Low-Waste Reusable Gift Wrap

by Tammy Taylor

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On a Christmas morning long, long ago as I sat in our living-room floor with a steaming cup of coffee in my hands, my heart was full as I listened to the excited chatter of our children as they opened their gifts.  But soon after that gift-opening frenzy I stared with dismay at the mountains of trash that was left behind.  As I loaded up multiple mammoth trash bags with all that trash I thought there had to be a better way.

I mean that paper was purchased (of course shrink-wrapped in dreaded plastic) and used to decorate that gift under the tree for such a short time, then in less that a minute that beautiful paper was turned into landfill-based trash.  There just had to be a less trashy way to adorn my gifts without contributing to an already-bulging landfill problem.

So I sat out to change the way I wrap my gifts.  Although I’ve written about it before it’s been awhile so I thought it would be helpful to see what works well for us.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeHomestead

Now many more talented seamstresses would just sew very simple draw-string fabric bags with inexpensive fabrics for their gifts.  There’s a problem with me using this as a solution though, I’m the polar opposite of a talented seamstress and the extent of my sewing prowess is to sew a button back onto a blouse.  (ok really calling it sewing prowess maaaay be a stretch but c’mon, give it to me will ya?)

Luckily even for me there are many options for reusable environmentally-friendly gift wrapping.  You don’t have to know how to sew, you can * buy reusable bags – the cost will still be less than buying wrapping paper year after year.

But several months ago at an estate sale I picked up a handful of these little hand-sewn gift bags for a song.  Some day I hope to be able to sew my own gift bags using the denim from RancherMan’s worn jeans (yes, I love EVERYTHING denim) but in the meantime these cute bags will fit the bill quite nicely.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeHomestead

UPDATE: I’ve learned to sew the cutest little denim baskets to hold many of our gifts. 

 

If you just don’t have time to sew denim baskets, I often have them for sale in my Online Store.  I’d be honored if you’d swing by for a little look-see!

There are other options as well.  We like to give gift baskets filled with homemade goodness such as homemade Pumpkin Granola in reusable glass containers.  We always give special thought to the “basket” portion of the gift and try to package it all in something that’s also useful and can be made part of the gift.

One year we made homemade pasta sauce & spaghetti and placed it all in stainless-steel spaghetti strainers.  Sometimes we’ll package our goods in an appropriate-themed container such as a casserole dish or like last year, these fun colorful chunky shelf storage baskets.   Even the filler was repurposed & I previously wrote about presenting low-waste gift baskets.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeHomestead

Wrapping smaller gifts is quick & easy using these colorful bandanas.  I simply fold the bandana around the gift and tie it with string or festive ribbon.  And bandannas are great for wrapping those odd-shaped gifts plus they’re so versatile and inexpensive it’s easy to have many different colors to adorn the gifts under your tree for a fun splash of holiday color.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeHomestead

 

For larger gifts we have these Santa Sacks that are used for our grandbabies’ gifts.  A quick tie of the cord, attach a fun to/from label and these gifts are ready to go!  We also have mammoth-sized stockings that we use in much the same way.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeHomestead

For chunky gifts I have some Christmas-print fabrics that I purchased very inexpensively after Christmas several years ago.  I spread the fabric out, put the gift in the middle, gather up the fabric on the sides and tie the four corners – there’s no ribbon required most of the time and it looks great under the tree.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeHomestead

 

For really large gifts I have a Christmas-themed fleece-backed tablecloth.  It’s not often that I need wrapping this large so if it’s not needed for a large gift I use it to cover the storage box that our Christmas decorations are stored in.

When we bring that storage box down from the attic I’ll often empty the box of its contents, wrap it in this tablecloth and set it beside our Christmas tree.  It gives me another surface to stack gifts on and keeps the Christmas package theme.

Trash the TRASH! I changed the way I celebrate Christmas by using low-waste wrappings. It's easy and beautiful to adorn your gifts without contributing to the landfill! #TaylorMadeRanch

And of course there’s the old standby of wrappings from Christmases of days gone by.  C’mon now, sing it with me: “Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things!”  Since we always have a blazing fire going on Christmas morning, a few of the smaller gifts that RancherMan & I place in each others stockings are wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with white cotton string.

That “wrapping paper” comes from the unprinted middle layers of our cattle cube feed bags and the white cotton string comes from these bags as well, so no additional product had to be produced nor purchased.  Sometimes I’ll cut the paper with the fun scissors that cuts pretty shapes onto the edges.  They look great and after the gift is opened the paper and string can be burned right then, right there.

All in all my reusable gift wrapping still gives me the pretty and festive look under the tree that I crave.  But my heart is happy since unlike that Christmas so long ago there’s no trash being hauled to the curb.  After the gifts are opened my family is happy to return all the wrappings to me.  I just fold them & put them away to be used year after year.

What about you?  What are your favorite ways to reduce the mountains of trash on Christmas morn?

~TMH~

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36 thoughts on “Low-Waste Reusable Gift Wrap

  1. Lois

    I love your ideas and I too did away with paper wrappings. I have a few bags I made and collected a couple of jersey bags from relatives they were going to throw out that held sheet sets when they bought new sheets. This year I have to ship a few presents to grandchildren who don’t live close by and used free holiday fabric to make larger bags the size of pillowcases. These the children can reuse as actual pillowcases making a gift from the wrapping.

    Reply
  2. Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

    We’ve used cloth bags for many years. In fact, I bought a roll of wrapping paper for my little sister’s school fundraiser and didn’t end up opening it until 3 Christmases later, lol. I sewed up a bunch of them, pillowcase style (not even a drawstring). I tie them with ribbons, which we also reuse. I have a variety of sizes, and some years I have to custom make one to fit an odd size or shape. Christmas morning, we put an empty tote in the middle of the festivities, and people toss the bags in as they unwrap things. There is still packaging type trash at the end of the day, but FAR less than with wrapping paper. Also, as a kid, my dad used to throw the wrapping paper in the burn box to use to start fires in the fireplace, but you have to be careful not to do that with the metallic prints, since they can give off toxic fumes.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      OMGosh Shecki, I love this. And, like you, I’m pleased to see that the landfill-bound trash is now so much lower & only packaging trash, not the bags & bags full of package wrappings as well. Lately we’ve been on a push to see how much packaging trash we can reduce. Leather gloves for my dad wrapped in a bandana, a basket of home canned jellies and a loaf of freshly-baked bread for neighbors (baskets repurposed or obtained at a thrift store), but the toys for the grandbabies posed a challenge – those things are notoriously overpackaged! last year we opted for experience gifts for them and we bundled them all up & took them to the Ft. Worth Stock Show and the museum – they had a fantastic time, enjoyed time with us & with each other since they don’t get to see their cousins often enough, and we enjoyed spending the day with them all at one time. We plan to continue that tradition since finding the latest/greatest toy has always proven to be an un-fun and overly expensive endeavor for us anyway, it seems to be a win/win. Step by step… ~TMH~

      Reply
  3. Lisa/Syncopated Mama

    I love these ideas! I don’t use reusable cloth wrapping, but I’ve thought about it. We reuse gift bags and tissue paper, so feel pretty good not throwing all that stuff out when we get gifts given to us in them. Usually if I have to wrap something in paper because it won’t fit in a bag, then I get creative with things I can find around the house.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      I always use cute gift bags & even tissue paper too Lisa since it’s even *more* green to use what you’ve got!

      Reply
  4. Hannah@SeeingtheLovely

    Thanks for the great tips, Tammy! I had not thought about using pretty cloth bags, what a fun idea! My husband and I often re-use paper Christmas gift bags we’ve been given or sometimes we even use the comics section of the newspaper!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      Us too Hannah. We have an endless supply of brown paper since there are multiple layers of unprinted brown paper used in a feed sack. One year we cut up heavy brown paper, used jute for ribbons and tied small holly twigs for decoration for every gift under the tree. It was beautiful! You know what I like to say: Use whatcha got!

      Reply
  5. Melissa French, The More With Less Mom

    I love the idea of the bandanas. Thanks for posting. Hello from Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.

    Reply
  6. Coni

    Growing up we had to carefully open our gifts 1 at a time, mom would take the paper and the next day she would iron it flat and put it up for the next year. I don’t recall how many years the paper was reused. I like to wrap my gifts in dish towels or bath towels, so the wrapping is part of the gift. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I remember carefully opening gifts and grandma saving the prettiest of the papers, wrapping smaller & smaller gifts with them. Pretty gift bags have changed the gift-wrapping scene as well making it easier to reuse wrapping. ~TMR~

      Reply
  7. ColleenB.

    Even tho we recycle all of our paper products I still prefer reusing the gift bags that I receive. If you can find some Christmas pillow cases they also are great as using as gift bags; taking ribbon or cording and tying around the top. Even if you purchase the plain pillow cases you can always decorate them for the holidays or for a birthday gift.

    Reply
  8. Nicole @Little Blog on the Homestead

    I love this! Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled so once I use up what I have now I’ll be going exclusively to recyclable options and reusable ones like this! I also like kraft paper, it’s recyclable and fun to personalize.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      It sounds like kraft paper might be the same as the brown paper from the inner layers of our feed sacks – and I love using it too. This year I hope to ‘play’ with personalization a little more. ~TMR~

      Reply
    1. Terri Presser

      Thanks for sharing this at Good Morning Mondays, I really like the gift bags and when we get them we use them for someone else. Blessings

      Reply
  9. Annie

    Thanks for the ideas! Here’s a tip for reusing the wrapping paper from other people’s gifts to your family: run it through a paper shredder, and then it makes great, colorful filler for a gift bag or basket.

    Reply
  10. RobinP

    LOVE the idea of the inside layer of feed bags and string!! I could wrap the whole town’s gifts with the number of those we have! Even get out the Christmas stamps and stickers and let the children decorate. I’m not a seamstress either so I’m always looking for alternative ways to save in many areas.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Robin, We’ve got lots of feed sacks right now too. I’m pulling out the plain brown section, folding a section into zig-zags, creasing hard and cutting into strips. It makes the PERFECT basket filler and like wrapping the entire gift in the plain brown paper, it can be tossed into our fireplace on Christmas morning if need be (or placed in the composter even) Right now I’m making small gift packages, brown basket filler and even cutting circles with decorative-edged scissors & making canned-goods toppers out of that brown paper section and it all looks great – very rustic, very beautiful. ~TMR~

      Reply
  11. Jayne

    I, too, am horrified at the mountains of paper that is wasted on wrappings. I always wrap ours in reusable wrappings, but there is still all the extra coming in from outside gifts. How do you convince other people that you are trying to reduce waste?!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      It’s a challenge but I look at it this way: Reducing landfill waste is important to me, but I can’t force my ideals on others. The best defense is to gently nudge them about your wishes and hope they bite. But if they don’t, it’s fine. I have control over what goes on with my household but not what goes on in others. ~TMR~

      Reply
  12. Kristina and Millie

    all awesome ideas! Gift wrap is such a waste of resources! We, if possible, use (and reuse) gift bags here. Love the idea though of using large pieces of cloth or tablecloths for some of the bigger items! Brilliant!

    Reply
  13. Judith C

    I have some dark green too, also my mom’s (a wedding gift from 1952!) I was thinking of sewing two napkins together with a ribbon casing for a drawstring. Thanks for the ideas.

    Reply
  14. Judith C

    This is awesome! We have the same 10-15 paper gift bags that we have been using for the last 10 or so years. My kids know which gifts are theirs because we use the same bags for each person every year… they have their names on the tags. I have a bunch of cloth napkins that my mom made years ago, I may turn them into gift bags. Sort of change things up a bit. Wont the kids be surprised!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      That’s funny Judith about your paper bags that already have the names on the tags. LOL We have pine-green cloth napkins, I’ve been known to wrap a small gift in them and tie it with a bright sparkly silver or gold ribbon, it looked beautiful. ~TMR~

      Reply
  15. Laurinda

    I’ve always entertained the idea of reusable wrappings, but your blog really made it coalesce for me! Thanks for the great ideas {{ HUGS}}

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Give it a try Laurinda – I really, really love it! And if your family is happy to return the wrappings each year as mine is, you just fold and put your wrappings away with your Christmas decorations & reuse them year after year. ~TMR~

      Reply

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