My brother calls me a cheapskate. My husband less flatteringly, ‘a tramp’. But reusing all those foil bows, fabric ribbons and little wire robins has always been important to me.
And now my wishes have come true – zero waste Christmas wrapping paper is all around us.
But what exactly is reusable wrapping paper? And is it weird?
Will your friends and relatives think you’ve cheaped out and can’t be bothered to wrap their presents properly?
No! Reusable wrapping paper has never been trendier. Which certainly helps if you’re looking to live sustainably. Here’s some great eco ideas for wrapping your gifts this year.
What Is Reusable Wrapping Paper?
Not just for Christmas, but for every Christmas, birthday and anniversary. Reusable wrapping paper is wrapping that’s able to withstand regular use so it can be used many times. Fabric, brown paper, fancy bags and beeswax wraps all count.
If you think about it, that’s how wrapping used to be. Long before mass produced, 12 metre rolls of cheap paper were widely available for 99p.
That’s why older relatives tend to lead the charge here. My grandparents both lived through World War 2 and they reuse everything. No doubt you have family members that reuse their wrapping (or labels) year upon year too.
Can’t I Just Recycle Wrapping Paper?
Sometimes you can recycle wrapping paper, but much of the wrapping paper in use today can’t be.
This is because wrapping paper is often dyed or laminated. Some papers contain glitter, plastic or metallic parts. Not to mention the reams of Sellotape sticking everything together. None of these things can be recycled along with standard paper.
Recycling plants also say that wrapping paper is so thin that it doesn’t contain any useful fibres. So it’s a waste of energy anyway.
One way you can tell is ‘the scrunch test’. If wrapping paper scrunches into a ball and stays that way then you’re good to recycle. If it bounces back, you’re not, but check local council guidelines because they all vary.
Is Reusable Wrapping Paper More Expensive?
Unless you’ve chosen brown paper it will cost more. But as you can reuse it again and again, the long term cost is lower.
You can think of it as a quality investment. And by that, I mean an investment in your bank account and the planet.
What Reusable Wrapping Paper Options Are Available?
If you’re looking to enjoy an eco friendly Chritsmas, here’s some ways to wrap your gifts without costing the earth.
Recycled Wrapping Paper
Look for wrapping paper that’s already been recycled. Or how about wrapping up gifts in the pages of an old book?
Thousands of books are pulped and recycled each year so turning them into wrapping paper is a logical way to recycle them.
Newspaper is good and magazines pages are fair game too.
Brown paper is recyclable because it doesn’t contain any extra glittery or metallic extras. It’s also very cost effective.
My grandmother wept over my son Max’s homemade wrapping paper. It was plain old Post Office brown paper thoughtfully decorated… with images of Rudolph pooing in Santa’s face as the festive sleigh skimmed snowy rooftops. And it’s probably best to forget the snowmen engaged in death battles.
If you or your kids aren’t into drawing, there are lots of Christmas or birthday ink stamps around. Most supermarkets and craft shops such as Hobbycraft sell them.
If you’ve bought an odd-shaped present (oh, the trauma, we’ve all been there!) you’ll know by now that swearing at it doesn’t help. Try reusable sturdy brown paper bags instead. These can be decorated too, if you’re in the mood.
Save Your Standard Wrapping Paper
Often there’s lots of ‘can’t be recycled’ wrapping paper you can salvage.
Root through the bin liner and fold up anything that isn’t too crumpled. Then in those long boring days after December 25th, cut and keep what you can.
Go for the paper, bags, boxes, bows, twirly bits and tags – and then use them year after year until they fall apart.
Like the reusable bags we take to the supermarket, you can also invest in reusable Christmas bags.
Try to find nylon free bags if you can, as nylon contains plastic. If you do pick the nylon ones, make sure you keep reusing them and hold off washing them to prevent microplastics entering the water cycle.
Have A Go With Fabric
Fabric is a hard-wearing material and you can reuse it year upon year.
Wrapping with fabric is very different to wrapping with paper, so give yourself time to learn. Struggling with fabric wrapping at 11pm on Christmas Eve (after mulled wine) is not a pleasant experience! There are lots of YouTube videos that will teach you the basic techniques.
Search out scarves, pillowcases and fabric remnants from charity shops. Thinner materials work best.
Or, if you don’t have the time (like me), go straight for hassle free fabric wrapping packs. Yes they’re more expensive, but hopefully you’ll be using them for an eternity.
Etsy is filled with eco friendly folk making fabric wrapping packs so do have a hunt around and see what you can find.
Plantable Seed Paper
This is an unusual and inspired choice for garden friendly folk. Plantable seed paper is thick, recycled paper that’s embedded with flower seeds.
You can also buy eco friendly Christmas cards and crackers embedded with seeds. These were originally designed as birthday cards for loved ones that had passed away. What a great idea – don’t forget to plant it!
If you’re gifting food or toiletries such as palm oil free soap or solid shampoo, use reusable beeswax wraps.
Tell your recipient they’re part of the gift and spread the Christmas recycling love! Vegan options are available too.
Specific Reusable Paper
There’s also a market for specific reusable wrapping paper. This kind of wrap is made from sturdier paper than the wrap designed to be single use.
Plus, it saves the hassle of fabric and the festive mood destroying cries of “don’t rip that, I’m saving it”.
Santa Goes Eco
A lovely little trick for the kids is to leave out reusable wrapping for Father Christmas to use. The wrapping disappears when letters head off to the North Pole. In our house that’s December 1st. Then it magically appears again, wrapped around gifts on December 25th.
What a great example for children. Father Christmas is trying to save the planet and that’s what children on the “nice list” should do too.
It also helps explain why presents have the same wrapping each year!
There’s Nothing Weird About Reusable Wrapping Paper
Finding new and reusable ways to wrap gifts is not only eco friendly, it’s also both trendy and traditional. And it helps us all reduce packaging. This is especially important at Christmas when everything is covered in so much.
If you’re wrapping gifts to be opened outside of your house, make sure you encourage your giftee to reuse it. Or ask for it back!
From a personal perspective, I love the warm eco feeling I get from reusable wrapping paper. Whether it’s beeswax wraps or fabric – it’s SO nice to use.
Overworked, stressed out grownups don’t always have time to enjoy that festive feeling we had as kids. But taking the time to wrap gifts the old fashioned way brings back some of that Christmas excitement.
I recommend you give reusable wrapping paper a try – you won’t look back, I promise.