• Small Sustainable Swaps

Christmas Gift Wrapping

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

After carefully selecting the perfect sustainable gift you’ll surely want to wrap it in a low waste way too.

Traditional wrapping paper is often made from glossy, metallic coated paper and covered in glitter making it impossible to recycle. Additionally, there is normally sticky tape attached to it which is also not recyclable. Quite often foil ribbons, bows and labels are added to make the gift look even more enticing. Sadly, this is all destined to end up in landfill. I know we normally end up with a bag or two or rubbish after all Christmas gifts have been opened.

So how can all this waste be avoided?


Fabric can provide a great material for wrapping gifts. Japanese Furoshiki is the art of wrapping using a square piece of fabric. It began as a practical way to carry items around and has developed into a beautiful way to present gifts. You can find lots of information online with instructions on how to wrap using the Furoshiki method. I thought this site offered some good advice and useful images showing different ways to wrap https://www.invaluable.com/blog/furoshiki/

Obviously, you don’t have to use this method when using fabric, but it is one option. The benefit of using fabric is it can be used many times over and can be washed between uses to ensure it is clean. Or the fabric could form part of the gift such as a gorgeous scarf or practical, pretty tea towel. Selecting natural fabrics would be the best option however you could use any interesting fabrics you already have to give them a new life. You could then use fabric ribbon to hold the wrapping together.

If the idea of wrapping with fabric seems a bit complicated, you could invest in or make some fabric gift bags. Again, these are reusable but allow for easy presentation of gifts. There are many different types which can accommodate gifts of varying sizes. Again, the bag could be part of the gift.

Recycled or Upcycled Paper

If you would still like to wrap gifts in paper, there are a range of options available. Old newspaper can look great accompanied by some colourful fabric ribbon. If you don’t get a newspaper you could ask friends and family to save theirs. In a similar style old maps or sheet music can be used to wrap gifts – check local charity shops to source if you don’t have any of your own.

Likewise, recycled brown paper can look effective when tied with colourful ribbon or twine. Brown paper is also great for personalising through stamping a design. This is a great opportunity to get children involved in preparations. They can have lots of fun adding their own creative flair to the paper, making it utterly unique.

It might be that you could save paper from gifts you are given to reuse. This does rely on careful opening but is one way to save paper from going to landfill. I often do this with tissue paper used in gift bags as it doesn’t normally have sticky tape attached to it. Similarly, I save paper gift bags to reuse. These tend to be quite easy to save as they are made of stronger, thicker paper. They are also easy to store for later use.


If you are using paper, you are likely to need a way to secure it. Traditional sticky tape is made of plastic and cannot be recycled. An alternative would be to switch to a paper tape. I initially thought this was only available in brown which looks great on brown paper but what if you are using a different coloured paper? I was extremely excited to discover that you can in fact get paper tape in different colours and designs. Babi Pur have a great range (including Christmas designs).

Washi Tape is another example of a more sustainable tape. It is a durable but decorative tape made from natural plant fibres meaning it is biodegradable. It is available in a huge range of designs and colours and is quite widely available.

After I have finished up the brown tape that we currently have I will definitely be looking at some of the more colourful option that are available.

Ribbon and Decorations

Everyone wants gifts to look lovely when they hand them over to the recipient. In the past I had always added the foil ribbons and bows to add extra jazz to the gift. However, this type of ribbon and bow just cannot be recycled and will end up sitting in landfill. In the last couple of years when we have started to use brown paper for wrapping, I have begun to use either coloured string or fabric ribbon to wrap around the gift. The ribbon that I used has been reused from gifts I have been given or has been left over from projects that I have done.

We are fortunate to have a Holly tree in our front garden which can be great for adding little decorative touches to gifts (by looking carefully you can sometimes find that not all of the leaves are super spiky). I have also found that springs of Rosemary from our garden also look (and smell) great as decorations. You can let your imagination run when it comes to adding decorations. Maybe a little forage in the woods might uncover some fir/pinecones, twigs or evergreen sprigs.

You could create your own paper bows and decorations using handmade paper, scrap or recycled paper. Little pom poms made from wool could look really cute and would be fun for children to try making.

Saving decorations from gifts you have been given and reusing them could also be a possibility.


Tags are extremely useful when wrapping gifts as you wouldn’t want to get your gifts mixed up! Many gift tags are made of paper or card but much like wrapping paper they often have glitter or metallic foils added to made them stand out. So always check these carefully.

To add a little personal touch, you could always make you own tags to add to your gifts. Again, you can let your creativity flow and make your tags from a whole range of different things.

Old Christmas cards offer a great, simple way for making tags - cut out the best parts, write on the back and attach to the gift. If you don’t have any saved for this year, think about saving some for next year!

With a little more time and resources, more personalised tags can be made. I have done this several times in the past. I have quite a few crafting materials and tools and enjoy making use of these. I have a punch which can cut out tag shapes and save a bit of time!

I recently saw an awesome idea for tags – gingerbread cookie tags! The idea is to make individual cookies, making a small hole for ribbon to go through. Once baked you can then ice them with patterns or the name of the recipient. These awesome tags can then be eaten once they are no longer needed. No waste!

I haven’t yet decided what I will do this year, but I certainly have lots of ideas, maybe I will try a combination of ideas.

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