16 Sustainable Gift Toppers To Use Instead Of Ribbon And Bows

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There are many creative ways to add a unique natural touch to your gift wrapping. Why not use sustainable gift-wrapping accessories, which are low-cost and nature friendly!?

gift topper ideas, natural accessories for gift wrapping, eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas using green and nature inspired elements

When I say “sustainable”, I’m talking budget-friendly though it doubles as nature-friendly also. Double goodness!

Natural alternatives like jute twine, cotton string, and a sprig of fresh herbs or dehydrated citrus are trendy choices today.

The below list includes simple nature-inspired elements that you could easily dress up any of my best gift ideas for tree lovers or those in tune with caring for nature. Most can be sourced for free from gardens, parks, your pantry or your craft box.

You can mix and match the different DIY gift topper ideas to create a unique and personalized look or keep it simple with just a few well-chosen embellishments.

You’ll find examples of how to present these elements so they pop in my article on Simple Gift Wrapping Ideas.

Dried flowers

You can make your own dried flowers. Here are the steps:

  1. Select the flowers you want to use. Choose flowers that are in full bloom and have not yet started to wilt
  2. Tie the stems of the flowers together with a rubber band or string
  3. Hang the flowers upside down in a dry, dark place. This will allow the flowers to dry out slowly and retain their colour and shape
  4. After a few weeks, the flowers should be completely dry and ready to use
  5. To use them as a gift topper, simply tie them onto the present with a ribbon or string or glue them into place. 

Herb sprigs

Some of the best herbs to use for embellishing gift wrapping include rosemary and lavender.

Here are the steps to follow to add a herb bundle to your gift presentation:

  1. Gather a few sprigs of herbs that you want to use for your bundle. You can use one type or mix and match to create a unique look
  2. Tie the herb sprigs together with some twine or wire. Make sure the hold is secure so the herbs don’t fall apart
  3. If you want to add a pop of colour, you can add some flowers or a scrap of coloured wool
  4. Attach the herb bundle to your gift. You can simply tie it around the box or bag or tape it to the wrapping paper
  5. Alternatively, you could use a mini peg (clothespin) to attach it to the twine. This will add a cute and rustic touch to your gift. 

Natural twines As eco-friendly ribbon alternatives

Jute twine is a popular choice for gift wrapping because it is strong, durable, and has a natural brown colour that complements many different wrapping papers.

Hemp twine is also an excellent option: it is similar to jute in strength and colour, but it has a slightly rougher texture that adds to its rustic appeal.

If you prefer a softer texture, cotton twine is a great choice. It is available in a variety of colours, but a natural cotton twine is a classic option for a rustic look. Macrame twine or rope is typically cotton.

Alternatively, sisal twine has a similar texture to jute, but with a slightly more golden colour that can add warmth to your gift wrapping.

Seed pods

Seed pods are an excellent eco-friendly option for embellishing gift wrapping. They are low-cost and can be found in different textures and shapes. 

Look for these in your garden, local park or during your routine nature walk. You might have some remaining from a floral arrangement even.

Once you have collected your seed pods, you can colour them with chalk paint or dye. I prefer to leave them in their natural state.

For a more festive look, you can paint them in bright colours or add glitter to make sustainable gift toppers for the holidays.

You can tie them together with wire or string, depending on the pod shape. But with most, you attach single pods using tape or glue. I like hot glue because it’s fast and easy.

They look good when used with additional embellishments, e.g. dehydrated citrus. 

Pine cones

Here are the step-by-step instructions to create a pine cone embellishment for your gift wrapping:

  1. Collect pine cones from your local park or forest, making sure to only take what you need. Tip: You’ll want the small cones. I use Casuarina “cones” (they’re really pods), which are from an Australian tree and are a perfect size
  2. Clean the pine cones by gently brushing off any dirt or debris
  3. Bake the pine cones at a low temperature in the oven for about 30 minutes to kill any insects or bacteria. (This step is optional). What I do is air them in full sun for a few days to rid the beasties
  4. Glue these in place. I use hot glue
  5. Set some small sprigs of greenery, tied together, between the cones to add extra flair to your embellishment (optional)

Leaves

Here are the steps to create a beautiful natural design on your wrapping paper using leaves:

  1. Gather some fresh leaves. It’s best to choose leaves arranged on a stem, rather than individual leaves
  2. Apply a small amount of glue or double-sided tape onto the back of the leaves
  3. Press the leaves onto the wrapping paper in the desired place
  4. Alternatively, dry the leaves by placing them between sheets of paper and pressing them with a heavy object for a few days
  5. Once the leaves are dry, use them as a decorative element on your wrapping paper
  6. You can also use a leaf-shaped craft punch to cut out leaf shapes from newspaper or other recycled materials

Fresh flowers

Adding fresh flowers to gift wrapping is a thoughtful and beautiful way to make your gift stand out. Here are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Choose the right flowers: Pick fresh flowers that are in season. Small flowers work best, such as baby’s breath, roses, or daisies
  2. Prepare the flowers: Cut the stems of the flowers to the desired length, leaving enough to wrap around the gift. Remove any leaves or thorns that may interfere with the wrapping process
  3. Wrap the gift: Wrap your gift in the desired wrapping paper or gift bag. Tie twine around the gift, leaving enough space to add the flowers
  4. Add the flowers: Gently tuck the flowers under the twine, making sure they are evenly distributed. You can also use floral tape or wire to keep the flowers in place
  5. Make sure to keep the flowers hydrated by misting them with water before presenting the gift.

Dehydrated citrus

Adding dehydrated citrus to adorn gift wrapping is trending right now. Here are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Attach the citrus slices: Take your citrus slices and attach them to the string. You can do this by threading the string through the centre of the slice or by tying the string around the slice. Be sure to leave enough space between the slices so that they can be seen
  2. Tie the string around the gift: Once you have attached the citrus slices to the string, tie the string around the gift. You can tie it in a bow or a knot, depending on your preference

Small branches

Adding small branches to gift wrapping is a lovely way to give your presents a rustic and natural touch.

  1. Gather a few small branches or twigs
  2. Cut them to size using secateurs or pruning shears
  3. Wrap your gift with brown paper or recycled newspaper and tie natural twine around it
  4. Tuck your branches or twigs under the twine, arranging them in a way that appeals to you
  5. Add other natural elements like pine cones or dried flowers (optional)

Seashells

Not everywhere will allow you to take seashells from the beach. Get to know your local laws about this before collecting shells.

There are many ways to use shells as gift toppers, depending on your creativity and the type of shells you have. Here are some ideas:

  1. Glue shells onto natural twine: Attach small shells using glue. You can place them in a pattern or randomly
  2. Make a shell cluster: Choose several small shells and glue them together to create a cluster. You can then attach the cluster to your gift with twine.
  3. Create a shell wreath: Use a small wreath frame and glue shells onto it in a circular pattern. Once the glue has dried, you can attach the wreath to your gift with twine
  4. Use a shell as a gift tag: Select a larger shell and write the recipient’s name on it using a metallic marker. You can then attach it to your gift with twine
  5. Drill a hole in a shell to thread twine through it to attach it. You will need a small drill bit (1/16 inch or smaller), a drill, and a way to hold the shell steady. Gently and slowly drill a small hole. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as you may crack the shell. 

Remember to be creative and have fun when using shells as gift toppers. Not only will it add a personal touch to your presents, but it will also make them look beautiful and unique.

Cinnamon sticks

You can grab some cinnamon sticks from your pantry as an element to add to your gift wrapping.

  1. Take one or two cinnamon sticks and tie them onto your gift using natural twine. You can place them under the knot or onto the gift itself.
  2. Add a gift tag: To complete the look, add a gift tag with a personal message. You could even write a little note about the cinnamon sticks and how they represent warmth and comfort.

Whole star anise

Similarly, the pantry item whole star anise, added to your gift wrapping, creates a rustic look and adds texture and a sensory effect.

Select a couple of whole star anises that are undamaged. You can typically find star anise in the spice section of your local grocery store or in specialty shops if you don’t already have them in your pantry.

Wrap your gift with brown paper or your chosen natural material and attach the star anises with double-sided tape or glue. Arrange them in a pattern.

You can place them at the centre of the gift wrapping, or off to one side.

Feathers

Feathers are a versatile and sustainable material that can be used to create beautiful and eco-friendly boho-themed embellishments for gift wrapping. 

  1. Collect feathers that have fallen to the ground, e.g. in treed nature parks and along shorelines. Birds naturally lose the odd feather much like we shed strands of hair. (Important: do no harm to birds; avoid bird nesting areas and know what’s legal in your area)
  2. Arrange a few feathers in a fan shape, tie them together with a piece of natural twine or wire and attach them with hot glue or by wrapping natural twine around the feathers and the gift bag or box.
  3. You can add other elements such as beads, shells, or dried flowers to create a more boho-inspired look
  4. You can also use a feather-shaped craft punch to cut out leaf shapes from newspaper, card or other recycled material

Lace remnants

If you have any lace remnants in your craft box you can use a strip of lace or you could cut out shapes to glue onto the gift wrapping to add that touch of elegance.

Wool remnants

Leftover bits of wool can add a pop of colour when threaded with natural twine and wrapped around the gift. Green especially looks awesome against the brown of natural materials.

Simple cut paper

For this get a square or circle of recycled paper. Fold it a few times and then with a pair of sharp scissors snip tiny shapes, diamond, oval, round or triangular in the corners, and then unfold to see the interesting pattern you just created.

Tuck the unfolded cut paper under the twine for a unique look adorning the wrapped gift!