is the 3-step program I’m following for getting off the storebought stuff:

1. Use up what you’ve already bought

Use up the wrapping paper you've already bought

This is an easy first step, and only requires that you don’t buy any new wrapping materials this year. Instead of buying new, just use up what you’ve bought in years past. If, like me, you have under-the-bed storage containers filled to the brim with half-used rolls of wrapping paper, stacks of gift bags, piles of tissue paper, and bags of bows, this step is going to take a long time. I’ve bought so much wrapping paper over the years that I’m actually still stuck on this step, and I haven’t bought a new roll in two years.


2. Save what you get

Reuse the wrapping material you are given
When you are given a present, save any of the wrapping material that is in good enough condition to be reused and add it to your wrapping collection. Gift bags seem almost infinitely reusable, bows too. Tissue paper folded up and stored flat lasts a few uses. And every gift recipient with good opening skills knows that large pieces of wrapping paper from big gifts can be kept in perfect condition for reusing on smaller gifts.

Saving the materials that come your way, combined with committing to using up what you’ve already got, is going to keep you wrapping presents for a long time. If you’re the lone frugal environmentalist in your Christmas gift-giving circle, you might find yourself acquiring more wrapping material than you use up every year, and that you’re going to need more wrapping storage! But if you finally run out of traditional wrapping materials, or you simply want to take your wrapping to the next level, move on to step 3.


3. Think outside the box

There are as many alternatives to wrapping paper as there are wrapping paper patterns (considering that Hallmark offers more than 2500 wrapping paper and gift bag designs each year, this statement may not be true). When you hit the end of the wrapping paper roll, here are 15 ways to wrap gifts that either uses something you’ve already got, or is reusable by the gift recipient.

1.   Maps
2.   Calendar pages
3.   Blueprints
4.   Newspaper (especially the comics)
5.   Sheet music
6.   Magazine/catalogue pages and covers
7.   Children’s art
8.   Anything from your recycling bin such as notepaper, printouts, etc
9.   Wallpaper samples
10. Paper grocery bags (especially great when stamped or coloured by kids)
11. Fabric grocery bags
12. Baskets
13. Plain boxes adorned with ribbon
14. Cloth and fabric (check out the simple Japanese art of wrapping with cloth, furoshiki)
15. Gift within a gift (plant pots, cooking pots, buckets, blankets, scarves, tea towels, etc.)

What other alternatives can you think of?
[portfolio_slideshow size=full slideheight=200 navpos=disabled exclude=”attachment_119871,attachment_119832,attachment_119843″]


Saving the planet is a nice side benefit to going green, but I have to admit I'm in it for the money. Why pay more for new when used is better?

4 Responses to “15 awesome alternatives to wrapping paper!”

Betty Higgs

I agree that gift bags are getting used more often and are infinitely reusable! Still have lots of paper saved from previous gifts that does get reused.


[…] will save you some pennies next year. I loved this post by my fellow Used blogger Lisa Higgs about Christmas wrap alternatives – something to think about as you clean out the […]


Jess D

Pages from the phone book are fun, especially if you can find the recipient’s phone number and address and highlight it. Also fun is using a newspaper and taking black marker to the text, revealing carefully chosen words to create a poem or message to the recipient.


    Lisa Higgs

    Those are amazing ideas, Jess … the wrapping is as thoughtful as the gift!

Leave a Reply