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Dawn Matthews  |  Dec 13, 2023

Sustainable Alternatives To Plastic Wrapping Paper

10 Minute Read

Plastic wrapping paper is definitely not on-trend this year – and while we love to be on-trend with some things, sustainability is so much more than just a trend. Sustainable wrapping is the way forward, whether it is for Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions, and whether you want to stick with eco wrapping paper, or a reusable alternative to wrapping paper, there are definitely plenty of options to choose from that don’t involve plastic. Let’s take a look!


Environmentally Friendly Wrapping Paper

Recycled paper wrapping paper is the obvious solution if you still want the magic of tearing open paper parcels on Christmas morning. Years ago, recycled wrapping paper was super-thin paper that ripped really easily – which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to wrap loads of presents. But today’s recycled wrapping paper is much higher quality, on a par with non-recycled paper, as well as being affordable and very widely available – so if you want to use paper gift wrap, there really is no excuse for not using sustainable wrapping paper.

If you’re choosing paper-based gift wrap this year, don’t forget about the plastic in your sticky tape. We recommend choosing plastic-free, paper parcel tape instead of plastic-based sticky tape. Some styles have printed decorations on them, or have name tags on them, so they’re even more in keeping with the holiday spirit. This Merry Christmas paper tape from the RSPB shop isn’t just sustainable, it contributes to charity too – we call that a double win!

Collect And Reuse Paper For Wrapping

Most of us are shopping online these days, and that means we receive a lot of packaging from those orders. Among other retailers, Amazon are now using brown paper mailing bags, and particularly the larger sized ones are ideal for reusing at Christmas time. If you’re a creative, arty type, mailing bags offer loads of blank space that you can use to personalise the gift, which also saves you needing to add gift tags. If you can’t even draw a stick man, or you’re pushed for time, then how about getting the children involved to decorate them? Personalised, cute, and keeps them out of mischief for a few hours throughout November and December. You could even tell them they’re helping Santa out!

If you order items such as clothing online regularly throughout the year, then keep the tissue paper from those orders. You only need a few sheets to make it opaque, and even reusing it once it is much better than just chucking it in the bin. Similarly, while many households don’t get paper copies of newspapers regularly now, it is always an option for wrapping Christmas gifts in. Keep hold of free local newspapers, or ask at your local newsagent if they are disposing of old papers that you could take.

The great thing about reusing paper you’ve collected through the year? You can recycle it in January, add it to your fireplace supplies for starting your fires through the rest of the winter, or pop it in your compost heap to break down by spring.


Wrapping Christmas Gifts Without Using Paper

Don’t want to use paper to wrap your gifts at all? If you’re trying to be as sustainable as possible, then it makes sense to try and eliminate paper completely, especially now there are reusable alternatives.

Reusable gift wrap

Fabric gift wrap has been getting more popular for a while now, and it is brilliant since you don’t have to contend with finding the end of the Sellotape – you simply wrap the gift, and knot the fabric. So much easier! There are loads of fabric wraps available online, and buying through small businesses such as on Etsy means you’re supporting a small business too.

However, if you want to be eco-friendly and crafty, buying fabrics such as table cloths, sheets, and napkins from charity shops throughout the year and cutting them to various sizes is even more sustainable. If their colours aren’t what you’d like under your tree, try using natural dying techniques using plants. Blackberries and red cabbage can be used to create purple fabric, avocado skins and stones can be used to create deep pinks, marigold and chamomile can produce yellow, and spinach can be used to create green. There are many more options and techniques, so look online to find the right colours to try.

If you want to make things even easier when wrapping, then reusable gift bags are another great option. Make them from fabric and ribbon scraps throughout the year, or buy them ready made to decorate. These ones are available in a range of colours and patterns, or bulk-buy plain ones to embroider, or stitch initials on.

Use something they can use again as wrapping

Rather than using any kind of gift wrap, find things that the recipient themselves can use again to wrap their gift. This works if you’re particularly organised, or know what they would like to receive in advance, since you’ll need to know the right size. Baskets, makeup bags, purses, scarves, and so on can be found inexpensively and used to hold gifts, and the person who you’ve given the gift to gets an extra little bonus to their present.

Do you even have to wrap gifts?

Technically, no you don’t! Particularly if you’re not going to have children involved in your Christmas celebrations, you could decide to forego the gift wrapping altogether. That said, there’s nothing to say you can’t make your own traditions for Christmas gift giving, so you might create a festive gift hunt, or turn your gift giving into a guessing game akin to charades or twenty questions – or you might do something else entirely. Think of all the time you’ll save on wrapping, as well as being sustainable!


Eco Gift Wrap: Finishing Touches

Presents are supposed to look pretty under the tree, but ribbons, tags, and other gift decorations create a lot of waste. Here are a few ways that you can add name tags, and make your gifts look great without the excessive consumption of new materials.

Sustainable name tags

Writing name tags can be time consuming, as well as not being great for the environment in terms of waste. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to identify who the gift is for:

▪ Use a colour-coordinated marker pen to write names or initials directly on the parcel instead of gift tags

▪ Whether you’re using sustainable wrapping paper or reusable, use a different colour wrap for each person in the family

▪ Cut up last year’s Christmas cards to use as tags

▪ Use a scrap of wrapping paper, old envelopes, or magazine clippings to stick to the gift

These are fast and easy options, and definitely make your evenings wrapping that bit quicker!

Eco-friendly plastic ribbon alternatives

Forget curling plastic ribbon, or using those plastic bows with a sticky back on them – nobody uses them past Christmas day, and they’re so wasteful. There are hundreds more ideas online that you can use rather than using plastic ribbons, but these are a few ideas to get you started.

Use natural brown string or twine made from biodegradable jute. You can add it to your compost, but you get bonus points if you collect it up and add it to your crafting collection, or save it to use in the garden after the gifts are opened!

Use beautiful real ribbons that you can reuse for arts and crafts throughout the year. This is a great idea if you’re planning to make reusable gift wrap for next Christmas, since you can simply stash them away for when you’re ready to reuse them.

Use old fabric to create ribbon. Old t-shirts and other garments made from jersey material that aren’t good enough to donate to charity shops are perfect for this. After Christmas is over, see which charity shops can make money from rags, and take them in to donate, or of course, keep them for next year.

Making little paper bows, trees, and stars from old newspaper or magazines takes very little time (easily done while you’re watching Strictly or I’m a Celeb!) and look gorgeous, especially on similar coloured paper.

To make gifts look even sweeter, collect and add pine cones, sprigs of holly (watch out for spikes!) or mistletoe, and then once the unwrapping of gifts is over, take it all to your compost bin, instead of chucking it all in a plastic bin liner.


Final Thoughts

Christmas might be a time for indulgence, and maybe just a little bit of excess. But if we keep that excess to the food and drink that we imbibe, then we can further reduce our impact on the planet. This Christmas, choose your gift wrapping carefully, and whichever option you go for, do your best to recycle, to reuse, or to compost whatever you have left over – not just for the sake of the planet, but also to help the refuse collectors on their next run!

You can find further sustainable Christmas ideas here, and here, and if we’ve inspired you, then don’t forget to tag us on your aesthetic Instagram posts – we’re @bensimpsonfurniture. Merry Christmas!

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