Don't deny it. There’s something about ripping into a box wrapped in shiny paper and a big, red bow that sends us all into fits of joy. We’ve been ritually disguising presents in decorative sheets for years and years, but is all the excitement worth our planet being clogged with bin bags bursting full of plastic-coated boxes and paper? Here're some not-so-fun facts* for you. Each year the UK:

  • Uses 227,000 miles of wrapping paper with over 83km2 ending up in our bins.
  • Chucks 1 billion Christmas cards, the equivalent of 33 million trees.
  • Discards 30% more rubbish than any other time of the year, generating 3 million tonnes of waste.

*Statistics from GWP Group.

Shocking statistics, right? But all’s not lost! Being ‘zero-waste’ means taking steps towards reducing personal refuse and minimising your overall environmental impact. And with Christmas fast upon us, what better habit to kick than wasteful wrapping. It’s easy, all you need to do is think outside the box (pun intended).

Unwrapping the Art of Furoshiki

Long before today’s eco-friendly philosophy of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, the Japanese have been using furoshiki, a traditional wrapping-cloth, to cover their gifts. Translated the word means ‘bath spread’, deriving from a centuries-old practice employed at public baths to stop bathers getting their clothes mixed-up.

Live Green

Although the actual fabric can be found on Etsy, any nature-friendly material will do. Opt for easy-to-come-by alternatives like charity shop scarves, tea towels or fabric samples from your sewing stash stitched together in a patchwork. It’s two gifts in one! What truly makes furoshiki lies in the tying of the fabric. The Japanese government have recently launched a campaign to revive this ancient art in the hope of reducing dependency on plastic bags and, to help, have created free instructions illustrating a variety of wrapping techniques. It’s not as daunting as it looks (promise!) and if all else fails, YouTube is your friend.

How to use "Furoshiki"

Japanese Ministry of the Environment

If you’ve already got enough on your plate this Christmas, there are other less fiddly, eco options. Try wrapping with opened grocery bags, junk mail or newspapers as these can be composted once used. Simply smooth away the creases by flattening under a heavy object and decorate with kids drawings or by dipping a pencil eraser into a paint pot to make polka dots. If you’re going green, you’ll need to ditch the Sellotape too. Swap it for twine or washi tape, a biodegradable, tree-free alternative and another example of Japan acing conscious consumption.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Zero may seem like an intimidating number, but in fact, all it means is trying to cut-back for the good of the planet, and the good of your pocket. Give it a go this season by shopping sustainably and buying Christmas dinner at your local farmers market. Or try baking the essentials at home (making sure to rope in the whole family!) instead of purchasing packaged foods. Why not choose ethical gift-giving over mass-produced ‘must-have’s’ and adopt a gorilla for granny or make a bird box for your bestie? It might not feel like you’re saving the world, but with every little change, you are.

Discover more earth-friendly wrapping tips on our Pinterest board and send us your ideas. We would love to hear them!

Lizzy

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