Wrapping that WON’T ruin the planet: How to do Christmas gifts the green way
- Nothing is as excessive as the mountains of wrapping paper we get through
- British households bin the equivalent of 108 million rolls over the festive period
- Writer SARAH RAINEY examines how to wrap Christmas gifts the green way
From plates piled high with food to stockings stuffed with gifts, Christmas is a time of excess. But nothing is quite as excessive — and shamefully wasteful — as the mountains of wrapping paper we get through.
British households bin the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper over the festive period. And that’s not counting the tons of plastic gift tags, ribbons and rolls of sticky tape (more than 40 million) that also get thrown away.
The name ‘wrapping paper’ is a misnomer, as most of the stuff we buy in shops isn’t made from paper at all. Instead, it’s laminated with plastic film, coloured with metallic dye or topped with glitter — meaning it can’t be recycled and so ends up in landfill.
But with a little bit of imagination — and odds and ends from around the house such as old scarves and leftover wallpaper — there are all sorts of eco-friendly ways of wrapping your presents.
I asked experts for their top wrapping paper-free tips that will help you save the planet and some money this Christmas.
Writer Sarah Rainey tries out different wrapping methods that do not involve using plastics
SPARKLE AND SHINE
WHAT YOU NEED: A roll of wide (60cm to 1 metre), extra-strong aluminium foil. You’ll also need a tape measure and scissors.
GOOD FOR: Books and other presents with square corners; otherwise the foil will look messy. It’s stronger than paper so can take weightier gifts.
Neelam Meetcha, a gift wrapping expert who works with A-listers and billionaire clients, says foil makes a nifty alternative to traditional wrapping paper.
‘Unwind a length of foil and place your gift in the centre,’ she says. ‘You want the foil to come up one side, go over the top and halfway down the opposite side of the gift.’
If your foil isn’t wide enough, cut two sheets of identical size and overlap them widthways by a centimetre to make what’s called a ‘belly band’. ‘This will conceal the join and strengthen it,’ Neelam explains.’
Wrap it neatly with folded flaps as you would paper. The foil should stay in place without any tape.
‘Use excess foil to make pinwheels or pom poms,’ suggests Neelam. ‘You could also cut a strip of white baking parchment and wrap this over the join to give a nice contrast.’
Wrapping specialist Jane Means, whose clients include royals, fashion houses and department stores, suggests cutting snowflakes out of baking parchment and sticking these to your foil-wrapped gift.
Good for books and other presents with square corners; otherwise the foil will look messy. It’s stronger than paper so can take weightier gifts
WHAT YOU NEED: An old scarf, tablecloth or pillowcase and a rubber band.
GOOD FOR: Wine bottles and oddly-shaped gifts such as footballs or plant pots.
First, fold the material into a square and place the present in the centre. ‘Take one corner and then the opposite one diagonally,’ says Neelam. ‘Gather the two corners into the middle, above your gift and, taking the other corners in turn, slowly pleat them into the middle — starting with the fabric nearest the gift and working towards the edge.’
Keep the sides taut as you go, and let the material fall naturally into pleats down the side of the bottle. When it’s all pleated in, use a rubber band to secure the top.
‘It should sit upright, not flop,’ says Neelam.
Alternatively, says Jane, secure the fabric by tying a knot at the top, fastening it around the neck of the bottle so it stays in place.
‘You could also roll the bottle diagonally across the material and secure both ends with ribbon, like a cracker,’ she adds.
As an extra, a satin ribbon, coordinated with your fabric, will make your gift look elegant.
Keep the sides taut as you go, and let the material fall naturally into pleats down the side of the bottle. When it’s all pleated in, use a rubber band to secure the top
THE POWER OF PRINT
WHAT YOU NEED: An old newspaper or pages from your recipient’s favourite magazine. For children, you can use comic books. You’ll also need scissors and a staple-remover.
GOOD FOR: Smaller presents, such as jewellery or cosmetics. This is also a thoughtful way to wrap magazine subscriptions.
Find the central pages of the newspaper or magazine — take the staples out if it’s the latter — and set your gift in the middle of the fold. ‘You might need to use a couple of sheets doubled over as newspaper in particular can be quite flimsy,’ says Jane.
Wrap it as normal and keep things green by securing with a little plastic-free tape such as brown kraft tape (around £4 from Amazon).
To decorate, continue the theme with a thin paper ribbon (around £3 from stationery shops). Coloured string or garden twine also works well with newsprint.
‘It’s simple but effective,’ says Jane. ‘If you put a nice decoration on it — such as a red ribbon and a wax seal or a small bauble or pine cone — this draws the eye, and nobody will mind what it’s wrapped in.’
Neelam suggests cutting flowers out of the pages and sticking them on top, or adding a plain piece of printer paper and using metallic pens to draw patterns.
What you need: An old newspaper or pages from your recipient’s favourite magazine. For children, you can use comic books. You’ll also need scissors and a staple-remover
WHAT YOU NEED: A wall poster, map or old calendar. If you’re buying for a film-lover, use a print from their favourite movie, or sheet music for a musician. You’ll need a tape measure and sharp scissors, too.
GOOD FOR: Soft or delicate gifts, such as clothing and cuddly toys. This wrapping material is much sturdier than regular paper and so will help parcels to hold their shape.
Start by cutting the poster, map or calendar to size. Don’t get rid of surplus paper; keep this to make decorations or do cutouts and stick them on cards.
‘This is a way to tailor your wrapping to the recipient,’ says Jane. ‘Maps of home or a meaningful place are lovely, as is music paper if they’ve got a favourite song.’
If your gift is oddly-shaped or made from material, Neelam suggests putting it in a box first to make wrapping easier. Alternatively, you can make it look bigger by pleating the top of the paper.
For a fancy, tape-free finish, secure the paper with ribbon at the sides and on top.
Neelam suggests using foliage as decoration: ‘Forage for holly, mistletoe or even attach offcuts from your Christmas tree.’
If you’re using up excess paper, fold this into a fan, make a weave with criss-crossed strips or try making an origami shape and sticking this on top.
What you need: A wall poster, map or old calendar. If you’re buying for a film-lover, use a print from their favourite movie, or sheet music for a musician. You’ll need a tape measure and sharp scissors, too
WHAT YOU NEED: A roll or scraps of surplus wallpaper, preferably in a bright, festive colour. You’ll also need scissors and some eco-friendly glue (removable ‘glue dots’, £4.50 for 200 from Amazon, are an alternative to plastic adhesives).
GOOD FOR: Large items, such as electricals, kitchenware or framed photographs. Thicker wallpaper is useful for protecting fragile or breakable gifts such as glass, without the need to use bubblewrap.
To save your back, Neelam recommends standing at an ironing board to wrap larger items. ‘It means you can get the paper underneath and around the gift, without any creases,’ she says.
Unroll the wallpaper, cut it to size and wrap it around the present — top and bottom first, then the sides in an envelope style — keeping it taut to the edges. You may need to use eco-friendly glue to stick it down, as wallpaper can be tacky and resistant to tape. Otherwise, you can use a thin piece of twine (£2.50 from John Lewis), wrapped tightly around the open edges, to secure it.
Decorate your wallpapered gifts with a colourful fabric ribbon and baubles from the tree. ‘These are eye-catching, and if you’ve made any mistakes or the paper is coming loose, the embellishment will draw the eye away,’ says Jane.
She also suggests sticking on pieces from a broken wreath or garland — ferns, dried oranges, cinnamon sticks or Christmas nuts which are past their best — or reusing decorations from pulled crackers. ‘You can spray them with fragrance so they have a festive aroma,’ she adds.
To book a workshop with Neelam, visit giftwrappingcourses.co.uk. For Jane’s online shop or wrapping services, go to janemeans.com.
What you need: A roll or scraps of surplus wallpaper, preferably in a bright, festive colour. You’ll also need scissors and some eco-friendly glue (removable ‘glue dots’, £4.50 for 200 from Amazon, are an alternative to plastic adhesives)
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