Christmas is a time for festive cheer, quality family time, and delicious food… but it is also a time for expressing our admiration to loved ones with gifts. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing… in fact, it’s lovely. However, parts that are unfortunately overlooked include the plastic packaging of gifts, discarded, non-recyclable wrapping paper and cards that are looked at once and put in the bin.
It’s estimated that 227,000 miles of wrapping paper are used each year in the UK alone…. and if not recyclable, all of this will be going in the bin. But, along with this wrapping paper comes a lot of sellotape, which (besides certain ones) is not eco-friendly as it is made from plastic and cannot be recycled. Nevertheless, 300,000 tonnes of card packaging will be used this Christmas, and although recyclable, this will still have a strong impact on the environment nonetheless.
But, despite these facts, Christmas will always go on and lots of packaging will be used by lots of people. So, all we can do is our best to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. Even a few small changes to the way you give gifts this year can make a difference.
There are endless ways to make your gift wrapping eco-friendly, yet still have the presents under your tree looking chic and festive. From recyclable wrapping paper, to using old fabrics (even things like tablecloths) to wrap gifts, or previously used gift bags and tissue paper, you can make your gift giving a little more sustainable this year.
Instead of picking up any roll of wrapping paper you see this year (even if it does have cute reindeers on!), try considering a few alternatives, as not all gift wrap is recyclable. Firstly, there are companies dedicated to selling eco-friendly gift wrap (for all occasions, not just Christmas.), such as Re-wrapped. They have beautiful designs, and many to pick from. Using these means no one will miss out on the gift giving satisfaction of tearing off the wrapping paper to reveal their present! Though, of course these companies are not always budget friendly, as sustainable products are still niche compared to mainstream products. So, simply look out for the little ‘recyclable’ symbol when shopping, and pick one you know you can pop in the recycling bin after it has been discarded on Christmas day.
And if you don’t have time to search for the perfect recyclable wrapping paper, simply purchase recycled brown paper (available in a lot of shops, like WHSmith or Paperchase). This is a simple, greener option! You could even spice it up by drawing on the paper (if you’re artsy!) or using Christmas stamps. This is much more environmentally friendly than using foil or glitter decorated paper that has to go into a general waste bin, and therefore to a landfill.
There is even the option of purchasing reusable gift wrap! Sites like Etsy have stunning patterns and prints that stand out, and are just as festive as your typical wrapping paper. Of course, these would be most effective when gift giving in your own household so you know you’d get them back!
Boxes are also a great way to give gifts; they look pretty, can’t get crumpled and are better for the environment! Gift boxes, when taken care of, can be reused each year. And to make it look even more festive, you can add recyclable shredded tissue paper to add to the gift-giving feel.
As mentioned previously, a hugely overlooked part of gift wrapping is the use of sellotape. It is estimated that around 40 million (yes, 40 million!) rolls of sticky tape are used at Christmas time! To combat this, gift boxes are a great idea, but if you would like to use wrapping paper this Christmas, try to opt for eco-friendly sticky tape. The brand Sellotape even has a ‘Zero Plastic Sellotape’ that is made from cellulose film rather than plastic, and can therefore be put into a recycling bin and is biodegradable. Alternatively, you could use washi tape, which is made out of renewable materials and is biodegradable also; this means it is perfect for helping you in becoming more sustainable this Christmas. Another great thing about washi tape is that it is funkier and more colourful than normal tape, with there being so many patterns and designs. Some examples are the pretty paper tapes sold at Paperchase, or the (what feels like hundreds) of fabulous options at Hobbycraft!
You also have to be careful when using string for decoration on your gifts. Although some string and ribbon is recyclable, it isn’t always. Ensure you opt for jute string or cotton string that is made from recyclable fibre, or is biodegradable. Websites like Eco-craft offer a wide range of sustainable gift tags and twine that you can use this Christmas! Be considerate of using bows too; whilst these are pretty additions to a wrapped present, these are not recyclable. You can purchase paper bows however, from sites such as John Lewis; these have been made without plastic or glitter, and are therefore recyclable. Alternatively, if you have previously bought bows that are not able to be recycled, recycle them yourself by reusing them! Use sellotape (the zero plastic one, of course…) to use them again and again for as long as you can.
After the Christmas season, it’s estimated that one billion cards end up in the bin… recycling bin or not, that’s a lot of cards! So, this year why not send Christmas cards digitally, or only to those who you know will appreciate them and keep them rather than bin them. And with the cards you receive, you could even use them again the next year by finding your inner-crafty self and cutting them up to make gift tags, or your own cards the following year. Get creative!
Ultimately, it is clear that we all need to make a conscious effort together to do our bit for the environment this Christmas! There is so much we can do to be more eco-friendly and sustainable, yet still have the chance to give and receive the presents we are all excited to exchange.
About the Author: Chloe D’Inverno is a third year English Language and Linguistics student at the University of York. She has a passion for veganism since making the change in 2016, and is now on the path to further help the environment by doing her part in regards to sustainability and finding zero-waste alternatives.