52 Acts, Eco-Friendly Alternatives

1. Christmas Gift Wrapping

Hello everyone, and welcome to 52 Acts of Environmentalism!

I know the festive period is more or less over but I thought I’d do my first post about my Christmas wrapping routine, as it’s one of the main things I switched up this year to be more eco-friendly.

Standard wrapping paper is probably one of the biggest missed opportunities that I can think of. Unless otherwise stated, the majority of it is plastic-coated, plastic-based or has added embellishments such as foil or glitter which means it cannot be recycled.  Since it’s meant to be ultimately disposable and it’s only real function is to cover gifts, I don’t see the logic in using materials that are going to hang about in landfill for years upon years.

Although I like the idea of wrapping paper, if there were an alien species that landed on earth around Christmas time, (which sounds like a plausible Doctor Who special) how would we explain it? No big deal – we just take a couple of hours each year concealing what we’ve bought, to place it under a tree for a while before Cadbury-selection-box addled children tear into it like angry seagulls.

It’s a crazy tradition, but I really do like it! I like it less however when I think how much unsustainable wrapping paper is being used every year – and that the paper from last year is probably still sat in a landfill somewhere, not biodegrading.

Supposedly, each year we jovial Brits will throw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper. Consider for a moment that the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats (the two extreme points of Mainland Britain) is 874 miles. We could arguably paper the road between them almost 260 times.

I know that in my household, my family will normally produce about two bin-bags worth of crumpled up, used wrapping paper. Times that by every household in Britain and you can see we have a real problem on our hands. Here is how I tried to make a small difference:

My Recyclable Gift Wrapping Routine

Here is a list of the swaps I made that meant that the gift I gave could be unwrapped and the used paper, tape, decorations and tags could go straight into our blue bin!

  • Brown Paper – Remember how Julie Andrews bigged up brown paper packages in The Sound of Music? Well now, it’s my go-to for gift wrapping! Brown paper is available from any office supply shop or post office and is much cheaper than your typical flamboyant Christmas wrapping paper. I got an enormous industrial roll which should last me a few years at least for a little over a tenner. Not only is it recyclable, but it can be composted too and gives your presents a stylish, minimalist look – especially when paired with some simple red and white string!

A candle on brown wrapping paper with scissors and washi tape rolls around.

  • Washi Tape – As pictured above, you can get several varieties of festive washi tape around Christmas and as it is paper-based, it’s recyclable too! No more picking sellotape off your paper before you can recycle it. But watch out when you’re getting it off the roll – it can tear fairly easily!

An origami bow placed on a brown paper-wrapped present with washi tape ribbon

  • Embellishments – Brown paper is great but on it’s own, is not necessarily the most Christmassy!  Paper gift tags and rough hewn string are again, fully biodegradable and can be composted if you have a bin. This was an easy one but in terms of package decorations, the market is saturated with nasty plastic ribbons of all shapes and sizes. I had a think and busted out my old-school origami skills to make some handmade paper bows!

Group of people having made a selection of festive origami bows

They look a little daunting but are fairly easy to master. I even taught my whole family to do it (with varying degrees of success) which made for a great Christmas Eve activity. And who knows, maybe even a new tradition?

Other Alternatives to Standard Wrapping Paper

  • Reusable Gift Bags – Whether cloth or sturdy paper, you can continue using these for years and they are not dissimilar to traditional holiday items like Christmas stockings. Perhaps there is less unwrapping involved but you can pair it with brown paper wrapping or even newspapers which would have gone in the recycling anyway.
  • Cloth wraps / scarves – Some shops such as Lush have introduced these for wrapping up soap and other gift items. You can wrap up gifts quite neatly with reusable scarves or bolts of soft fabric which can then be kept and used next year. They also take up less space than the three unravelling rolls of wrapping paper that you’ll cram under the stairs!

Whatever you choose to do next year, I hope we can all spare a thought for unnecessary waste and what we can do to cut it down. A lot of these are very simple swaps, after all!

It seems pretty daft to wish you a Merry Christmas for just under eleven months time, so instead I will wish you all a happy new year and a splendid 2018!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about me or about this blog, feel free to check out my About page!

(Featured Image Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash)