Is wrapping paper eco friendly?

The short answer is a lot of it, unfortunately, is not. But we have some easy swaps to keep your gifts looking swell with less environmental impact.

Last year, in the UK, we threw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, almost enough for us to paper our way to the moon! That’s 108 million rolls going to landfill. The majority of it can’t be recycled. The really thick glossy stuff is usually laminated with plastic. The foil and glitter and sellotape is all made of plastic too. Sometimes the quality isn’t good enough or the chemical dyes make it unsuitable for recycling.

So, how can we produce beautifully presented Christmas gifts without harming the environment? If buying paper specifically for this purpose, stop and think about how easily it can be recycled. Even better, you might want to consider re-using paper or other items you might already have at home. 

Here are a few suggestions for a more eco-friendly wrap. 

If you are short of time, probably the easiest option is buying paper that is recyclable (If it is made from recycled paper, even better). Try Happywrap or Papertree. Both companies offer Christmas paper that is free of chemicals and plastics and can be recycled or reused. 

Or you could buy plain brown recycled wrapping paper in your local stationers. If you are a bit crafty, why not try adding some colour by printing on a festive design. If you have young children in your life, they would love doing this with you. Personally I like it plain, with some reused ribbon or brightly coloured natural twine.

There are, of course, lots of alternatives to buying paper. Some of them might need a little more thought and forward planning. But your gifts will give more pleasure if presented in an unusual way. Try to use what you have rather than buying specially.

Reuse last year’s Christmas wrapping

Every Christmas as a child, I would watch in frustration as my granny slowly and meticulously unwrapped her presents, peeled off the tape then carefully folded it for reuse the following year. We thought she was a bit stingy but now I realise my granny was an eco warrior!

Use scrap paper

Last year I wrapped my presents in scrap office paper. We had a large format printer that no-one could work so there were always large sheets going to waste. The year before, I reused all the brown paper bags that my Locavore veg was delivered in. You could use newspapers, old maps, packaging paper, even children’s drawings. If they are wrapped with care and tied with coloured string or strips of bright material they will look great. 

Use fabric

Any material will work. It might be scraps from projects, or unwanted clothes. You will also be able to pick up pieces from charity shops. What about using silky scarves, pillowcases, sheets? I like to use the same kind for each person or for each family for a unified look. 

Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese method of fabric wrapping that looks beautiful. I’m hoping to do a bit of it this year! Check out Etsy for some reusable fabric furoshiki cloths.


Depending on what you have in your cupboards, you could really break with tradition and use more unusual containers such as decorated boxes, tins, glass jars, baskets, even plant pots. You could match the container to the gift, e.g. a gardening themed gift in a plant pot! 

You could also think about what you use for the ties and trimmings. Coloured string and paper tape are great alternatives to regular sellotape. (I recently discovered Henry Winning a twine manufacturer based just over the river from us in Glasgow!) I keep any ribbons that come with clothing and reuse them. I also make gift tags from my old Christmas cards. 

Check out our Pinterest board for more inspiration. If you do get creative and try out some eco-friendly wrapping this year, tag us on social media so we can see how you get on and share your ideas. Or add more ideas in the comments below! Happy wrapping!

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