Eco-friendly gift wrapping

Eco-friendly gift wrapping. A brown paper bag next to a small vase of flowers.
Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Part of the joy in giving gifts at birthdays and festivities such as Christmas, is to wrap them up. Then the recipient doesn’t know what’s inside. The unwrapping is definitely part of the thrill of receiving a gift.

The history of gift wrapping

Early use of wrapping paper has been traced back to ancient China in around the 2nd century BC when monetary gifts were wrapped with paper. The wrapped gifts were handed out by the Chinese court to government officials.

Fast forward many centuries, and two American brothers Rollie and Joyce Hall started to sell tissue paper for the holiday season. The brothers who founded Hallmark, are credited as being the founders of the modern-day gifting wrapping industry in 1917.

The industry has moved on a lot since the early days. Now, glitter-encrusted and shiny paper are popular choices to wrap the gifts we place under our Christmas tree. These types of paper are not recyclable. It’s estimated that UK consumers use around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year, and of that, approximately 108 million rolls of wrapping paper will end up in the bin and ultimately land-fill.

eco-friendly gift wrapping
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If we were to recycle all wrapping paper waste, according to it could use 70% less energy than making new paper from scratch. Recycling just one ton of paper, saves 17 trees, 18.7 square feet of landfill space, and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity. That’s a massive energy saving.

So, why don’t we recycle more? And what is a more sustainable option so that the gift recipient still gets to enjoy the thrill of unwrapping?

Firstly, not all wrapping paper can be recycled. Glittery, glossy paper is the worst culprit. It may look beautiful, but it will end up in landfill because of what it’s made from. The rule of thumb to find out if paper is recyclable is to scrunch it up. If it stays in a ball, it can be recycled. Gift wrapping is often fastened with plastic tape and finished off with plastic ribbon. All of these may look great but have a negative impact on the environment.

Eco-friendly gift wrapping

The more eco-friendly option is to use something that can be used next year. And the year after, and for many years to come. You can get really creative with this.

Home-made biscuits and sweets would look fabulous in glass jars. They can be used time and time again, not just for wrapping gifts, but for everyday storage too so they’re a great idea. The jars could then be wrapped in old newspapers which has a low environmental impact. Old maps make great wrapping paper too, so if you’ve got a stash of them in the loft, get them out.

If they’re for Christmas presents, add some pine cones found on a winter walk, with some cinnamon sticks secured with an old piece of string to create a beautiful festive feel.

eco-friendly gift wrapping
Photo by Nadja Oertlin on Unsplash

If you’ve got kids, get them to decorate good old brown paper bags with pens or a rubber stamp to create unique and recyclable gift wrapping. As it’s made by the kids, it’s also part of the gift.

The wrapping has a personal touch with lots of great patterns which will also help to teach kids about creating a more sustainable Christmas. Using washi tape rather than traditional sticky tape is also a simple way to cut down on single-use plastics.

Reusable fabric wrapping

The reusable options we love in our house, are fabric gift wrap and reusable gift bags. They’re a no-brainer. The first Christmas we used them, I was worried the kids would feel they’d missed out on ripping the paper off. But I needn’t have worried because they loved it.

I used some beautiful ribbon I’d saved from gifts and packaging I’d received throughout the year to fasten the fabric sheets so it was sustainable gift wrapping. And it was so quick and easy to put several smaller gifts into fabric gift bags which are zero waste and best of all, absolutely no mess!

It took seconds to round up the bags and wrapping sheets once the presents were opened. I folded them up and put them with the rest of my gift-wrapping supplies, ready for the next year.

We don’t just use reusable gift wrapping for Christmas. We’ve got bags and wrapping sheets made from end-of-line fabrics that we use for the rest of the year to wrap birthday presents too. The possibilities for eco-friendly gift wrapping really are endless and will give the gift receiver just as much, if not more joy, than ripping open a gift wrapped in paper that won’t end up in the recycling bin.

Eco-friendly gift wrapping. A piece of floral patterned fabric.
Photo by Mariana Beltrán on Unsplash

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