Ah, Christmas. The most magical time of the year, but also the most wasteful.
On top of this, you’re probably wondering, “Is gift wrapping wasteful?”, too.
Unfortunately, the answer is almost always yes. One of the biggest Christmas waste culprits is wrapping paper.
It’s time to make a shift away from harmful wrapping paper this holiday season with zero waste gift wrapping.
It’s not as fantastical as it sounds. There are plenty of ways to beautifully wrap Christmas gifts without all the waste using repurposed, biodegradable, and reusable materials
But what’s the problem with wrapping paper?
According to a report, people in the UK use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper every year, and over 83 square km of this will end up in our bins.
To make matters worse, the vast majority of wrapping paper is designed for one-time use, and recycled paper is often nowhere to be seen.
While reusing wrapping paper is a completely viable option, it’s barely done. The fact is that most people (kids especially) aren’t likely to tear open Christmas gifts in a way that’s careful enough to preserve that wrapping paper for later use.
If you’re keen to cut down on waste and aiming to have a more sustainable Christmas this year, here’s pebble’s guide to zero waste gift wrap ideas.
Our Curated List Of Zero Waste Gift Wrapping Ideas To Try This Christmas
1. Furoshiki Wrapping
Furoshiki is the traditional Japanese art of wrapping packages in fabric. The name refers to both the method and the square cloth used.
This method was first used to protect valuable goods in transit. It’s now evolved to become a popular practice around the world to transport bottles, food, home decor, and other items.
Furoshiki has also become a popular and zero waste way to wrap gifts.
All you need is the cloth itself, and once gifted, the recipient is free to reuse the cloth for wrapping gifts and pass it on in the future. This is a truly zero waste wrapping method, since the fabric can be reused time and time again.
Here’s a video of how to do basic Furoshiki wrapping. Get practicing with a piece of scrap fabric, and once you learn a few basic techniques, you can experiment with a range of different fabrics to hone your technique.
Here are two fantastic fabric gift wrap brands to get started with:
FabRap™ creates exclusively designed and contemporary, reusable fabric gift wrapping inspired by Indian textiles and the traditional Japanese Furoshiki.
All cloth gift wraps are ethically made from premium quality 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton. They’re 100% reusable and biodegradable.
The Fabric Wrapping Co
The Fabric Wrapping Co.’s wraps are inspired by the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki, with a modern twist.
Rather than relying on scrap fabric (which is of course a noble choice), you can still remain focused on sustainability by investing in something that can be used time and time again, and has the quality to back it up. Each luxury fabric wrap from The Fabric Wrapping Co. is handmade in London using Certified Organic Cotton.
Soft to touch and eco-friendly, they can be reused with friends and family for years to come.
Plus, they’re very easy to use and tiny enough that they’re easy to store, unlike cumbersome rolls of wrapping paper that will end up becoming dog-eared after months of being stored in the cupboard or some forgotten craft drawer.
Styles are Scandi-style minimalist or bold maximalist. Dress up any style with plant cuttings, reused ribbons, tissue paper snowflakes or whatever wrapping decoration takes your fancy.
2. Make Your Own Wrapping Paper
Since you’re reading this article, you probably love colorful wrapping paper, but hate how wasteful it is.
Why not make your own low waste gift wrapping paper, but make it look as cute as the printed designs you find in the store?
Transforming old parcel paper into zero waste gift wrap is a sustainable and creative way to personalize your presents. Begin by repurposing used parcel paper for a rustic touch. Take it a step further by incorporating potato stamps for unique designs.
Simply cut a potato in half, carve a simple Christmas themed shape or pattern, dip it in water-based paint, and stamp it onto the paper. You can also use this method to repurpose reusable produce bags.
This eco-friendly method not only reduces waste but also adds a personal touch to your gifts, aligning with the principles of zero waste living.
3. Make Gift Wrapping From Recycled Paper
If neither of these zero waste gift wrapping ideas have tickled your fancy (or if getting creative with fabrics or potato-printing sounds like too much effort), don’t fret.
Here’s an easy, sustainable way of wrapping gifts: you can simply upcycle your daily paper into newspaper wrapping paper.
In the months leading up to Christmas, scan through and save pages you like the look of to use for later. The cartoons and puzzles sections are particularly great for this.
Work out the size you need, cut it, and then wrap it, exactly as you would normally use gift wrapping paper.
For extra zero waste wrapping points, ditch sellotape for paper tape, twine, or ribbons instead. The more you can cut down on plastic waste, the better.
You don’t have to stick to old newspaper either, you can make zero waste wrapping from any paper you like. Get creative with old sheet music, outdated or old maps, and magazines for smaller gifts.
Heck, you don’t even have to stick with just recycled paper! Old chip bags, recycled cereal boxes, and other colorful disposable materials can also be turned into clever covers for your eco-friendly gifts.
Another win for budget-friendly and sustainable wrapping!
4. Go For Wrapping Paper That Gives Back
Prefer to stay traditional for wrapping paper?
If you really, absolutely must buy your wrapping paper, go for one that is gentler on the planet.
These days, it’s actually possible to choose wrapping paper that’s sustainably made, free of plastic, carbon-neutral, and gives back to a good cause. These are the reasons why we love Storigraphic.
Not only do they donate a percentage of sales profits to the homeless charity, Crisis UK, but all of their plastic-free gift wrap is exclusively designed by them and sustainably made in the UK using 120gsm FSC-certified paper.
It’s also 100% recyclable, contains no glitter, foil, or metallic ink, and comes cut in sheets rather than rolls.
Each sheet of wrapping paper is thick enough to be reusable, making it one of the simplest and most cost-effective zero waste gift wrapping ideas for those who don’t want to DIY.
5. Use Eco-Friendly Kraft Paper
Opt for simple sustainable gift wrapping ideas this Christmas with elegantly wrapped gifts using kraft paper.
Add splashes of festive color with ribbons, dyed twine, and name tags made from old Christmas cards.
Astris & Green makes it super simple with its selection of kits containing kraft paper, raffia ribbon, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and paper tape with a guide to help you assemble it.
You can choose from a selection of rectangle or star-shaped kraft tags to match. All of their kits are plastic free, compostable, or recyclable.
Natural embellishments such as holly, red berries, and pine branches stand out beautifully against the neutral brown shade of the paper.
Why not add a sprig of lavender or rosemary for a gift wrap that smells good too?
6. Use An Old Shirt For Wrapping Gifts
Old shirts and garments turned into scrap fabric make for simple sustainable wrapping paper alternatives.
Ditch conventional wrapping paper and dive into the world of sustainable gift wrap ideas by raiding your closet or hitting the local thrift store for old shirts. Hunt for garments with intriguing patterns or sentimental value.
Embrace the DIY Furoshiki approach by ensuring your fabric cuts form perfect squares, facilitating effortless wrapping.
For an added touch of personality, consider keeping the shirt sleeves intact and using them as charming ties, transforming your gift into a fashion-forward package. Alternatively, get creative by repurposing the sleeves to wrap up gifts such as wine bottles.
This is one of the most eco-friendly zero waste gift wrapping ideas. By repurposing old clothing, you not only contribute to eco-friendly practices but also infuse your presents with a one-of-a-kind, upcycled flair.
7. Tackle Plastic Waste
Next time you wrap gifts, pay attention to all the materials you’re using. Instead of wrapping paper that contributes to plastic waste, opt for options made from recycled plastic bottles.
That’s exactly what Wrag Wrap has done.
Inspired by Furoshiki fabric wrap, the brand has created a reusable gift wrapping material made from 100% recycled polyester known as Repreve®.
Thanks to Wrag Wrap, recycled plastic bottles are given a new lease of life in striking gift wrap that can be used again and again.
Plus, recycling one ton of PET containers saves 5.7 square metres of landfill space.
Choose from a colourful range of reversible eco-friendly prints complete with a button and cord to make gift wrapping a breeze.
And the best bit? It comes with an inner crackle just like standard wrapping paper. Made from 100% biodegradable cellulose, it adds a little drama to unwrapping.
8. Bonus Zero Waste Wrapping Tips
On top of that, approximately 6 million rolls of sticky tape are sold in the UK in the months leading up to Christmas. Getting into the whole zero waste gift wrapping thing is way more than just swapping out your usual wrapping paper.
Discovering new ways to wrap presents that are eco-friendly means taking the time to consider each step of the wrapping process. It’s not just about the paper; it’s about every little detail.
From what you use to how you do it, there are a few more tips you should keep in mind to make gift-giving less wasteful and a lot more fun!
Check out these extra ways to make your Christmas gift wrapping even more eco-friendly.
Say No To Sellotape
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need to use sellotape to wrap gifts. String or ribbons work just as well.
Simply fold the paper how you would normally and use the string to keep it fastened. Easy.
Alternatively, you can use plastic-free and biodegradable paper tape.
The problem with sellotape or sticky tape is that it’s made from a type of plastic called polypropylene, so it’s not recyclable. In fact, most of it ends up in landfill.
Using sticky tape or tags on your sustainable wrapping paper would make it non-recyclable, and it would most likely end up being sent to landfill too.
That amount of tape could be wrapped around the world 499 times!
Add Zero Waste Decorations & Embellishments
Ditch plastic bows in favor of pretty natural gift wrapping decorations instead.
You can go out and forage for sprigs of holly, berries, cedar and pine branches and pine cones. Or simply use rosemary, flowers and cuttings from your garden.
If you want to get crafty, make origami stars and twig stars you can tuck underneath the twine.
Other favorites include dried orange slices and simple sprigs of lavender and rosemary for a delicious smelling gift—which you can also use to make plenty of DIY Christmas decorations like a sustainable Christmas wreath.
Don’t Rely On Recycling
Unfortunately, many of us may be tempted to opt for store bought wrapping paper under the assumption that it will be recycled.
But why is gift wrap not recyclable?
You might be surprised to know that, as well as being a wasteful commodity, wrapping paper is harmful to the environment in other ways. Despite having the name wrapping paper, it can contain undesirable materials and ingredients used in its manufacturing, such as:
- Non-paper additives such as gold and silver foils, coloring, metals and plastics
This means that wrapping can’t be recycled or composted, and it ends up being sent to landfill or incinerated.
Even if a small percentage of the wrapping paper on the market today is actually recyclable, that doesn’t really mean much. Paper is still a finite resource.
On average, it takes six mature trees to make a ton of paper.
Research by DEFRA found that around 50,000 trees are cut down each year to make enough paper to wrap our presents, and recycled wrapping paper offerings are few and far between in the grand scheme of things.
Take Advice From An Expert
If, even after reading this article, you’re still wondering, “How do you wrap gifts without waste?”, it might be time to take some advice from an expert.
Natasja from The Fabric Wrapping Co. shares three pieces of advice for environmentally friendly Christmas wrapping ideas:
- Skip glitter or foil wrap as they cannot be recycled. Use the scrunch test—if you can scrunch the paper, it’s likely you can recycle it.
- Get creative and reuse newspaper and other recycled paper. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, science shows that if you know someone well, they will like slightly wonkily wrapped presents just as much!
- Use reusable gift wrapping. Borrowing from history and years of tradition in Japan (Furoshiki) and Korea (Bojagi), wrapping in fabric is a special experience, both to give and receive. Then your wrap can be reused with friends and family for years and years to come, all with no waste.
Final Thoughts On Zero Waste & Sustainable Gift Wrapping
Exploring less wasteful means fo wrapping gifts isn’t just a planet-friendly choice; it makes for an easy and enjoyable, creative Christmas craft!
Making your own zero waste wrapping paper not only adds a personal touch to your gifts but also turns a potentially mundane task into a fun and fulfilling DIY wrapping paper project.
While opting for sustainably-made gift wrap is a step in the right direction, the ultimate win lies in going zero waste and embracing the do-it-yourself ethos whenever possible.
This way, each gift under the sustainable Christmas tree becomes a unique expression of thoughtfulness and eco-consciousness, contributing to a more sustainable and joyous gift-giving experience.
And if you want to put an easy and free present under our Christmas tree, please gift this article to your friends and family.