Whether you want to upcycle everyday items into perfect parcels, avoid excess plastic at the supermarket, or give more mindfully this year, here are some creative ways to reduce waste over the festive period. Merry Christmas!
From old newspaper clippings, to discarded crisp packets and silk scarves, you’ll find a heap of giftwrap-worthy material hiding around the house. You just need to know what to do with it.
1. Upcycle old newspapers and books
Newspaper and book clippings are a great alternative to wrapping paper, and are easy to personalise. Is the gift receiver a film buff? Make good use of the movie listings section. Are they a foodie? Tear out the restaurant reviews. You could even pen a little covert Christmas message inside an empty crossword! For extra razzle-dazzle, secure with a (fabric) bow.
2. Tie brown paper packages with string
What could be simpler or sweeter than a brown paper package tied up with string? To make your own zero waste wrap, hold onto any paper bags or envelopes you have spare. Place your gift directly inside, or cut the paper to size. To add a personal touch, decorate the paper with your own message. Whether you want to scribble, stamp, or paint, the only limit is your imagination!
3. Save up your old crisp packets (yes, really)
Aluminum foil isn’t zero-waste, but it’s still better to repurpose it than to throw it away. Turned inside out and tied with a bow, crisp packets make for a fun, space-age style wrap: perfect for sci-fi fans and lovers of all things shiny!
4. Use cloth bags
Though the initial cost can be higher, you can keep hold of cloth bags and use them year after year. If you like, you could add maximum Christmas charm by stamping the cloth with a message of goodwill (see above). Or, you could put your present in a larger tote bag, which can be seen as a bonus present in itself, and will come in super handy next time your loved one is out shopping for groceries. For an even more frugal option, you could wash and decorate old pillowcases, upcycling them into eco-friendly Santa sacks!
5. Turn toilet rolls into gift tags
Who needs shop-bought gift tags when you can so easily make your own? If reusing a toilet roll doesn’t appeal, you could also make tags from recycled newspaper.
6. Make the most of leaves, sprigs and twigs
Instead of using plastic bows and ribbons, head into the garden and see what natural decorations you can find. From pinecones to boughs of natural holly, there’s loads you can do with these.
7. Upcycle old sheets into cloth bags, and use them at the supermarket
Cloth bags are ideal for transporting loose fruit, herbs and veggies, and super easy to clean. Sew your own out of old clothes and linen, or buy them online.
8. Bring your own tupperware to the deli counter
It’s worth checking with your local supplier first but, more often than not, you can bring clean containers from home to collect fresh meat, fish, cheese etc from the deli section. Tupperware, plastic takeaway containers, and glass containers with good lids are usually fine, as are metal containers and jars.
At first, your request may be a challenge for staff if they have never been asked to use a container from home before. But, once they get over the surprise of being asked to do something different, they will usually adapt happily. Just make sure you clean them thoroughly afterwards. In terms of hygiene, glass containers are your safest best.
9. Stick to packaging-free baked goods
Most supermarkets have a packaging-free bakery section. Buy this instead of the plastic-bound loaf, remembering to take a spare bag with you so that it doesn’t get squashed on the way home!
10. Gift experiences, not things
In the midst of a last minute panic? Consider ditching material objects this year, and pledge to make memories instead. Just think of all the experiences you could ‘gift’: concert tickets, a home-cooked meal, a night at the theatre, breakfast in bed, dinner at a favourite restaurant, walking or driving somewhere without a plan, an evening spent talking and laughing with no distractions, a ‘staycation’ in front of the fire, train or bus tickets to a mystery location, membership to a gallery or museum, lessons to kickstart a new hobby, a camping trip on a hilltop, a promise to make snow angels together. All of these gifts are sure to be gratefully received, and they’re more unexpected, too.
Bonus point: If you’re thinking about gifting vouchers or tokens, it’s worth bearing in mind that most come in the form of a plastic card, which can be difficult to recycle. But, fear not. Most cards should be available to download and send digitally if you ask, which is most excellent news for our oceans and trees!
11. Give them something they truly need
Whether you offer to pay a looming household bill, or contribute towards someone’s rainy day travel fund, offering to pay for something essential is an often-overlooked act of kindness that can have a really positive impact on the recipient. This is especially true at this time of year, when money worries are likely at peak. Do some investigating to figure out what they really need right now, and take care of it if you’re able to.
12. Share your skills
Looking for a gift for a fellow volunteer? You could contribute towards a trip or piece of equipment their young people would love. Better yet, you could gift your time, whether that’s by patiently helping them with any programme planning they have left to do, or offering up your skills so that others can discover something new.