Xmas gift

A guide to ethical gift wrap

Choose recycled, make your own or go for something different altogether when choosing your ethical gift wrap for this year's Christmas.

Gift wrap is often last on the list and gets grabbed in a hurry, but change is happening this year as more become aware of curbing waste and reducing or recycling what we use.  

A huge amount of wrapping paper is wasted at Christmas. Defra estimated that it would be enough to wrap up Guernsey, and if we all recycled just half of the 8,000 tonnes produced we’d save 25,000 trees.  

You may think that all gift wrap can be recycled, but anything printed with foil or glitter can only be binned. Luxury versions are problematic as they are often dyed, laminated or contain additives such as gold colouring and plastics.  

When unwrapping presents, do the ‘scrunch test’: scrunch a piece of wrapping paper into a ball – if it stays in a ball it can be recycled. Do remove any sticky tape still attached, as anything with Sellotape on will just end up being incinerated or go to landfill.  

This isn’t meant to be a miserable eco-grinch festive experience. We all love giving a beautifully presented gift, so enjoy discovering new ways to wrap with our favourite options below:

– Look for ‘recyclable’ and the FSC mark (Forest Stewardship Council) if buying paper.  

– Go full trad with brown paper tied up with string, ribbon or coloured paper twine. Use sprigs of herbs, cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices, pinecones, candy canes or Christmas tree cuttings bundled up as decorations too.  

– Use stencils and water-based poster paints for DIY festive designs. Traditional rubber stamps plus water-based inkpads also work well.  

– Upcycle old magazines, maps or children’s drawings as quirky giftwrap.

– Clear sticky tape is made from a type of plastic called polypropylene and is non-recyclable. Try washi tape, brown paper tape or picture framing tape as plastic free, biodegradable alternatives.  


Think outside of the gift wrap box

 Avoiding recycling altogether is a growing gift wrap trend, and much cheaper in the long run. We have treasured Christmas tree ornaments used every year, so why not a reusable gift wrap collection for family gifting? From low cost and upcycled, to readymade reusables, these lovely ideas can get you started:

Use washed and ironed fabric offcuts and get inspired by some knotted gift wrap ideas online – for inspiration see furoshiki, a traditional Japanese way of carrying and covering objects.   

Tie greenery to your parcels and bring a bit of nature to your wrapping. Image Ylanite Koppens

Lush have long been high street pioneers of furoshiki, selling recycled, organic and vintage fabric squares.  

Make the outside part of the gift by using a vintage scarf or tea towel – Radical Teatowels donate to good causes with every purchase  

Not keen on fancy folding? Bags of Ethics use designer print on drawstring bags that are ethically made and can be reused a whopping 5,000 times!   

WragWrap make reusable gift bags but if you miss the rustle of opening paper also stock an innovative ‘crackle fabric’ that sounds similar but can be reused many times.  

Lastly, if you do any card making to go with your presents, using eco glitter is an easy swap that cuts out microplastics from your crafting. Alternatively, send a personalised e-card like these from Friends of the Earth – the cards are free, but you can turn yours into a surprise gift by adding a donation too.  

From edible present ideas to the ethical Christmas trees, recipes and more, find the entire Wicked Leeks’ Christmas section here.


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    1. Lovely- they are great for upcycling and made of good sturdy recycled paper so no one can peek at their pressies!

  1. Hi Becky,

    Thank you, thank you for helping spread the word and encourage a pivot away from ‘old skool’ single-use disposable wrapping paper…

    We are seeing a huge leap in knowledge and awareness and with that a shift in what is wanted by the present wrapper and receiver! Nicky Co-Founder @ Wrag Wrap

    1. Thank you Nicky! Very happy to spread the word, and it’s great that as reusable wrap pioneers you helped raise awareness of these issues.

    1. Such a great zero waste habit to cultivate, and even though you have to spend a little time sorting and packing away the paper it is still quicker than going out to the shops to buy more every year.

  2. I have a large stash of ironed gift wrap from years ago – again a habit cultivated as a youngster many moons ago! Some of the ‘dressing’ on the paper gets removed during the ironing process.. Will have to start to make collages!


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