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3 Sustainable Wrapping Ideas

November 30, 2020

By Iona Whatford, Garden Interpreter, Royal Botanical Gardens.

The holidays are a time full of cheer and beauty, from the festive meals and brightly coloured lights, right through to the décor that brightens our homes. Gifts under a tree can be one of the prettiest sights of the season.

However, it’s much less pretty if we think about where all that wrapping ends up. Did you know that most wrapping paper cannot be recycled? And tissue paper is often made with post-consumer material, meaning it cannot be recycled again. While re-using bows and bags is easy enough, it can be challenging to know what to do to lower our waste consumption during the holidays, while still creating beautifully wrapped gifts that spark excitement in others, but ensuring that the environment is not suffering for it. If you are looking for solutions, you’ve come to the right place! This blog post is a mini how-to guide to sustainable and low-waste wrapping, so that you can be sure that your gifts look wonderful, without the waste

1: Fabric Wrapping

The Japanese art of Furoshiki uses fabric to beautifully and intricately wrap boxes of all shapes and sizes. What’s great is that the fabric is completely re-usable; it can be saved for other gift-wrapping, or used in other ways around the house. There are many different wrapping patterns you can follow, and it’s easy to find instructions for these online. Above is a simple example.

You can use any kind of fabric for wrapping. Tea towels and scarves are the most popular, and can add to the gift you’re giving. Cloth produce bags, bandanas, and even pieces of clothing like t-shirts will work just as well. If you don’t have an item on hand , all of these items can be purchased second hand at thrift stores, keeping your gift low-waste and useful. You can also buy Furoshiki wraps at some sustainable shops, so there are plenty of ways to beautifully wrap your gifts in style!

three different pieces of fabric (in red, white patterrned and grey) folded in a stack

2: Craft Paper Wrapping

Another go-to for more sustainable gift-wrapping is craft paper. Available almost anywhere, craft paper is completely recyclable and acts as a blank slate for your decorative inspirations, allowing you do dress up your gift, While it isn’t low-waste, it is still a better alternative to traditional wrapping paper since it’s recyclable. For those who are savvy, you can even re-use the paper. But how do you turn a piece of brown paper into something festive and fun? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

large roll of craft paper
  • Tie your gift with brightly-coloured ribbons and string which can be saved for future gift-wrapping. This can help you avoid using plastic tape to secure the wrap in place. Eco-friendly options include plant-based string and twine like hemp or jute.
  • Add sprigs of evergreens, cinnamon sticks, dehydrated citrus slices, pinecones, or tree bark cut in cute shapes to elevate your gift.
  • You can even cover your craft paper with stamps, in any colour or shape, to give it that traditional wrapping paper feel.
box wrapped in craft paper topped with dried leaves and pinecones
box wrapped in craft paper topped with a glass ginkgo leaf

3: Odds and ends:

Feel free to get creative and use what you have around your house. There are so many odd and ends that can function as gift packaging, all you have to do is think outside the box!

a collection of fabric bags, discarded chip bags and a small basket

Here are some simple ideas of things you might already have on hand:

  • Old jars and tins make for easy, yet beautiful and re-usable giftwrap.
  • Old maps, cards, and newspapers as giftwrap can be eye-catching and festive.
  • Paper towel rolls (with the ends cut and folded over) make for cute little packages.
  • Office supplies such as envelopes or mailers can be re-used.
  • Do you have a collection of fabric tote bags lying around? Tote bags make for great gift bags!
  • Clay flowerpots and saucers are a great way to give small objects.
  • Clean out a chip bag and turn it inside out for a shiny, repurposed wrapping paper.
  • Use children’s artwork as giftwrap is a great way to customize the gift and make it extra special.
box wrapped with shiny metalic material and tied with a green ribbon
jars filled with treats and decorated with string and nature-themed decorations

I hope these ideas gave you inspiration for how to keep your gift-giving low-waste and more environmentally friendly. Happy wrapping!

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