Unwrapping gifts is a quintessential part of Christmas celebrations, but huge amounts of waste is generated by gift wrap used once, maybe twice and then sent to landfill. There are more environmentally friendly ways to gift that leaves little or nothing to dispose of.

All of these are cost-effective choices with some reusable bags with a higher price tag added to the value of the gift, but if you are looking for something that will cost about the same or less than traditional gift wrapping paper, look no further, some of those are listed below as well.

Gift bags and baskets

There are many types of gift bags on the market to choose from on a sliding scale of how eco-friendly they are. Instead of a single use gift bag, consider investing in a reusable shopping bag. For those with dexterity issues who dread the wrapping of presents, paying or asking someone else to wrap for you, gift bags is a great alternative. They are also easier to open.

These come in all shapes, sizes, fabrics and at varying cost. If choosing one of the cheaper options, use the bag as wrapping paper and pretty it up with some string and accessories. SKL Polyester bags is sold at £4.08 for a pack of 10 bags.

For a fair trade, sustainably manufactured choice, Envirosax, based in Australia, is an ethical business that manufacture a range of beautiful polyester bags, like the Savannah, After Dark, Cookie Monster and the Monochromatic bag for £5-7 each .

Polyester is not the most ecological choice, but it is durable, the bags are waterproof and will last for a very long time. Polyester can be recycled for reuse and a reusable, durable shopping bag is a huge improvement over single use plastic shopping bags.

For the ecologically minded, jute bags are a good choice, like Westford Mill’s Classic Shopper Bag or a personalizedHessian Jute Bag.

Spending a little more? Use a basket instead of a bag, like this Wicker basket with swing handle. Looking for a personal touch? Make your own jute bags with some fabric, twine and needle and a single stitch.

Furoshiki technique

Originating from Japan, Furoshiki is an eco-friendly origami-style technique with fabric. There is a list of furoshiki techniques here, some easier than others. Use pieces of fabric or fabric presents like T-shirts or scarves to wrap up gifts.

Gift wrapping

Step 1: Wrap up

Don’t spend money unless you have to. Recycle what you have at home. If you have young children, their paper art projects brought home from school can make beautiful personalized gift wrapping. Newspapers are great and older relatives are likely to have a stash they might be happy to part with. Old maps make great paper and ordnance survey maps are common in charity shops and at car boot sales.

It doesn’t have to be paper, textiles and fabric make beautiful gift wrapping. Snip up clothing no longer needed, collect all the odd socks, pick up a pair of second hand curtains locally. Use Ikea assembly instructions, old calendars, an old mug, jars, cardboard boxes.

Wrapping ‘paper’ doesn’t have to be paper, it doesn’t have to be new and it doesn’t have to be gorgeous. If it covers the present, you’re good to go. It doesn’t even have to cover the present in one piece – use washi tape or glue to make a patchwork wrapping paper for added effect.

Step 2: Tie up

Now comes the tricky part. Again, don’t spend money unless you have to. Have a look through the house and gather what you have – string, garden twine, knitting wool, ribbon and anything that can be used in this capacity.

Reuse paper scraps – cut narrow strips and layer around the present to create decorations. Cut paper and fabric strips, blend and mix for effect. If a search through the house yield nothing, buy one roll of string/twine/ribbon.

Step 3: Pretty Up

Again, look around. Use buttons, old christmas cards, wooden pegs, little bells, gift tags (or make your own). If you are not a hoarder, have small children or enjoy crafting and have no loose odds and ends, have a look through your wardrobe for clothing no longer wanted and make use of the fabric and any buttons or decoration on it. If a search through the house yield nothing, buy or make gift tags or alternatively, just draw and write straight onto the wrapping.

Present wrapping is often a chore and it doesn’t have to be. If you are creative, take the opportunity to express your style and personality. If you have kids, get them involved and although there will most certainly be more clean up, it can be a great family activity.

For those who want to avoid the task at all costs, reusable gift bags are easy to purchase, easy to use, saves time and is good for the environment.

The ultimate goal is to be eco-friendly all the way – using sustainable materials that will not go to waste, but the intermediate steps are also important. If you have always just bought rolls of gift wrap, think twice this year.

Reuse and recycle. Encourage others to reuse and recycle. Zero waste gift wrapping doesn’t have to be costly, it can be easy and accessible, it can save time and money and best of all, it’s an opportunity to do something a little different.


Leave a Reply