Here in the UK, we throw away an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year at Christmas, according to waste management company BIFFA. That's enough to wrap around the Earth more than eight times. And that’s just at Christmas! That doesn’t factor in the rest of the year – all those birthdays, anniversaries, christenings…..
Most wrapping paper is not recyclable. What a shocking waste of the earth’s resources!
It is traditional in the UK to wrap gifts in attractive single use wrapping paper and we get that breaking with tradition is hard. However, it is essential if we are serious in our mission to reduce waste to landfill. There have to be alternatives out there that we can learn to use instead.
Here are five great alternatives to single use wrapping paper for you to consider - and we're saving the best to last!
1. Newspapers and magazines
Keep a stack of newspapers or magazines at home ready to wrap a gift in an imaginative way - choosing to feature an image or headline that fits well with the recipient of the gift. You may choose to create a larger sheet by sellotaping pages together in an ordered or random manner.
Sisal string works well instead of sellotape for gifts wrapped in newspaper and a colourful piece of ribbon is great for a magazine covered gift.
2. Reusable gift bags
When you receive a gift in a gift bag, make sure you flatten down the bag and keep it in a safe place to reuse it. Packing paper is good to cover the gift if you don't want anyone to peek inside. Make sure you check to see if the gift tag has been used - they often aren't. If it has, tear it off and make one of your own to attach.
3. Brown paper bags
Some shops give out plain brown paper bags to take items home in. These are great for decorating in your own unique style - with paint, stickers, magazine collage, sharpies... Try to keep it non specific so that someone else can re-use the bag in the future (so don't write someone's name on it).
Most of us have more scarves of all sizes and colourways than we can ever use. These are great for wrapping gifts - the lucky recipient can then decide whether to wear the scarf themselves or re-use it to wrap a gift for someone else. If you don't have any you want to part with, charity shops are often selling scarves cheaper than a roll of wrapping paper. Check out tutorials on youtube for great ways of folding and tying scarves to get the best results.
5. Furoshiki fabric wrap
As I said, we saved the best to last.
Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloths used to wrap and/or to transport goods. Dating from the Nara period (AD 710 t0 794) in Japan, furoshiki have been used to wrap precious temple objects, clothes and more recently gifts. The wrap is considered to be an integral part of the gift itself and each reusable cotton gift wrap is beautifully made and practical.
Local crafter Ruth Tissington introduced us to the tradition of furoshiki and the notion that modern furoshiki are popular as an eco-friendly alternative to single-use wrapping paper.
Ruth explains why she loves furoshiki - "I have been brought up with a strong emphasis on not wasting things. I think that reusing fabric into gift wraps is a beautiful way to wrap presents and helps create wrapping which will last for years. It is rewarding to see an old garment or scrap of material changed into something with a new purpose."
We invited Ruth to make some fabric gift wraps for Green Heart Collective out of fabric that had been donated to us - as cushion covers, curtains, sheets, tablecloths and clothing. She's produced some beautifully made unique upcycled fabric gift wrap that we now have on display and for sale at the front of our shop space.
Ruth hopes that more and more people will choose furoshiki over single use wrapping paper, saying "Although it's not engrained into our culture yet, it embraces a traditional Japanese method of making the wrapping part of the gift. I would to think that furoshiki will become the way to wrap gifts in this country too, passed between family and friends over generations."
Celebrate each special occasion with this exquisite fabric wrap handmade in the North East from discarded material. Please use this wrap over and over again as an alternative to single use wrapping paper.
Knowing what I now know about single use wrapping paper, I'm ready to pledge to never buy wrapping paper again. Are you?
Any wrapping paper that I receive, I will re-use, but that's it. Beyond that, I will start experimenting with all of the above suggestions.
Let's make single use wrapping paper a thing of the past to protect our future.