The excitement of unwrapping a carefully selected gift is surely the best part of any celebration – whether it’s you doing the unwrapping, or you get to watch a loved one unwrap a gift you’ve selected.
However the 150,000 kilometres of paper gift wrap that Australians use each Christmas (not to mention all the other occasions during the year!) is a significant amount of rubbish.
Think about that for a second – just at Christmas time, just in Australia we use enough paper wrap to wrap around the equator four times. Multiply that out by all the countries celebrating Christmas, all the Christmases, and all the other events – and it suddenly becomes a big, but preventable, problem.
So, how do we enjoy the unwrapping experience in a more sustainable way?
Re-use, re-purpose, recycle – but most importantly, reduce!
- Re-use: While ripping paper is fun, there is a teachable moment in asking older children to carefully unwrap gifts so that paper can be reused. It can also be a fun family tradition to see the same paper pulled out year after year, ‘doing the rounds’ at family Christmases.
- Re-purpose: Wrapping paper can be reused to wrap gifts of course, but also for Christmas crafts such as greeting cards, Christmas crackers or decorations. Pop it in the cupboard for 11 months and it’ll suddenly become a valuable commodity again. If you’re not a crafter, keep it till next year then check with your local day care centre or kindergarten if they’d like your wrap.
- Recycle: You can recycle paper gift wrap, even with sticky tape on, as the pulping machines can filter this out. However, metallic, glittery and cellophane wraps cannot be recycled – avoid these wraps and let your friends and family know why. The easiest way to tell if wrapping can be recycled? The scrunch test – if it scrunches up, it goes in the recycling bin.
- Reduce your single-use gift wrap use – with reusable fabric wraps! What are they? I’m so glad you asked….
Reusable Fabric Gift Wrapping
Sydney mum Helena was so horrified by the amount of discarded paper gift wrap at her new parents’ group’s first Christmas party that she was determined to make changes for the following year.
Helena’s husband comes from a Dutch background, so after her first child was born, she was excited to organise a traditional Sinterklaas for her parents’ group – including making an elaborate costume for her husband to play Sinterklaas. “The quantity of wrapping paper we ended up with was eye-watering and I decided that if we were going to do the same again (and I'd spent weeks on his costume, so we had to get a few years' use out of it!) I'd have to come up with a less wasteful system.” The following year, Helena made fabric gift sacks and they went down so well that an entrepreneurial mum-friend suggested she should start a business.
Determined to find a more sustainable way to celebrate the traditions that we love that was easy to use and a viable alternative to paper wrap, Helena developed a clever range of double-sided fabric wraps in a variety of shapes and sizes to wrap the largest lego box or most delicate kindy art-work.
Her wraps are two-sided, for example with a ‘birthday’ and a ‘Christmas’ side, and her range includes wraps with clever loops and pre-made bows to make fabric wrapping a breeze for even the least crafty-person. Helena’s range of reusable double-sided fabric wraps are made with beautiful fabrics, and they’re a great way to set an example at family gatherings, and start the conversation about single-use wrap.
Helena reflects “many people recognise the problem with paper gift wrapping, however the cost of the initial investment in fabric wraps can be quite a barrier – especially when compared to the 5m-rolls of disposable wrap you can get for $1.” However, if you look at the lifetime use of a fabric wrapping kit their value quickly becomes apparent. “A wrapping kit is double sided to maximise use, so it can be used for numerous celebrations, Christmases, birthdays, other occasions. If you use it to wrap three gifts a year for 50 years - that's 150 gifts wrapped for $40, which works out less than 40c per gift!”
Not only is switching to fabric wraps a tangible way to ‘walk the walk’ on sustainability, Helena notes “fabric wraps reinforce the sustainability message we teach our children, and can also quickly become a family tradition, and develop tremendous sentimental value.” Helena’s customer fan-base have also shared the other ways children have used her wraps, from playing ‘wrap-ups’, to using them as tablecloths for teddy-bear tea parties, they have even been used as wall hangings and super hero capes!
Asking for your fabric wrap back
Another consideration is the question of getting your fabric wrap returned after the gift has been presented. As we’re not used to asking for wraps to be returned this may make some people feel uncomfortable, however Helena suggests starting the tradition within your immediate family, then more broadly once you’ve had some practice.
“I hope once reusable wrapping becomes more commonplace, people will think no more of asking for them back than they do turning up to a cafe with their own cup or taking their own bags to the supermarket!”
The future of eco-wrapping
Helena has big plans to win the hearts and minds of Australian gift wrappers. “My main hope for the future of eco-wrapping is that it becomes as commonplace as KeepCups or cotton shopping bags. There are so many different ways to reduce festive waste - purchasing readymade, durable products like reusable wraps for those who want a long-term solution, DIY projects for those who love to create, or repurposing items on their way to the recycling bin for those looking to save money and resources.”
She is also working on some exciting new products, such as reusable gift tags and fabric envelopes that can be sent through the post. “I’m also always making improvements to my existing products, based on the experiences and feedback of customers, and integrating post-consumer materials into my creations. The circular economy is the way forward and I want in on it!”
Where do I start?
You don’t have to go ‘all in’ at once however, Helena suggests starting with even just one reusable fabric wrap can make a big difference. “I worked out that if every Australian wrapped one small gift with a reusable alternative this Christmas, then we would save enough paper to stretch from Perth to Auckland!” she says from her Sydney home office.
Special OfferIf you’d like to try Helena’s lovely reusable fabric wraps, she has offered Stylish Australiana readers a special discount until 18th December. Please use code STYLISHAUSTRALIA to enjoy 10% off. You can also follow Helena on Instagram at @bohemianwrapsody_au or shop on her website at www.bohemianwraps.com.au