More and more people are coming to the realisation that the way we’ve celebrated Christmas traditionally is pretty disastrous for not only our pockets but also the environment.
Imagine this. It takes 6 mature trees to make a ton of paper, meaning that just in the UK alone, we use 50,000 trees per year just to make Christmas gift wrap.
The vast majority of that paper isn’t recyclable – it might be coated in plastic or glitter. You can try the “scrunch test” – if you scrunch the paper and it stays scrunched, it’s recyclable. If it bounces back, it’s not. But even if the paper is recyclable, you have to remember to remove any plastic sellotape too. And who really does this thoroughly in the midst of the chaos on Christmas day?
The reality is that the vast majority of Christmas wrapping paper will end up in landfill or being incinerated. This of course represents a huge waste of resources and a major cause of pollution too. And it’s kind of a waste of money too.
So, what are the alternatives? Christmas is a great time of year to get crafty and there are loads of DIY gift-wrap ideas out there. But are they really as eco-friendly as they seem?
Fabric Gift Wrap
Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts, food and other items in fabric, for transportation and decoration. It is looking set to be one of the biggest trends for Christmas 2020, with many different types of fabrics available. There are also lots of reusable fabric gift bags on the market too.
But, is fabric really so much better than paper? The carbon footprint of synthetic fibres is really disastrous. What about cotton? Well, it takes 2700 litres of water to produce the cotton required for making a t-shirt. Organic cotton farming methods use 243 litres, by comparison, and no pesticides or synthetic fertilisers.
Plus there is also the carbon emissions of transportation to be considered, as well as packaging. It’s hard to find any research directly comparing the carbon footprint of cotton manufacture to paper, but it’s cetrain to be a lot higher.
So, what to do about the beautiful fabric wraps you want to buy on Etsy? They’re likely to be pretty pricy! The most important thing is to make sure they’re reused for many, many years, to get value for money and also to justify the environmental impact of their manufacture.
You should make sure you give them to friends who you know will reuse them, or keep them for gifts within your own family and store them for reuse year after year. Virgin fabric in landfill is much, much worse than wrapping paper in landfill or being recycled.
Some eco-gurus suggest making the fabric wrap itself part of the gift. So you could buy a scarf, a blanket or a tea-towel to wrap presents in. How palatable this idea is to you will depend on how far you’re going on your eco-journey, though. Do your friends really need another scarf or a tea towel? Could you get them a scarf from a charity shop instead?
The best fabric to use is fabric that already exists. You could even upcycle old clothes to wrap gifts. It almost goes without saying that avoiding buying new items also saves money and is more in tune with the minimalist aims a lot of people are now pursuing.
Other Low Impact Ideas
Literally any material that that already exists is a great option for making festive wrap, cards or gift tags. Using old cereal boxes to make gift bags is a great craft project to make with kids – you might want to decorate them, or leave them as they are for a quirky look! You could also use card that you already have, old newspaper or paper shopping bags.
Other options include wrapping gifts in newspaper or pages from old magazines, or using recyclable Kraft paper and decorating it. You could do potato printing with small children, or stencil designs, stamps or anything your creativity calls you towards.
A final option, and perhaps the best of all, is to reuse what you already have. Who doesn’t have a stash of gift bags from presents they’ve received? These can all be reused, and some high-quality wrapping paper can also be salvaged to use again. Ribbon and string can also be saved up throughout the year for the ultimate flourish.
I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas!
While it’s tempting to go along with all the latest trends for reducing plastic use and choosing cloth instead, it is important to think about the wider environmental impact of our choices this Christmas. Of course, reusing and upcycling what we already have is far cheaper than buying new stuff too! So why not scour your house and see what you already have, that can be transformed into festive, fun wrapping, saving you money and helping the planet at the same time!