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12 Days of Wild: Wrap Presents for Loved Ones and the Planet

Rosalie addresses the issue of Christmas time waste and shares some ideas on how to wrap your Christmas gifts more sustainably.

Sparkling packages, twirled ribbon and eye-catching festive patterns are what may spring to mind when thinking of Christmas present wrapping, but what is often neglected is the fact that wrapping paper contributes considerably to the masses of waste produced each Christmas. In 2016 alone, the UK threw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper which is enough to wrap around the Earth over 5 times. This unnecessary waste can be easily avoided with some educated recycling choices and some slight changes to the way we wrap our festive gifts. 


Reusing good quality wrapping paper and gift bags is a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to wrap presents more sustainably. When you receive a gift, unwrapping it carefully and smoothing out the paper means you can store it and use it next year. I, myself, have built up a large collection of second-hand wrapping paper over time and enjoy rifling through it every year to find the perfect sheet for each present. 


If you are unable to reuse wrapping paper due to damage or poor quality, then the next best thing to do is recycle it. If it is recyclable paper, then if you scrunch it up it stays in its scrunched state and doesn’t spring back. Wrapping paper that is shiny and stays scrunched will need to be disposed of in general waste, alongside any paper with glitter on it. Even if the paper is recyclable, you’ll have to look out for sticky tape and remove it before disposal. 

Gifts with dried plants. Image credit: Olesia Buyar on Unsplash

When wrapping your own gifts with paper, it is best to avoid sticky tape to make sure it isn’t accidentally recycled with paper. What I like to do is collect ribbons, either from gifts I receive or from charity shops and use this as a replacement. It takes a little practice but instead of using tape to secure a fold, make sure the ribbon is pulled over it perpendicularly and it will stay down just as well. 

Standard brown wrapping paper is a good option to use, as it is guaranteed to be recyclable. Although a gift wrapped in brown paper and secured with a fabric ribbon is a timeless look to me, you may want a little more pizazz. For this, you can draw a pattern or design on the paper to make it really unique. Using regular ink allows the paper to still be recycled. Garnishing the gift with craft flowers, dried/fresh flowers or herbs is both beautiful and adds an extra gift on top! 

Wrapping paper is the traditional route but if you want an even more unique and sustainable idea then there are many possibilities. Cloth can be a beautiful replacement for paper. If you’re crafty then you may have some spare lying around, but if not, then charity shops will often have stashes of fabric or even pillowcases that can be cut up for cloth. You could even use fabric that becomes part of the gift such as a scarf or tea towel. The Japanese technique of Furoshiki is an easy but striking way to wrap with cloth. Another way of wrapping a gift with a gift is to use a reusable tote bag.

Gifts wrapped in cloth. Image credit: Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels 

With these ideas you can not only level up your gift wrapping but also reduce your contribution to christmas time waste. Reusing paper means you can avoid unnecessarily purchasing new paper that will be almost instantly wasted; recycling paper reduces its environmental impact; and using paper alternatives, such as fabric, may encourage the person who receives your gift to use that fabric next year for their own gift giving. Eco-friendly wrapping doesn’t have to be bland and boring- it’s not only good for the environment but can also make a gift even more thoughtful and unique. 

About the author: Rosalie Griffiths (she/her) is a third year Biology student at The University of Sheffield. She is very passionate about fashion and enjoys reading and crafting. You can follow her at @rosie_roo_03 on Instagram. 


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