What do you wrap your Christmas pressies with? Gift wrap, we thought so...
Wrapping paper makes presents look fancy and, most importantly, conceals what they are (unless it’s a bottle of something). But did you know it’s not particularly great for the planet?
Don’t worry, we’re not here to impose a ban on fancily wrapped presents or even glitter (as long as it’s biodegradable!).
We know that half the fun of wrapping presents is making them look pretty. But due to the environmental impact, we need to find a more sustainable way to go about it.
Keep reading to uncover the true impact of Christmas wrapping paper and discover some eco-friendly alternatives and how to make your own gift boxes and decorations.
The real impact of using wrapping paper
Although wonderful, Christmas can be an incredibly wasteful time of year, especially when it comes to gifts and wrapping paper.1
On average, it takes six mature trees to make a single tonne of paper. This means approximately 50,000 trees are used to make the 8,250 tonnes that are used at Christmas.2
Foil, glittery bits and even bits of plastic can be found in wrapping paper, which means it’s not easy to recycle.
It’s often dyed too, covered in plastic sticky tape and is extremely thin, so has very little recycling value.3
What’s more, in the UK alone, we use up and throw away enough unrecyclable wrapping paper to circle the entire planet 9 times (227,000 miles)?4
This just shows that if we all took small steps to reduce our waste at Christmas time, we could have a huge positive impact on the environment.
Short-term joy, long-term impact
As a result, what has a limited enjoyment factor can have long-lasting damage to the environment because it’s made from multiple trees and can’t be recycled.
But we can help change all that. How? By switching to using recyclable gift wrap and other more sustainable wrapping options.
Sustainable Christmas wrapping tips
Here are some tips to help you go down the sustainable Christmas wrapping route.
Check the labels
Just because something may look recyclable, doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
However, the good news is that it is possible to pick up eco-friendly Christmas wrapping paper, you just need to know what to look out for.
Wrapping paper with eco-friendly credentials was definitely hard to come by in the last few decades, but thankfully, it’s becoming more and more popular. You can find wrapping paper that is:
And they don’t have to be boring either!
There are lots of different recyclable wrapping paper designs out there on the high street and online, you just need to check the labels.
Another thing to look out for is FSC or PEFC logos, which shows you that the paper comes from responsible sources with no illegal logging or damaging forestry practices.
Plantable wrapping paper
How cool is this?!
If you do a little digging on the internet, you can find specially made wrapping paper that contains embedded seeds (usually wildflower) that you can plant in your garden afterward. Talk about 2 presents in one!
Stick with the classics
Brown paper packages tied up with string could become one of your favourite things when you realise how much money and time they can save you!
Simply switching to recyclable brown packaging paper and string eliminates the need for wrapping paper and Sellotape (which isn’t recyclable, by the way).
It also means that the paper can be used again for other gifts or sending regular parcels.
Reuse your old newspapers and magazines
Who said old newspapers were only good enough for fish and chip wrappers, lining cat litter trays and cleaning your windows?
They can actually make really eye-catching gift wrap, especially if you pair them with a festive red ribbon or a sprig of holly or red berries.5
Got a partner who loves sports? A friend who loves dogs? Or a niece who loves comic books?
Try re-using old magazines and comics to wrap up their presents – they will love it! Just make sure you check the wording and pictures first to make sure you don’t send the wrong message…
Draw your own ribbons
Ribbons are great for giving presents that finishing touch, but who said that they had to be big and fancy affairs?
Especially when they often get thrown in the bin or cast to some random craft drawer never to be seen again once the gift is opened.
Hand-drawing your ribbons onto presents (especially those that have been wrapped with plain parcel paper) look extremely effective and give your gift that personal touch.
Not convinced? Grab a black or coloured thick felt pen and give it a go, you’ll be pleasantly surprised… 6
Let’s bring good old-fashioned stockings back into the Christmas routine.
You can’t beat the child-like excitement you get from seeing a stocking full of mysterious goodies waiting for you above the fireplace or at the foot of your bed.
Using a stocking can significantly cut down on waste and add a special touch to Christmas morning, especially if you invest in some cute, personalised ones.
21 stocking fillers under £21
Stuck for stocking ideas? Discover 21 different stocking fillers under £10 for some inspiration.
21 stocking fillers under £21
7. Fabric wrapping
Even though it’s not a ‘traditional’ choice, wrapping your presents in fabric can be a beautiful, classy and eco-friendly way to conceal your gift.
Whether you use some pretty fabric you have lying around the house or a fancy new scarf you know they will love, you can rest assured that this wrapping won’t be instantly binned like its paper counterpart.
Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth method to make your Christmas gifts look amazing, and here’s how to do the ‘basic’ wrap:
Place your gift in the centre of a pre-cut square of your chosen fabric – make sure it’s knottable and a little larger than the amount of paper you would usually use.
Take two opposite corners of the square and tie them in a knot in the centre, tucking the ends in if they are too long.
Take the other two opposite corners and knot them just above the first knot.
Simple, right? You get a simple and sturdy satchel.
Use alternative decorations
Instead of going crazy in the gift wrap aisle and coming out with streams of shiny plastic-covered present bows or streamer-type decorations, look to nature for some inspiration.
A sprig of natural holly or even a little snippet of your fir Christmas tree would look just as gorgeous on your presents or gift tags as any other decoration. Simply tie them on with string for a classic touch.
Can’t resist the glitter? Find yourself some biodegradable glitter to satisfy your craving as an alternative to normal glitter that’s essentially pure plastic waste.
Repurpose old crates
Got a crate or two lying around? Put them to good use by re-purposing them as a Christmas gift box! Here’s how:
- Small wooden pallet crate
- Decorations, e.g., glitter stars, ribbons, holly sprigs
- Crepe paper
Sand down your crate to make sure it’s nice and smooth for painting.
Paint it in whatever colour you fancy, adding glitter stars, ribbons, sprigs of holly once it’s dry.
Paint a festive message on the side.
Line the crate with festive crepe paper (or newspaper if you want to be eco-friendly) to conceal your presents in the crate.
Alternatively, wrap all the presents before putting them in the crate and lay them on some shredded paper/straw.
Wondering what you can fill your homemade Christmas crate with?
Take a look at our Christmas hamper ideas so you can personalise your gift for whichever loved one you're buying for.
Gift bags and boxes
Almost everyone has a stash of random gift bags and boxes they’ve been given over the years, right?
Well, it turns out they can be a pretty sustainable option.
With a swift removal of the tag, your recipient can recycle your gift bag for someone else’s Christmas present next year.
They can then do the same, and the reduce, reuse, recycle cycle can continue until they lose their shine.
Thrown yours out or they’re looking a little tatty? We’ve listed a few DIY gift bag and box ideas below to help.
Cereal box gift bags
Who’d have thought your empty cereal boxes could be given a new lease of life, hey?!
Cut off the top tabs and paint or cover the outside of the cereal box by gluing old newspapers, book pages, or any other lining of your choice.
Create a set of holes near the opening so that you can thread some old string, twine or ribbon through.
Pop in your gift and tie the ribbons into a bow. Ta-dah!7
Toilet roll gift boxes
Yes, you’ve read right. It is possible.
You know all of those toilet rolls you get through every year? Well, if you were to store all of the leftover tubes, you’d be left with a fabulous mountain of cardboard tubes that you can turn into little pillow-shaped gift boxes.
Flatten the tube lightly with the palm of your hand. Don’t squish it too much, as you still want it to have a pillow shape.
Use a craft knife to score a narrow semi-circle/moon shape at either end of the tube.
Don’t cut through the card, you just want to make enough of an indent so that you can fold the moon shapes inwards to create the two ends for your box.
Pop your present inside, be it earrings, a necklace or some other lovely treasure, and decorate it with twine, string, a hand-drawn bow or a sprig of something festive.8
The final say
We hope this has helped you explore the many wonderful ways you can make your Christmas present wrapping more sustainable this year.
If this has you inspired to make other aspects of your Christmas eco-friendly and sustainable, check out our 6 homemade Christmas ideas to take it one step further.
Need help with some gift ideas? Check out our Christmas Gift Set guide here.
Last updated: 11 November 2021