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  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Hall

Eco-friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Wrapping paper is great, isn’t it? It brings a flood of colour to any gift and holds in it the element of surprise! An ordinary sheet of paper that we use every day for mundane tasks can prompt so much joy at the sight of it on a morning of celebration.

Why isn’t wrapping paper very eco-friendly?

The problem with wrapping paper is that it is single use; used once and then thrown away. Even though our recycling bins say ‘paper’, most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable.

Some wrapping paper is too thin and so the fibres can’t be recycled. Some wrapping paper has plastic within the paper adding to plastic pollution in the form of glitter and metallic coatings. And then, even when we go out and specifically buy recyclable paper, any sticky tape must be removed before it can be recycled.

A lot of wrapping paper is made from new rather than recycled paper. In the UK, DEFRA estimates that at least 50,000 carbon-busting trees are chopped down to produce wrapping paper and gift bags each Christmas.

Eco-friendly alternatives to single-use wrapping paper

At the Party Kit Network, we are raising awareness about the impact of switching to reusables. So, below is a list of eco-friendly gift wrap ideas that we hope will be useful!

1. Fabric Squares

Squares of fabric or scarves can be folded, just like paper, and then secured with ribbon or string. With no cutting or tape, it’s actually a bit quicker than using paper gift wrap and all parts can easily be reused.

If you would like to add some pazazz to your gift wrapping, fabric can also be knotted using the Japanese art of Furoshiki. This means wrapping without the need for string or ribbon and works best with thinner fabrics particularly scarves. There’s a great guide to Furoshiki on the 1 Million Women blog.

Alternatively, you could purchase a selection of specially designed reusable fabric wraps secured with a button and tie from WragWrap.

2. Fabric Bags

If the art of Furoshiki is proving too complicated, try out one of these fabric bags. You can either make or buy your own.

The most popular sewing patterns and tutorials seem to be drawstring bags, but that can make the process a bit fiddlier and more time consuming. Here is a design which simply ties at the top and will fit even those oddly shaped gifts.

3. Pillowcases

Yes, bedding makes great reusable gift wrap! This is perfect for those difficult-to-wrap gifts, particularly second-hand toys which don’t normally come with a box.

I would recommend using two pillowcases, one inside the other, so it’s more difficult for the receiver to see the gift (but that may depend on the thickness of your bed linen!). Simply pop the gift inside and then either gather the opening together into a sack shape and secure it with ribbon or string. Or fold over the top of the pillowcase and tie like a parcel.

A duvet cover could be used for larger items such as bikes; how much success have any of us had trying to wrap a bike in secret and then having to move it without the paper ripping?

If you would like to get your pillowcases back to actually sleep on, this works best when you're going to be present for the gift opening and can retrieve your pillowcases after. If you don’t want to use your own ones or want to have a variety of designs – you can always find some sets that you specifically use for gift wrapping from your local charity shop.

4. Reuse Newspaper, Packing Paper, Boxes and Bags

My sister likes to do the crosswords and puzzles in the newspaper and will then use the rest to wrap presents.

The packing paper that comes in online orders as an alternative to bubble wrap is great for wrapping gifts. Some sheets are really flimsy and seem to rip when you look at them, but some of the thicker options are great for those little gifts. Personalise with ink stamps and secure with paper tape or ribbon so the paper can still be recycled after.

Equally, use the packing boxes that they were sent in for gift giving. Simply turn inside if needed and decorate!

Most high street shops have also switched to giving customers paper bags. If you turn these inside out, or create some artwork to cover their logo, they make great gift bags.

5. Pillow Boxes

Pillow boxes are great for those smaller gifts such as jewellery, sweets, gift vouchers and more. You can make your own from empty toilet rolls or paperboard and don't require any glue or sticky tape making them easy to reuse and recycle.

6. Reuse Old Books and Sheet Music

Wrapping presents in pages from old books or sheet music can look great. This works best if you have something already that you will no longer use, or a book which has been damaged or missing pages.

7. Keep and Reuse Gift Bags

Who doesn’t receive at least one gift bag on their birthday? Unlike wrapping paper, these are more likely to last more than a single use. Just keep any gift bags you receive and use them to re-gift throughout the year.

Getting Creative

Some of these options can seem quite plain to look at and aren’t as colourful in comparison to using sparkly gift wrap. If you’re feeling creative, you can always brighten them up with some stamps, foliage, ribbon, or even wrap them in kids artwork (always ask permission first!)


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Eco-friendly parties

Party kits are an easy, convenient and often cheaper way of accessing reusable tableware and decorations for a party. 

Make your next party a little more eco-friendly and hire a party kit. 

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