DIY Recyclable Christmas Wrapping

One thing that bothers me on Christmas Day is the big pile of brightly coloured ripped up wrapping paper that goes in the bin. Yes it may* be recyclable, but that’s not the point – why waste money on something that looks pretty for a short amount of time, only to be ripped open and thrown in the bin?

Why not use recycled paper to wrap your presents? I mean at the end of the day, most people only care about what’s on the inside anyway. This could come in the form of:

  • Recycled Christmas paper from last year – instead of ripping presents open and throwing the paper out, you carefully open and save the paper to be reused;
  • Newspaper – Ideally just black and white sections of the paper, wrapped with a nice ribbon can actually look quite fancy or with a DIY recyclable bow (see tutorial below);
  • Used books – If you have old books you would have normally thrown away, they make very interesting and unique wrapping paper. However don’t rip up a perfectly good book just to do this!
  • Used office paper – The kind where you’ve only printed on one side – which leaves a perfectly good looking other side to wrap with!

You can also be clever with your gift wrapping by wrapping it in a gift! Like using a new teatowel or ecobag to wrap the present in, and tying it together with a ribbon.

If you’re going to stick with the recycled or used paper though, rather than leaving it looking a little sad, you can decorate it with DIY recycled bows. They’re really easy and take little time to put together.

Here are four styles of bows I made using old magazines:

Gift Wrapping Bow #1 “Traditional Bow”

Cutting long strips of magazine paper, you twist the paper as demonstrated in the first photo below and stick together (with either glue or sticky tape). You will need five of these per bow. Cross them over each other and then put a staple in the middle.

Gift Wrapping Bow #2 “Easy Bow”

Loop strips of magazine paper together and hold it with your fingers, keep making them until you have a full circle then staple together. Repeat the process for a second (or more!) layer. You can also create a loop in the middle to cover the staple.

Gift Wrapping Bow #3 “Asterisk Bow”

Folding a piece of magazine paper in half, cut strips on the folded edge (as demonstrated in the first photo below) cut it close to the open edge, but not all the way. Fan out the pieces to make a circle and then staple in the middle. You can repeat this process and staple a few levels together.

Gift Wrapping Bow #4 “Flower Bow”

This uses a similar technique as the Asterisk Bow, but instead of folding the magazine paper strip exactly in half, fold it leaving a slight edge in view. Once you’ve made the cuts, you then bring the edges together which creates a bowed effect with the paper (as demonstrated in the first photo). Start wrapping the flat edges together (like you’re wrapping them around a pencil) and you’ll see it starts to create an almost flower. Make sure you don’t make the flower too tall or you’ll have trouble sticking it onto the gift!

So there you have it, super cute ways to dress up your recycled gift wrapping that you can feel good about! And if someone decides they need to rip open the wrapping paper to find out what they got, you don’t have to feel bad about wasting anything.

BUT….don’t forget that the present counts, don’t go to all the effort of being environmentally conscious with your gift wrapping if the present is terribly unsustainable or unethical – check out our Eco Christmas gift shopping guide for some eco inspiration!

* wrapping paper can not be recycled if it has laminated surfaces, glitter, non-paper additives, or is too thin to have any beneficial paper properties left for recycling (which is most ‘cheap’ wrapping papers).

11 Comments Add yours

  1. melly says:

    so pretty! When I was little I used to wrap pressies in the funny pages from the sunday paper. I guess these are the posher, grown up version!!

  2. ReStitch Me says:

    My favorite is the flower bow! Thanks for sharing the ‘how-to’ !!!

  3. kerentravels says:


    I love all your great tips for an eco christmas! Going to have a go making some of these bows.

    I was just wondering if you might be able to help me out, I’m looking for a charity that is doing some great work in sustainability/climate change, can you recommend any? It is for my business to align themselves with, and would ideally be young/fresh/edgy to suit our branding/target market. Any ideas would be much appreciated. ( Thanks!

    1. Kat says:

      Hi Keren, thanks for your comment – goodluck with the bows! As far as charities go I’m going to contact a few people first and let you know! Will be in touch.

  4. rosa says:

    These are so cool. I will try them with the kids today. I never even thought about making these flowers before as they look quite fancy, but now I know how. Hooray. I have made my own bamboo christmas tree this year so feeling like an eco type girl.

    1. Kat says:

      Love the bamboo Christmas tree Rosa! What an awesome idea!

  5. That’s a great project which can be done with the little once- it’s educative and interesting!

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