2020 More Thought, Less Waste Gift Guide (2)


I have a confession to make: I love a nicely wrapped present. I love little details, like matching ribbons and gift tags. But there are so many ways of getting that same attention to detail without costing the earth.


This is an old standby, and one that can be can help greatly reduce your Christmas budget as you may already have some around the house.


Old atlas pages are my favourite way of wrapping gifts. The paper quality is good enough to look quite smart, and you can even use cities or locations that are meaningful to the recipient (I told you I liked details!). These sheets are especially good for wrapping DVDs and books.


Charity shops are a great source for both of these: old books of music and large tomes like dictionaries can be sacrificed for the greater good to wrap smaller packages. However, as I learned from personal experience, you may not want to tell the staff what you’re doing—the glare I got when I mentioned I would be cutting a child’s songbook up to make wrapping paper still sends a shiver down my spine!


Rolls of brown parcel paper can be purchased far cheaper than normal gift wrap and decorated however you wish: personalised for the recipient with some of their favourite things, a whole roll with a seasonal focus, or let the kids go wild with decorating on a rainy autumn day.


Wrapping something in a scarf or a tea towel allows you to give two presents in one. Cousin Norman’s in Chippenham does sari wraps that can double as a scarf (and sells gift wrap without plastic). On the High Street, Lush offers knot wraps, but any fabric can be pressed into service.

If you follow my less rubbish life over on MissElaineous, you may have noticed that I’ve fallen down the anime rabbit hole, and I’ve also become a bit obsessed with other aspects of Japanese culture, such as furoshiki. This is a traditional way of wrapping objects: it looks amazing and, if you can get the cloth back, can be used again and again.


Standard cardboard gift bags make it easy to wrap awkward presents and, if you know the person well enough, you can ask to have the bag back afterwards and reuse it until it wears out. My preferred option is to give gifts in reusable bags that the recipient can then use themselves; Oxfam’s I was a Sari foldaway bags are lovely, one-of-a-kind practical gifts that are perfect for this.


I have to admit that I tend to re-use biscuit tins for office supplies because they fit perfectly in my desk drawers, but you can also use them to put gifts in. Or perhaps refill with homemade biscuits?


Using glass bottles is a suggestion that I came across at an environmental event. Maybe a wine bottle with a printed certificate for a wine-tasting experience rolled up inside? Or something that can double as a vase when it’s done? Interesting jars and other containers can also be used for gifts: just use a bit of tissue paper and twine to turn it into a Christmas cracker.


Regardless of what you decide to wrap with, it’s always worth considering how packaging will be disposed of, and please keep in mind that gift wrap and greeting cards with foil and glitter usually can’t be recycled (and some of us loath glitter with the fiery hatred of a thousand suns. You’ve been duly warned).


Wondering if something can be recycled? Give paper (or foil) the scrunch test: if it can be crumpled into a ball and doesn’t bounce back, it’s most likely paper (or foil) and can be recycled accordingly. If it springs open, it is probably made with plastic and has to go with general rubbish to landfill.

Map gift wrap and keepsake wooden tag

Where to shop: How to avoid Christmas Buying Panic by supporting local or independent retailers offline and on.

Wrapping it all up: Suggestions for how to cut back on wrapping paper waste (and don’t forget the scrunch test!).

Be a PALL: Help friends and family plastic a lot less.

For who they are … or want to be: Personality-based gifts for adults and children.

Around the house: Practical gifts that never go out of style.

Bits and bobs: A final collection of everything that doesn’t fit into one of these other categories.

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