Sustainable wrapping ideas
From reusable Japanese wrap to compostable adornments, here's what you need to know about sustainable wrapping
While 85% of Brits are taking active steps towards having a more eco-conscious Christmas (according to recent research from American Express Shop Small), we can all agree we still wouldn't mind finding a new set of AirPods or Barrie cashmere beanie in our stockings this year. We just want to be kind to the planet in the process.
Simply put, gorgeously wrapped gifts in glittery non-recyclable paper, with non-recyclable Christmas present bows, ribbons and a metallic gift bag are no longer au courant. The general rule is that any paper that's dyed, covered in sticky tape, glitter or laminated, can't be recycled. (There's a test you can do: scrunch up the paper you want to recycle, and if it stays scrunched up in a ball, that usually means it's recyclable.)
According to wrapper extraordinaire Jane Means, knowing how much wrap you need is one way to avoid a whole load of it ending up in the bin:
'Try to avoid wasting wrapping paper as it’s easy to overestimate and cut more than needed,' says Jane. 'To fix this, try measuring gifts so you can cut exactly the right amount of paper to cut to reduce waste.' One of her fave eco-friendly wrap ideas is to spruce up eco-friendly brown paper by stamping it with pretty shapes.
We're all looking for eco-friendly alternatives when it comes to wrapping, for Christmas, birthdays and every other occasion – and happily, there are now loads of options to choose from when it comes to sustainable wrapping ideas.
Photo: Rebekah Chol
Recycled wrapping paper and wrapping accessories
If you love fancy gift wrapping – and all the embellishments that come with it – you can still be sustainable without giving up your favourite pastime (we know wrapping presents is a form of self-care for some!). You just need to tweak what you're using.
Rebekah Chol is the pro when it comes to luxury gift wrapping with an eco-friendly mindset. She uses a range of recycled kraft paper, screen-printed using water-based inks with 100% biodegradable pigments, which are gentler on the environment. She also uses textile wraps like recycled cotton for a lovely, luxurious finish, and Korean bojagi wraps, typically made from silk and ramie.
Rebekah doesn't skimp on the embellishments, either. Instead, she uses ribbon woven with yarns made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and, instead of plastic gift bows, decorates her presents with dried flowers, foliage and grass – all compostable and safe to chuck in a garden waste recycling bin. She even uses eco-friendly double-sided tape which is solvent-free, acid-free and non-toxic.
For another recycled paper wrapping alternative, try Re-wrapped: the London-based brand makes wrapping paper and cards using 100% recycled, unbleached paper and eco-friendly vegetable-based inks, so the wrap can be recycled afterwards.
Photo: 3rd Rail Print Space
3rd Rail Print Space at Peckham Levels regularly hosts paper printing, eco printing and card and wrapping paper workshops for those who want to learn how to design their own handmade screen-printed wrapping paper (they use recycled water-based inks and recycled paper where possible).
Embrace textiles as wrap
Take a cue from Lush and its chic and sustainable knot wraps: these stunning scarves in an array of prints and colours are used to wrap bath bombs and zero-waste bars but are a gift in themselves, to be used as handkerchiefs or scarves by the recipient. If you have any old textiles or fabrics around the house, it makes sense to turn them into reusable gift wrap instead of donating them or chucking them away.
In fact, textiles-as-wrap is the way of the future (and a tradition from the past). Just take HappyWrap: the zero-waste brand creates a reusable alternative to single-use wrapping paper made of natural materials like organic cotton, panama and ecru cotton. The brand also uses handmade paper made from the bark of the Lokta shrub found in the Himalayas and recyclable gift wrap made with vegetable inks that can be recycled after use – in fantastic colours and styles beyond plain brown paper you'll be desperate to embellish.
Each HappyWrap wrap comes with a wrapping guide and recycled card gift tag, and if you opt for the reusable textile wrap you'll find a handy cotton cord, which helps you create a tidy furoshiki wrap.
Sustainable furoshiki wrapping
Using textiles as wrapping paper is nothing new – in Japan, it's a traditional, centuries-old art form known as furoshiki.
Zusetsu is the go-to brand that specialises in the art of furoshiki, with wrapping textiles from Kyoto, which, once upon a time, held the emperor's treasures when they were placed in a storehouse. Furoshiki are reusable, and many have reversible patterns and symbolic meanings, so there is versatility in how you wrap. The textiles can also become bags themselves – you just need to know how to fold and tie them effectively (think of this technique as a bit like origami, for fabrics). Zusetsu host London workshops to teach individuals the art of furoshiki wrapping – watch this space for more info on upcoming classes in the new year.
Photo: Sincerely Media
Use what you already have
One of the simplest ways to get sustainable when it comes to wrapping doesn't involve getting a whole load of new stuff, but relies on keeping what you have (we hope you're a wrapping-paper and gift-bag hoarder). Unwrap neatly, reuse your wrap from presents past, and keep every gift bag, gift card and ribbon you've acquired.
'Add a festive touch with a Christmas tag (made out of last year’s Christmas cards) or some beautiful holly,' advises Jane Means. She also suggests using old wrapping paper (that's not enough to wrap a gift with) to make eye-catching fans and pinwheels, or to mix and match wrapping paper by sticking contrasting sections together with double-sided tape and adding ribbon over the joint. This trick also works well with oversized gifts when you run out of paper.
Another alternative, according to Jane? 'I also often reuse any ribbon I have left and even keep decorations from Christmas crackers! Reusing old materials such as leftover wallpaper is also a great way to be more sustainable as wallpaper is sturdier than normal paper and therefore perfect for making fantastic gift bags and gift envelopes, as it holds its shape beautifully.'
Saving old wrapping paper sounds easy enough… except for those with children – Christmas just isn't Christmas if they're not allowed to rip through the paper in their eagerness to get to the gift, is it?