Green Gift Wrap with Found Materials


Guest blog post by Reena Kazmann, Designer and Director of

Everybody likes a good surprise—especially when it comes in “green” gift wrap! As we try to lighten our footprint on the planet, we now substitute imagination for store-bought supplies. At, we are constantly discovering eco-friendly techniques to make packages, tabletops, and special occasions look inviting and beautiful—simply using what we have on hand.

Gift Tags
I have never purchased gift tags because they are so fun and easy to make. Plus, if you whip up some extras, they’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Tags can complement your gift in different ways: extra-large tags become the center of attention on boxes wrapped in plain kraft paper, and small ones serve as a simple ID card on a livelier background, providing only the names of the recipient and the giver.

Upcycle used store-bought cards. 
Cut out the card’s whole cover design—or just the part you like—with a straight or textured scissors. (I keep the large glittery ones intact.) Use the inside page of the card, too. If the signature is way below the message, you can cut out the text and mount it on another piece of paper. I also cut out shapes from the back of the card. Little patterns or parts of words on the back add interest.

Use supplies on hand at home. 
Anything goes! Write on colorful paint chips. Cut cool shapes out of used cardboard cereal boxes. Use pieces of jigsaw puzzles from broken sets (you may need to make the hole with a hammer and nail).  Repurpose an old luggage tag or a monogram key ring. Glue treasures like small shells or dried leaves to a piece of old cardboard or cardstock. Then paint, paste, stamp, stencil, or handprint words on the tag.

Gift Wrapping
Use available containers. Readymade boxes, baskets, flower pots, and paper bags are the easiest ways to hold and present packages. I collect them (along with colorful scarves) at tag sales and then decide what to put into them. When necessary, I line the boxes and baskets with scarves or tissue paper I’ve saved throughout the year. I collect flower pots—ceramic and plain clay ones—and then fill them with herbs, bulbs, or cuttings.

Transform waste with this template.
Create your own decorative bag from wallpaper samples and old maps—it’s easy! Artist/teacher Marilyn Brackney wrote instructions showing kids how to take bags and envelopes apart to see how they are constructed and then use them as templates to transform waste materials into new products. These work for grownups, too: Learn here.

Paper bags=perfect wrap.
Paper shopping bags also make perfect gift wrap.  If they are decorative (bags from Trader Joe’s and Paper Source are some of my favorites), use sections from them, as is.  Or, turn them inside out and use the blank side which you can decorate with felt-tipped pens, store-bought stamps, cut-out paper snowflakes, or small pinecones.

Have fun with newspapers.
Finally, it’s fun to think of new ways to wrap with newspapers.  Watch this video I made with eight (of many) variations.  If you think of more variations, please send images to share your ideas with us:

Explore more green gift wrap and other ideas from Sierra Club Green Home and our contributors. Browse our Holiday section on the Learn More tab on our site.

For related articles, see:
Eco-Friendly Gift Bags: Wrapping Without Waste
Green Gift Guide: Editors’ Choice
Eco-Friendly Gifts for the Holidays
Send the Write Message

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

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