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10 best eco-friendly wrapping papers for making a sustainable swap this Christmas

Try these plastic-free gift-wrap alternatives for an eco-friendly season

Amy Sedghi
Friday 05 November 2021 12:34
<p>We looked for reusable and recyclable materials, as well as considering packaging and value for money </p>

We looked for reusable and recyclable materials, as well as considering packaging and value for money

There’s a lot of joy to be had in the festive season, but undoubtedly, there’s a lot of potential waste, too. Just think of the metres of wrapping paper (which is not all recyclable), to the bows, ribbons, gift packaging, unwanted gifts and food waste – it all begins to mount up. In fact, the UK is estimated to be 30 per cent more wasteful during the festive period, with more than 100 million bags of rubbish being sent to landfill after Christmas, according to the GWP group.

While a more sustainable approach can be applied to many areas of the festive season, taking a closer look at what we use for gift wrapping seems an obvious choice. After all, in the UK we throw away an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each Christmas. Not only is it bad for the environment, it also costs the government a hefty sum to dispose of our festive waste.

So, what can you do to be more eco-friendly if you don’t want to completely shun the festive tradition of beautifully wrapped presents? First of all, choose your wrapping materials wisely. You may think any old wrapping paper can be popped in the recycling bin, but that’s not quite the case. Those decorated with foil, glitter, heavily dyed or laminated, not to mention paper covered in plastic sticky tape, will inevitably head to landfill. Recycle Now recommends trying the “scrunch test”: if paper is scrunched into a ball and stays like that, then it’s deemed okay for recycling as thinner papers are said to have less good quality fibres. They also advise removing any sticky tape, tags and decorations as these generally can’t be recycled.

Opting for something plain and simple, such as brown kraft paper, accessorised with some twine or ribbon, is a good bet, but there are also other ideas if you’re after something a little more fun. Plantable seed papers, reusable fabric wraps and boxes that’ll last long past Christmas are just some of the other options. In a bid to find greener alternatives this festive season, we’ve scoped out the best eco-friendly and plastic-free gift wrapping ideas for presents of all shapes and sizes.​​

How we tested

​​In our mission to find the best eco-friendly and plastic-free Christmas wrapping options, we searched high and low to find and test a variety of products that fitted the brief. We looked for wrapping ideas that were either recyclable or reusable. Materials and packaging were important in our assessment, and if any single-use plastic made its way in on delivery, we’ve tried our best to note this.

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As well as examining the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the wrapping ideas, we also took into account other key considerations: quality, value for money, ease of use and design. We understand the importance of making more environmentally friendly choices, but also empathise with the desire for a beautifully wrapped gift at Christmas, so have tried to find products that ticked both boxes, whilst also still being simple to use. After all, there’s enough to do in the run-up to Christmas day, without getting into a tangle with all the wrapping.

The best eco-friendly and sustainable wrapping papers for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Ecovibe recyclable wrapping paper: £7.49, Ecovibe.co.uk 
  • Best for beautiful design – Curlicue stars at dusk wrapping paper: £6.75, Curlicue.uk
  • Best for a luxury feel – Bags of Ethicsgreat British designer wrapping bags: £15, Bagsofethics.org
  • Best for children – Paperchase penguin pals kraft small gift box: £3.50, Paperchase.com
  • Best furoshiki wraps – Kindly Yarn furoshiki fabric wraps: £15, Kindlyyarn.co.uk
  • Best for colourful prints – Storigraphic bountiful partridge and pear Christmas wrapping paper: £3, Storigraphic.com
  • Best bottle bags – Ecovibe bottle bags: £4.99, Ecovibe.co.uk 
  • Best for decoration – Paperchase pastel kraft paper bows: £4.50, Paperchase.com
  • Best gift tags – Ruby and Bo plantable seed gift tags: £5, Nationaltrust.org.uk
  • Best for style lovers – Vintage scarf surprise bundle: £15 for three scarves, Fabricwrappingco.com

Ecovibe recyclable wrapping paper

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

Environmentally conscious retailer Ecovibe is a pure treasure trove of green necessities, be it toiletries, cleaning products or gift wrap. Its 3x3 metre rolls come in either an understated brown kraft paper, with a “Merry Christmas” message, or in a festive red and gold foliage print. Made of recycled paper in the UK, the wrap is also fully recyclable and doesn’t come covered in any single-use plastic. It’s also FSC certified and an official Woodland Carbon partner.

We thought the paper was of good quality: easy to wrap with but not too thin that it tore accidentally. Wrapped up, and accessorised with ribbon, there was a traditional charm to the designs, which would make it suitable for a range of ages. There’s also a handy cutting grid printed on the reverse too, so you can make sure your gift wrapping is as simple and neat as can be.

Curlicue stars at dusk wrapping paper

Best: For fun designs

Rating: 9/10

Founded in 2019 by Hema Chauhan, Curlicue was born of a desire to find environmentally friendly and beautiful gift wrap with a low carbon footprint, after Chauhan was left frustrated with her bags of non-recyclable wrapping paper after Christmas Day. Curlicue is certainly hitting the mark with its stunning designs and sustainable credentials: all the paper used is 100 per cent recycled, plastic-free and recyclable. The brand also only uses vegetable-based ink and uses a waterless and chemical-free printing process. What’s more, it also uses a UK printer for its paper to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible. Oh, and did we mention that its entire making-to-shipping process is plastic-free?

With so many gorgeous designs, it’s tough to pick just one favourite, but we did especially like the “stars at dusk” wrapping paper. It’s fresh and vibrant – a nice alternative to more traditional festive colours and characters. As expected, there’s a great quality to the paper too, which adds to its luxe effect.

Bags of Ethics great British designer wrapping bags

Best: For a luxury feel

Rating: 8.5/10

Following on from its successful face coverings collaboration with the British Fashion Council, sustainable brand Bags of Ethics has now turned its attention to wrapping bags.

There are three designs overall in the collection, from two great British designers, Giles Deacon and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. While all of the options are pretty enough to sit under any Christmas tree, we also love the fact that the stylish prints wouldn’t look out of place after the festive season. Choose from a vibrant “cosmic phoenix” or calm “moon meadow” print by Giles Deacon, or a black and floral decoupaged style by Preen (our personal favourite). Produced in Bags of Ethics’ own ethical factory in India, they’re made by a 90 per cent female workforce.

Each of the designs, which are printed on organic cotton sateen with non-toxic water-based inks, come as a trio of pouches: one medium and two small, along with three recyclable paper gift tags. The pouches are pretty sizable though, with the medium size big enough to fit, say a pair of shoes in comfortably.

We also love the silky ribbon ties, which add to the luxurious feel of the reusable gift bags. Our only gripe was with the couple of small pieces of plastic used to keep the bags packaged together on arrival.

Paperchase penguin pals Kraft small gift box

Best: For children

Rating: 7.5/10

Made from recycled paper, this small Kraft gift box from Paperchase is a cute option that’s sure to go down well with kids thanks to its fun festive penguin design. The sturdy box is also perfect for popping in a few small gifts and can be reused either for storage or to be refilled and given away. Paperchase also has gift boxes in a few different design, which are worth checking out on its handy new Eco Edit.

Kindly Yarn furoshiki fabric wraps

Best: Furoshiki wraps

Rating: 8/10

Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloths used to wrap and transport goods, and if you have a search online for them, you’ll see they’re being keenly embraced by the zero-waste movement. This set of three furoshiki wraps are a great intro and can be used on a number of items, such as a book, toiletries or even a bottle of wine. The cotton used by Kindly Yarn is a premium 100 per cent cotton yarn that is lightweight, meaning the fabric knots easily and drapes beautifully. Prints are also digitally printed instead in a move towards using less water and energy.

We love the understated and modern style of the designs and how they can be passed on to be reused again. It can be a bit of a learning curve figuring out how to tie the furoshiki wraps in the best possible way (especially when attempting to neatly get it round a bottle), but there are lots of handy online tutorials. Plus, it’s pretty fun to get creative with it.

Storigraphic bountiful partridge and pear Christmas wrapping paper

Best: For colourful prints

Rating: 9/10

Sustainable brand Storiographic specialises in impactful paper good, and even one scroll of its stationery, greeting cards and wrapping paper will show you that. So, in its very own unique style, the brand has created a series of Christmas prints that are vivid, eye-catching and downright wonderful. We love its “festive flock” series, which features bold takes on festive birds such as the partridge, turtle dove and robin. The hot pink partridge and pear design is a must-have for making gifts stand out under the Christmas tree.

Designed and made in the UK, Storigraphic’s products also have a charitable benefit, with 5 per cent of sales profit donated to the homelessness charity Crisis UK. Its wrapping paper is also made using FSC certified uncoated paper that is completely recyclable and is delivered wrapped in tissue paper, plus an eco outer packaging. At £3 a pop for a 50cm x 70cm sheet, it’s not the cheapest, but the quality is instantly apparent in its feel and the paper thickness is designed with re-use in mind. We certainly know we’d be delighted to receive a gift wrapped in this bold take on a festive favourite.

Ecovibe bottle bags

Best: Bottle bags

Rating: 7/10

If you’re like us, sometimes you have a bottle of wine to give as a present and just can’t be bothered with the faff of wrapping it up. Thank goodness then for a bottle bag that you can just pop it into, maybe with a bit of tissue paper if you’re feeling fancy. This trio of bags from Ecovibe not only are up to the task, but they’re also plastic free and come with a gift tag attached. Simple, fuss free and festive. What more could you want?

Paperchase pastel kraft paper bows

Best: For decoration

Rating: 8/10

Kiss goodbye to shiny, metallic plastic bows and embrace these super chic pastel paper versions. They’re far trendier, in our opinion, as well as better for the environment. Made from FSC-approved paper they’re 100 per cent recyclable, so you can add a beautiful finishing touch to your wrapping safe in the knowledge that you won’t be adding to a mountain of festive plastic waste. The pack of four medium bows come in pastel shades of lilac, blue, green and pink. We think the understated colour options are delightful and love the matt finish to them too.

Ruby and Bo plantable seed gift tags

Best: Gift tags

Rating: 9/10

How about a gift tag that does more than ensure a present gets to its intended recipient? Well, with these lovely plantable tags, not only can you scribble on a personal message, but you can also give the gift of wildflowers. Each of the 10 gift tags are embedded with wildflower seeds, such as borage, wild foxglove, musk mallow, yarrow and ox-eye daisy to name a few.

We like the fact that the tags came in a fully compostable film bag, complete with natural jute twine and that the planting instructions are printed onto recycled card. At £5 for a pack of 10, we think they’re pretty good value for money, too. The tags are a thoughtful addition to a well-wrapped gift and we know that we’d happily attach them to all our presents this Christmas.

Another bonus is that by purchasing these tags, you’ll be helping to support the National Trust. It’s also worth checking out its range of environmentally friendly festive wrapping offerings generally, as all of the National Trust’s wrapping paper comes “naked”, while its Christmas cards can be recycled and they have some lovely recycled ribbons in stock too.

The Fabric Wrapping Co vintage scarf surprise bundle

Best: For style lovers

Rating: 8/10

For something a little unusual, why not wrap your gifts in a vintage scarf? For style lovers and fashion fans, receiving a gift draped in one of The Fabric Wrapping Co’s curated vintage scarfs is sure to be a treat. We love how fun an idea this is and how – although you don’t know which scarves you’ll get – they are selected in complementary colourways that can work if used together.

Although we liked the surprise element, the brand does say that you can make a note of preferred colourways when ordering. Another nice touch is that the brand will even do personal wrapping tutorials, if you’re at a loss as to how best to tie the scarves. With the scarves in good enough condition to be used again and again, the only dilemma for the recipient is whether to wear it or use it to wrap something else for another recipient.

The verdict: Eco-friendly and sustainable Christmas wrapping

There are some great and innovative options when it comes to responsible Christmas wrapping and we were delighted by the amount of choice we saw. Ecovibe’s recyclable wrapping paper delivers everything we need: it’s great value for money, there’s no plastic use in either the product or packaging and it would be suitable for a range of recipients. If you’re looking for something a bit more special or luxurious in design, then both Curlicue and Storigraphic have designs that will wow.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on homeware and Christmas essentials, try the links below:

From crackers to bunting and baubles, we’ve also found the best plastic-free Christmas decorations

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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