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Zero Waste Wrapping Inspiration

Each year in the UK 227,000 miles of wrapping paper are put into the bin instead of being recycled. That's enough to circle the equator 9 times! Although a lot of wrapping paper is recyclable, a lot of it isn't - especially if it's sparkly or glittery. Plus it's usually paired with plastic ribbon, bows, and gift bags - all of which help contribute to us producing 30% more waste at this time of year. Luckily there are plenty of options when it comes to eco-friendly wrapping:


  • Sewing scraps

  • Old button-down shirts

  • Cloth napkins

  • Furoshiki - the Japanese fabric wrapping technique (see photo above and more info below) that embraces an eco-friendly philosophy by folding and tying cloth in a unique way

  • Scarves - you can wrap a present in a present!

  • Glass jars - to “wrap” your gift then dress up the jar with some old fabric or ribbon


  • Brown paper - is recyclable and unlike even recycled and recyclable decorated paper it doesn't need to be bleached or dyed in order to make and so it's an excellent eco option

  • Brown paper bags - decorated with shapes from magazine cuttings

  • Newspapers & magazines

  • Old books

  • Vintage maps

  • Sheet music

  • Children’s drawings

Tape & Ties

Eco-friendly alternatives to make sure all your gifts are safely sealed:

  • Natural twine - giving a great rustic look, twine can be tied into a pretty bow or wound tight to seal

  • Paper tape - many paper tapes use non-toxic, eco-friendly adhesives, which makes them a great alternative to the normal, plastic tapes. Paper tapes such as washi tape (above) comes in a wide range of patterns and colours

  • Wax seals - using a natural wax

  • Paper clips - completely reusable

  • Old Christmas cards - can be used to make colourful tags

Boxes & Baskets

An easy way to bundle together many similar-sized gifts is by making your own package with a basket: Straw, seagrass, wicker or woven baskets are all plastic-free alternatives to plastic wrapping.

For the padding: Natural tissue paper, shredded paper and wood wool are all biodegradable materials and wood wool is robust enough to be reused over and over and again. You could also try straw or dried petals to help protect and present your gifts.

Natural Elements

  • Cinnamon sticks - tie some cinnamon sticks with string and add a little greenery such as fresh herbs

  • Fallen leafy branches from evergreen trees, pinecones, winter berries or twigs - tie them in place with twine, hemp or fabric scraps

  • Teasel heads - at this time of the year they’re dried and preserved and add some great texture to any gift

  • Leaves & berries - such as holly, beech (copper or purple leaves), maple, sycamore, chestnut and oak

  • Pine cones

  • Bark - strips of silver birch added to a package and tied with twine looks beautiful

  • Feathers - give the hard ends a gentle wash and tie with twine or poke them down the side

  • Dried herbs - such as rosemary or lavender left with the stalks on can be added for outside decoration on a parcel, or inside as potpourri/confetti if stalk is removed

  • Dried petals - such as rose petals

  • Pressed flowers

  • Spices - cloves and star anise along with some orange peel

A Brief History of Furoshiki

Equal parts beauty and function, furoshiki is a kind of traditional wrapping cloth that has been used in Japan for over 1,000 years. Dating back to the Nara period (710–794 AD), furoshikiliterally “bath spread”were originally used to carry belongings to the sento (public bath). These decorative cloths soon spread beyond bath house walls, gaining popularity among merchant classes as fine packaging material. And in the era of everyday kimono (often pocketless garments) furoshiki functioned as ornate handbags.

While the traditions of furoshiki have evolved over time, they haven’t veered far from these simple origins. Furoshiki today remain a way of using ornamental cloth for packaging and transport, but that now includes toting everything from lunch bento to wine bottles and souvenir gifts. One of the distinct advantages of using a furoshiki is its shapeshifting ability, taking on numerous forms to accommodate different loads. Centuries of experimentation have developed dozens of established methods for tying a traditional furoshiki, which is usually slightly longer than it is wide. The series of folds you choose could be motivated by aesthetics or used to adapt to unique package shapes or create handles. Otsukai zutsumi refers to a furoshiki that has been knotted just once, while the yotsu musubi features a double knot, creating a sturdier handhold used for carrying heavy objects.

Textile diversity is also central to the tradition. Each use is an opportunity to match your cloth to the occasion. Often, furoshiki, which can be made from cotton or silk, will mirror the seasons—sakura-infused patterns in the spring, maple leaf designs in the autumn.

For a good half-century, furoshiki had gone out of style in Japan. Considered a relic of older generations, they had been pushed aside in favour of the convenience of plastic bags - but a furoshiki revival has been in full force over the last several years thanks to a push to be more environmentally-conscious. Furoshiki has even been dubbed the “world’s first eco bag.” Many argue the recyclable, multipurpose furoshiki exemplifies the Japanese philosophy of mottanai - a sense of regret over leaving anything to waste.

Today, furoshiki isn’t limited to formal gifts or kimono-clad women. Instead, it’s been welcomed into the mainstream with pop-culture textile patterns and everyday functionality. (Source:

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