Have you been in a Christmas gift opening scenario in which members of the older generation have carefully unwrapped presents so as to save the paper for future use? Gran might have carefully folded away each rescued piece, while Mum rolled ribbon or twine around her fingers to store for another day. When Christmas cards were taken down, out came the crimping shears to turn the cards into gift tags for next Christmas.

Now be honest, how many of you gently mocked this very practise, maybe chuckling at the frugality of it all? We certainly did. But how foolish we now feel. Our elders actually had it right the whole time as they frowned on the wasteful generation.

Now, more than ever, we are aware of the harm single-use plastic and other materials is doing to the environment. Now, more than ever, we are appreciating the value of recycling. Now, more than ever, we see wisdom in the actions of our parents and grandparents who saved their wrapping products for future use.

We should all think, then, of a greener Christmas – and not just where wrapping is concerned. These tips might help you:


Avoid single-use, plastic-coated wrapping paper. Use a thicker recyclable paper instead.

Wrap with ribbon or twine that can be re-used. This could help avoid the use of sticky tape that often damages paper and makes it harder to re-purpose.

Bear in mind that foil bows will likely come packaged in single-use plastic. 

Avoid glitter on wrapping, bows and tags. Glitter is not recyclable, nor are the items it is stuck to.

Try wrapping gifts in material. You could put gifts, especially odd-shaped items, in a pouch or a bag with a drawstring – each made from fabric – that can be re-used.

The Japanese art of Furoshiki involves using soft material to wrap presents. Furoshiki is an eco-friendly wrapping fabric. You can buy authentic Furoshiki wraps at specialist sites such as the thefuroshikicompany.co.uk.

Avoid pre-packed gift sets and hampers that might come with lots of unnecessary packaging and single-use plastic wrapping. Put your own sets together in such items as wicker baskets, trugs or plant pots that can form part of the gift and be used by the recipient. Maybe small gifts like perfume and organic soap can be wrapped together in another gift, like a silk scarf, then tied together with ribbon.


Keep and continue to use any plastic baubles you already have in your collection – just don’t buy any new ones.

When investing in new baubles for your tree or to give as gifts, look for those made of wood, glass, crystal, enamelled tin or porcelain – ornaments that can last a lifetime and serve as heirlooms to pass from generation to generation.

Make paper decorations. Tap into your inner child and create paper chains or paper snowflakes.

Draping decorations around the house? Try to avoid tinsel and plastic berries. Go for natural greenery to decorate, especially over pictures and mirrors and on mantlepieces. Just be aware that real berries need to be kept out of reach of children and pets. Traditional ivy is a berry-free option.

Buy or make natural wreaths or garlands. Pine cones and dried orange slices can be used for added scent.

Make popcorn and/or cranberry garlands for draping on the tree.

Buy a living tree that you can plant out in the garden after Christmas.


Buy food with as little single-use plastic packaging as possible – preferably none at all.

Use beeswax wrap instead of clingfilm to keep food fresh.

Store food you are taking to a party in glass or enamel containers.

Use fabric napkins that can be washed and re-sued rather than paper ones that come wrapped in plastic packaging.

Borrow extra cutlery, plates and glassware if you need lots for hosting, rather than plastic versions that will also likely come packaged in yet more single-use plastic. Look into renting tableware items.


Consider sending ecards instead of paper cards. There is also the video message option.

If it has to be paper for you, look for cards that are made from either all or a large percentage of recycled cardboard. You will find the colours more muted on recycled card and the texture is often less smooth. If you see the FSC certified logo (Forest Stewardship Council) this means the wood for the card has come from a forest that is managed to specific standards.

Cards printed with vegetable and soya-based inks, as opposed to the usual chemical inks, are a better option. The more colours, gloss finishes, cut outs, die-cut shapes, additional foil and textured finishes, buttons and bells on each card, the bigger the need for greater manufacturing processes – ergo more machinery, energy and transport.

Send cards made of other materials, like Timbergrams. The screen-printed or engraved cards are made out of 3mm birch. You can order online at timbergram.com. The company works closely with the charity Tree Aid that helps villagers in Africa’s dry-lands plant trees that will provide both food and income.

Turn cards you have received into tags for next year’s gifts.

There are doubtless many more measures you can take to have a greener Christmas, but we hope How to Christmas has offered you a decent start with these ideas.

Elf Helper: Marks and Spencer announced it would be glitter-free from Christmas 2019, banning all non-recyclable sparkle from its stores. Glitter is made from tiny pieces of plastic and plays its part in the growing amount of micro-plastics found in the ocean. In 2018, Waitrose announced that by the end of 2020, all of its own-label cards, wrap, crackers, tags, flowers and plants would be either be glitter-free or made using an eco-friendly alternative. Tesco banned plastic glitter from its 2019 Christmas range, while Aldi pledged to phase out plastic glitter by the end of 2020. Other major stores have followed – or are following – suit.