Plastic Free July 2020: Reducing Your Wasteline When Giving Gifts

It seems a bit strange to be highlighting Christmas during the middle of July, but gift giving is another area to consider reducing your wasteline. And if you start planning now (or at least put it at the back of your mind), then it gets much easier when December (or a birthday) rolls around. 


There are some really simple substitutions that can be made when it comes to wrapping paper. My favourite is using old atlases: the sheets are the perfect size for books, CDs, DVDs, and other small presents, and the paper can be easily recycled. Brown paper parcels tied up with string are also making a comeback; the price is considerably lower compared to traditional gift wrap, and you can decorate the paper yourself (or ask your kids to do it for you). There’s also the classic newspaper funnies section (although do newspapers still have comics?!).

Regarding paper, make sure it passes the scrunch test. Crumple a small piece into a ball: does it stay more or less as is? If so, it’s paper and can be recycled. However, if it springs back open it contains plastic and cannot. And forget about glitter: this causes problems for the machines at recycling plants, so please avoid it on wrapping paper, greeting cards, or anything given to me.

There are a lot of other options beyond paper, especially for odd shaped items. I like using reusable bags like those from Onya or Oxfam’s I Was a Sari bag; they look great and become a second gift (tea towels are also suitable). Another of my experiments has been reusing cocoa powder containers (basically anything cylindrical with a lid) with a bit of paper and twine to turn it into a giant Christmas cracker. This is also good if you’re giving a gift in person and can grab the container back after the recipient has opened it!


Local independent shops are worth seeking out for unique and eco-friendly gifts, and in Chippenham we’re fortunate to have Cousin Norman’s, Just Because You Love It, Paprika, and The Bay Tree.

Handmade gifts do double duty by directly supporting an artist. While many arts and crafts fairs have had to close this year, the Bath Artisan Market has moved online. If you’ve missed the experience of browsing, it’s well worth checking out their offerings!

Closer to home, the Corsham Creative Market is planning to open in August.


Who do you regularly buy gifts for? Knowing who is on your list—and when birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays are—can help avoid panic buying so you only get what’s needed and wanted by the recipient.

Planning has another component: a big part of reducing the waste that is produced through gift giving—or any purchase—is thinking about how the packaging and the item itself will be disposed of before it is even bought. Is it something that will break if you just look at it wrong, or perhaps a piece of technology that will be obsolete before the end of January?


This brings me to Buy Me Once (available both in the UK and the US). The idea is just as it says in the site’s title: goods that are durable and sustainable. Many have lifetime guarantees or are easily repairable. I admit my own wish list is predominantly gift vouchers, and these are always a great way to almost completely eliminate packaging waste while making sure the recipient gets exactly what they want.

Check out the annual More Thought, Less Waste gift guide for more ideas. Are there other brands or ideas you think should be included this year? Please let me know at

A friend introduced me to the four-gift rule for children, and this is something else to consider now so your little ones can get used to the idea of quality over quantity under the Christmas tree.

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