I love buying (and making) holiday gifts, but figuring out exactly how to cut the wrapping paper for each package feels like a geometry pop quiz, and somehow my phone always rings when I have tape stuck to my fingers. Plus, despite “paper” being in the name, wrapping paper is often coated in glitter, plastic, foil print, and other stuff that make it impossible to recycle.
In the United States, we collectively spend about $2.6 billion per year on the stuff, which means millions of pounds end up in landfills each year. (1)(2)
That’s why for the last few years I’ve been testing and collecting reusable gift wrap options. They’re better for the environment AND they’re so much easier to work with.
Now, instead of wrapping nearly everything last minute because I avoid the task as long as possible, I quickly wrap gifts as I buy (or make) them and place them under the Christmas tree. My kids inspect each one as it arrives, and I love seeing how it builds their sense of joy and anticipation.
Below are some of my favorite reusable gift wrap ideas – some are super simple (like cloth gift bags) while others are more elegant (like furoshiki wrapping, which I’ll explain below).
Reusable Cloth Gift Bags
There’s pretty much nothing easier than slipping a gift into a cotton or burlap gift bag, adding a gift tag, and tying it up with ribbon. Here are my favorites:
Small & Medium Bags
Appleby Lane 100% Cotton Gift Bags 5-pack– This standard size set comes with two 8×10 and three 12×16 bags and four colors (red, gold, blue and black). They’re perfect for small to medium gifts. (Quick note: Appleby Lane used to sell an extra large version of the red bags, which is what is pictured above. For an extra large bag like the red striped one in the photo, this is roughly the size to look for.)
Appleby Lane 100% Cotton Gift Bags 3-pack – This set comes with two 16×20 and one 12×16 bags and is available in blue, gold, or black. It’s their largest size, but I’d say it’s more of a medium compared to the gift bags in the next section.
Red & White Cotton Drawstring Gift Bags 3-Pack (16×20) – I don’t have these (yet!) but according to the reviews they’re sturdy and well-made.
Burlap & Plaid Santa & Reindeer Sacks (16×22) – If Santa is a part of your tradition, these are highly rated and super cute.
Burlap tote bag 8-pack – These totes stand up on their own and are super cute. They’re not as wide as paper gift bags, but they work well for a wide range of items. I recommend using recyclable tissue paper and saving/reusing until it needs to be replaced.
Burlap drawstring bag 10-pack – These 12×6 bags are great for small to medium gifts like books, self care products, kitchen tools and more.
Large & Extra Large Bags
A few years ago I bought large bags from Appleby Lane that are perfect for big gifts. They’re not available anymore, but below are some options that are similar. I’ve listed them by size, from smallest to largest:
- Buffalo Plaid “Joy” Drawstring 3-Pack (18×24) – This set doesn’t have any reviews yet, but the company’s other drawstring bags have a 4.6 star rating and 850+ reviews.
- Linen gift sack 3-pack (19×26 inches) – Each set comes with three unique designs and the overall rating for quality is good.
- Joyin Drawstring Canvas 3-pack (19×26 inches) – I especially love the reindeer design on these but not so much the “naughty/nice” part printed on the bag. That’s not part of the tradition in our house but I would still use these and just ignore that part. 🙂
- Large Canvas Drawstring sack in multiple designs (19.5×27.5 inches) – I especially love both reindeer designs in this collection.
- Icepark Drawstring Canvas 3-pack (19×27 inches) – This set comes in three colors (red, green, and natural) and has a five star rating.
- Large canvas sack (19.5×27.5 inches) – Available both individually and as 3-pack sets, these canvas sacks come in a wide variety of designs. I especially like the one with the Christmas tree in the back of the pickup truck.
- Cotton Drawstring Bag 2-Pack (19×27.5 inches) – This set comes with five different design options and a five star rating.
- Extra large cotton buffalo plaid bags (37.5×27.5) – Tiny little bells are attached to the end of the drawstring tassels in this set.
- Extra large drawstring sack in multiple designs (27.5×42) – There are tons of colors and both vintage and traditional styles to choose from, and they’re the largest option, too. Unfortunately, they’re made with polyester instead of natural fibers, but I’ve included them here because they can be used year-after-year and are a better option than disposable gift wrap.
What I tried and didn’t love: Where I live, I can buy oysters to hand shuck for gatherings. They come in large burlap bags, so over the years I’ve collected a few that I’ve repurposed as gift bags. I love them so much I tried to order some more, but these large burlap bags had such a strong chemical odor I returned them. I’m still looking, though!
Non-Holiday Gift Bags Options
A few of the gift bags above are made with designs that will work for non-holiday gifts like birthdays, but here are some more to consider:
- Avocado and pineapple extra large gift bag 2-pack (35.5×27.5)
- Yellow diamond and blue wave extra large gift bag 2-pack (35.5×27.5)
DIY Gift Wrapping With Furoshiki Cloth
In Japan, cloth is used to wrap gifts and carry essentials using a technique called furoshiki wrapping. If you have old scarves or scraps of cloth around, this is an easy method to get started with and the results are gorgeous.
If you’re like me, you may love this technique so much that you find yourself collecting scarves from secondhand shops throughout the year to use for birthday and holiday gifts. They can be used again and again within your immediate household, or given to recipients as part of the gift.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Click here for a basic step-by-step video tutorial from Better Homes & Gardens
- For a deeper dive, check out Wrapping With Fabric by Etsuko Yamada
- Try adding embellishments like a sprig of greenery to make the gift extra festive (you’ll find more ideas below)
Reusable Gift Boxes
These stackable gift boxes come in a variety of sizes, and the smaller ones can be stored in the largest one for easy storage when not in use. They’re made with virgin pulp paper stock that is reusable, non-toxic, chlorine-free, and bleach-free, safe for the environment.
These foldable gift boxes with attached satin ribbon are sturdy enough to be used year after year, and when you’re done with them the paper board is 100% compostable/recyclable.
More Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping Tips
- Wrap olive oil, vinegar, or wine in a tea towel with a beautiful pattern and tie it up with a bow
- Reuse brown paper bags as gift wrap by turning them inside out (where the print doesn’t show). Leave them plain and tie up with butcher twine/ribbon, or decorate the outside with stencils. (If the gift is for grandparents, letting the grandkids decorate the outside is another great option.)
I keep a variety of things on hand to add a decorative flourish to gifts, including:
- Bakers twine
- Gift tags (some homemade, some purchased)
- Red striped ribbon (I keep the pieces I cut to use year after year)
- Blue striped ribbon
- Dried orange slices
- Sprigs of fresh rosemary or Christmas tree cuttings
- Dried eucalyptus leaves or lavender sprigs
- Small pinecones
25+ Handmade Gift Ideas – Do you want to make gorgeous, handcrafted gifts without stressing yourself out? Well then, this article is for you! These gift ideas are easy to make, require no special skills, and turn out beautifully.
We’ll cover body care gifts like lotion bars, homemade candles and other gifts for the home, and culinary gifts like vanilla extract and chai tea mix.
The Best Reusable Storage Bags for Your Kitchen – Want an easy and simple alternative to single-use plastic baggies like Ziploc? Here are my top three favorite reusable bags, including pros/cons, and the best ways to use them.
FREE Ebook: DIY Body Care Gifts Made Simple
Do you want to give gorgeous, handcrafted gifts for family and friends, without spending a bunch of time on them?
Then I’d love to give you a free copy of DIY Body Care Gifts Made Simple – my step-by-step guide to making gorgeous handcrafted gifts without stressing yourself out – as a gift for signing up for my newsletter. I’ll show you how to make vintage labels, luxurious lotion bars, lip balms, sugar scrubs, body sprays and more like a pro. Sign up for my newsletter and you’ll be redirected to the download page immediately!
- Jordan Rosenfeld (2021) How Much Should You Really Spend on Wrapping Paper?
- Scientific American (2019) Gift Wrapping Is Effective Future Trash