Is wrapping paper recyclable? Nope. Is Christmas a good reason to chuck a tonne of plastic and metal in the landfill? Definitely not. But shouting “boycott wrapping paper” into the void/our Facebook feed only gets us so far.

Here are some more eco-friendly alternatives. Here’s hoping my shabby examples of eco-friendly Christmas wrapping paper will inspire you to use a bit less non-recyclable wrapping paper.

A cardboard gift box is nestled in amongst the boughs of a Christmas tree. A white snowflake dangles in the foreground and other shiny decorations can be glimpsed, including a miniature on a rocking horse. The gift box is decorated with orange washi tape, a cream lacy ribbon and a pressed red leaf.

Reuse anything you can. This is something I’ve been doing for years simply because I’m a) very cheap and b) hate to throw out anything shiny or pretty.

Take just a few minutes on Christmas day to save anything you can, whether that’s large sections of wrapping paper or just a few bows and ribbons. Store them away with next year’s Christmas cards and decorations ready to be used again.

A pile of folded wrapping paper, a pile of tissue paper and a bundle of string, tags and ribbons on a green carpet.
Last year’s scavenged materials.

Sure, the typical “eco-friendly Christmas wrapping paper aesthetic” may look more like textured homemade papers and wholesome twine, but it makes sense to reuse what we already have, even if what we already have is non-recyclable papers and plastic bows.

A gift wrapped in tissue paper with a monochrome star pattern on it and decorated with pink washi tape and a gold bow. It has a handmade gift tag dangling from it from gold ribbon.

Look to nature for inspiration. This sounds a bit hippy but bear with me. In 2017, I went on a great autumnal walk and collected some of the best fallen leaves for pressing.

Leaves are easier to press than flowers as they are more likely to stay intact. And pressed leaves are a great biodegradable alternative to plastic or foil bows.

Learn about how to press leaves or flowers.

The corner of a gift on a Christmas themed tablecloth with holly on it. The gift has dusky pink washi tape, a gold bow and two pressed autumn leaves. There is a Christmas lantern in the background with a snowman and Christmas tree on it.

Get back to basics with brown paper. Is wrapping paper recyclable? Well, actually, it can be if you use plain brown paper. Pick up some stamps and inks, washi tape or colourful pens to transform plain paper into fun wrapping paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect either, as it’s the overall effect that matters.

Waste-paper also works well. Last Christmas I used an early novel draft as wrapping paper. You could even combine a paperwork clearout with your Christmas wrapping.

A rectangular gift wrapped in brown paper and stamped with birthday cakes and the message

Put it in a sock. We all love Christmas stockings. Let’s wrap up our gifts in cosy socks too. I don’t have any photos of this, but I did ‘wrap’ a couple of gifts in some brightly coloured socks last year. Just remember to take them back on the day!

You could also use blankets, scarves or boxes you have lying around the house.

A small gift wrapped in white wrapping paper stamped with rainbow gingerbread men. It also has pale blue snowflake washi tape and a silver bow on it. There is a Christmas tree in the background decorated with eclectic decorations.

Take back your Christmas bags. Now, I’m aware I’m in danger of crossing over from resourceful to mercenary here, but there is no point in giving someone a pretty bag or box that they’re only going to throw away.

After you’ve given someone a gift, ask if they want to reuse the bag and, if not, ask if you can take it yourself. (This may only be socially acceptable when you’re giving to close family/friends.)


Hopefully, at least one or two of these methods of reducing waste this Christmas is achievable for you, no matter your budget, time constraints or artistic temperament.

Another thing to think about – if you haven’t already – is whether the gifts you are buying for people are going to end up in landfill within a few weeks. I find joke gifts as funny as the next person, yet I also feel myself plunging into a pool of despair when I stare into the eyes of a plastic Santa keyring that may never make it onto a set of keys, but will instead spend all eternity sitting in landfill. Anyway!

I’ve been guilty of buying gimmicky throwaway items because of the stress of “well, I need to get them something” or “the gift I’ve bought doesn’t seem enough”. But the whole notion of “stocking fillers” is so indicative of our throwaway culture. Let’s try to be thoughtful about what we buy this Christmas and do what we can.

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