Christmas, time for gifts with many packages in a thousand sparkling colors that create a truly evocative atmosphere. But how much does this magic cost in terms of environmental sustainability?
During the Christmas holidays, the amount of non-recyclable waste to be disposed of increases dramatically.
A large component of this waste is represented by the gift paper and ribbons used to wrap our packages.
We often aren't aware of it, but not everything we use to package is recyclable.
Many wrapping papers are not only made of paper, but are often processed with chemical dyes, are laminated (like gold and silver) or contain plastic substances and glitter which increase microplastic pollution.
Likewise, it is not possible to recycle ribbons, bows and rosettes that are not completely made of paper.
However, we can think outside the box by looking for zero waste materials with which to wrap our gifts.
They must certainly be impressive, but also environmentally friendly and therefore biodegradable, recyclable or reusable.
Sustainable materials for wrapping Christmas gifts
So what eco-friendly materials can we use to wrap Christmas presents?
As for the wrapping paper, we opt to purchase recycled paper or paper made of 100% paper (therefore totally recyclable), even better if FSC certified (i.e. coming from responsibly grown forests).
Many shops have already been equipped in this sense for a few years, eliminating gift packaging with laminated papers and preferring sustainable materials.
A good idea is to use paper from the packaging of our online purchases; the one that, so to speak, is inserted crumpled into the boxes as a filler to protect our goods.
Although this type of paper may seem a little anonymous initially, we can then embellish the package by inserting additional decorative elements such as twigs, flowers, berries and bells.
Another idea is to use various types of paper that we have at home and that we no longer need, such as sheets from magazines and newspapers, wall posters that we want to get rid of, old road maps or even out-of-date geographical maps.
In addition to paper, we can package our Christmas gifts with reusable materials such as cloth, hemp, linen or jute bags.
Other examples to take into consideration are scarves, scraps of old colored t-shirts or curtains or sheets, old disused doilies... in short, everything that is made of fabric.
In this sense, we can take inspiration from "Furoshiki", a Japanese technique which consists of wrapping gifts in fabrics of various kinds and in a square shape.
By using Furoshiki even the gift wrapping itself will be an additional gift that is added to the gift.
Sustainable boxes and containers for Christmas gifts
We often use glittery boxes or shiny containers (for example laminated envelopes) in which we place our gift in order to best present it to the person we want to give it to.
We can give space to our imagination by covering boxes that we already have at home (for example shoe boxes) with Christmas wrapping paper preserved from previous years and decorating them with colored ribbons and ornamental elements.
We can also create original boxes in which to insert small gifts, using cardboard rolls of toilet paper or kitchen paper and folding the ends.
Other types of sustainable containers can be, for example: wicker baskets, tin or wooden boxes, glass jars and paper bags, the latter perhaps closed with wooden clothes pegs.
Sustainable ribbons for closing Christmas gift boxes
To close the packages, we can replace the laminated ribbons with other materials such as packing twine, raffia, fabric ribbons (for example, cut from old clothes), lace or satin ribbons, cords, many colored wool or cotton threads perhaps worked in crochet.
As for sealing packages, instead of classic tape we can opt for ecological adhesive tapes which are biodegradable and compostable.
These are generally composed of polymers based on plant fibers (such as corn starch) and can be reused several times without leaving residues.
A particular adhesive tape of this type comes directly from Japan and is the so-called "washi tape".
Washi tape, made from vegetable fibers, is a colored tape in different patterns that is very resistant and can be used several times by detaching and reattaching it on different surfaces such as paper, wood, glass and plastic.
Sustainable decorations for Christmas gift packages
To give gifts a Christmas touch we can decorate the packages by adding ornamental elements typical of the winter season.
During a walk on the street or in the park near home, for example, we can collect pine or fir twigs, leaves, acorns and pine cones that have fallen to the ground.
Other very popular ornaments are cotton balls that simulate snow, sprigs of aromatic herbs such as lavender and rosemary, dried orange or mandarin peels and cinnamon sticks.
Buttons, beads, corks and bells are elements easily found at home that we can use to decorate our gifts.
Furthermore, before throwing away old Christmas decorations, we recover and preserve the healthy elements by detaching, for example, a pine cone, a stick, a twig with berries which we could then use as decorations for gift packages.
The importance of reuse and recycling for Christmas gift packages
Once the gifts have been opened, make sure to separate all the materials correctly for recycling.
We keep everything that can be reused the following Christmas, so for example the wrappings and fabric bags, the baskets and tin boxes, the satin ribbons and the decorative elements.