Did you know that the first documented use of wrapping paper took place in China in the 2nd Century BC? Gifts of money were wrapped in paper envelopes known as chih pao.
In 1917, the Hall Brothers (founders of Hallmark Cards) started printing decorated gift wrapping paper in Kansas City, MO, and founded the modern gift wrapping industry in the process. Fashion trends in gift wrapping have led to increased use of glitter and other microplastics, and the holiday season is now responsible for huge amounts of landfill waste in gift wrapping alone. In the UK in 2018, it was estimated that Brits threw away the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper after Christmas was over. In the United States, an additional five million tons of waste is generated over Christmas, four million of which is wrapping paper and shopping bags.
With all this in mind, we thought we might put together some suggestions for ways you can make your gifts look picture perfect this holiday season, using natural and recyclable (and even compostable!) materials from around the house.
From the Kitchen
Brown Baking Paper
Brown baking paper (or even brown craft paper) makes a great substitute for printed wrapping paper as it is earth friendly by being recyclable, or even compostable if you have the facilities to do that in your garden or town.
You can even cut down brown paper shopping bags for an even more sustainable wrapping solution.
Decorate your wrapped parcel with string or ribbon, and tie on bunches of cinnamon sticks or star anise for an easy, sweet smelling decorative touch.
Dried Orange Slices
Preheat oven to 175F/ 80C. Slice oranges into slices approx 1/8" thick.
Set slices on single layer on a wire rack lined with baking paper on an oven tray.
Bake for 4-6 hours, rotate every once in a while until dry.
Salt Dough Ornaments
In a bowl, mix together 2 cups flour and 1 cup salt. Slowly add 1 cup cold water to flour mixture, until dough is smooth and easy to handle. Knead for 10 mins and rest for 20mins.
Preheat oven to 250 F (120 C). Using cookie cutters or a knife, form dough into interesting shapes. Add decorative patterns or people's names as desired. Using a skewer or knife, poke a hole big enough for ribbon or string to pass through at one edge of each shape.
Bake in oven until dry and hard (about 2 hours). Allow to cool completely.
From the Garden
Leaves and twigs
Miniature twig wreaths
Forage in your garden or local reserve for small pieces of greenery, pinecones or twigs. We especially like rosemary sprigs, tiny pinecones and long bendy twigs which you can twist into miniature wreaths.
Fasten greenery or twig wreaths with ribbon, string or twine, or use tiny wooden pegs to clip your bits of garden bounty to the wrapping if you have any on hand.
Making your own christmas wrapping decorations and foraging in your garden for festive treats is a fun, relaxing way to make your presents special and different.