Kraft box with red and white ribbon and foliage decoration

Tearing off wrapping paper, eager to discover what’s inside - it's all part of the Christmas magic, but should it come at a cost to the environment? By Boxing Day, the same wrapping paper is stuffed into bin bags waiting to be collected by refuse workers because it can’t be recycled.  

It’s a fact that some consumers are waking up to, which partly explains the rising interest in sustainable gift wrapping. So, what can businesses do to contribute to this shift in consumer behaviour? 

It starts by making it easier to reuse and recycle Christmas gift packaging. In this blog, we’ll look at how.

What’s the problem with traditional gift wrap? 

Most gift wrap isn’t recyclable. It’s made with micro-plastics like glitter, then covered in tape and foil ribbon, not to mention the fact that most rolls of wrapping paper are shrink-wrapped in plastic.  

One person’s contribution might seem insignificant, but imagine the collective waste of a whole neighbourhood, city, or country. According to blogger Sustainably Lazy, 108 million rolls of wrapping paper are binned at Christmas in the UK. 

How can businesses drive sustainability? 

Imagine spending thousands on creating a sustainable product for a customer to wrap it in non-recyclable gift wrap and stick a big shiny foil bow on top. Suddenly, your efforts to protect the planet have been undermined. 

Coming up with creative packaging that removes the need for gift wrap is just one of the ways that businesses can steer a move towards a more sustainable Christmas.    

Sustainable gift packaging ideas for businesses

Let’s consider some of the things retailers can do to create sustainable gift packaging. 

1. Create something giftable   

Package your products so they’re good enough to be gifted without wrapping. A colourful box made from recyclable materials gives the consumer the option to gift the product without adding anything to it.

Some forward-thinking companies are taking this a step further. Recognising that their products are often given as gifts, they've added a blank gift tag to their packaging. This small yet thoughtful addition makes it easier for both the buyer and the recipient to add a personal touch.

Make sustainability the easy option, and you’ll be remembered for more than just a brilliant product. 

Kraft box with red and white ribbon and foliage decoration

2. Make your packaging reusable 

Multi-use packaging benefits the consumer and the environment. A box or a bag that you can reuse is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Choose a sturdy cardboard box for something that can be reused around the home for storage or even re-gifting (we all know that one person who hoards boxes and festive gift bags to reuse!).  

Plain kraft boxes make an ideal blank canvas for you to dress up and down to suit the occasion. For Christmas, consider adding a taffeta or paper ribbon, then finish it off with a sprig of holly, rosemary or some pine cones. 

This is a branding opportunity waiting to happen. Consider creating a bespoke design using hot foil printing. Learn more in our guide to hot foil printing for custom packaging. 

3. Offer to do it for them 

If you’re a small business with the capacity to offer additional services, consider adding gift wrapping as an optional extra. You might be surprised by how many customers take you up on it.

Offering zero-waste gift wrapping is a way to drive sustainable change and make life easier for your time-starved customers.

Most people want to do the right thing, but it’s easier to pick up a roll of glittery gift wrap in the pound shop than learn how to make your own from recycled materials or wrap a parcel with fabric. 

As Robert Lockyer, CEO of Delta Global, says, “It’s all about offering consumers a solution – led by environment, ease, and experience.” You can read more of his interview in Packaging Europe (you’ll need a free subscription to access the article). 

An example of reusable Christmas gift packaging  

In 2021, Lush created and launched a bright new addition to its Christmas collection, which caught the eye of sustainable packaging advocates.   

The company’s festive packaging was a striking combination of traditional red, bright pink, yellow and purple. But what resonated with consumers the most was its green credentials.

Lush’s packaging was 100% recyclable and reusable, and the ribbon was made from recycled drink bottles.

This is a fantastic example of packaging that is good enough to gift without wrapping, and what’s more, the recipient can reuse it – a win-win for the environment and the consumer. 

Lush festive packaging example

Photo credit: Dieline

Where Ferrero Roche went wrong

Three years before Lush launched their eco-friendly festive packaging, Ferrero Roche found themselves making headlines for all the wrong reasons. A study by Which? found the Italian brand’s packaging was among the worst in the sustainability stakes. 

Which? ranked chocolate packaging from best to worst based on the chocolate-to-packaging ratio and how easy it was to recycle at the end of its life.

Ferrero Roche’s packaging made up 42.4% of its overall weight. Worse still, only 11% of its packaging could be recycled. Since the report was published, Ferrero has pledged to commit time and money to finding new and sustainable ways to package its chocolates. 

The report serves as a reminder to others that sustainability is top of the agenda for industry bodies and the wider public. Ignoring the issue can lead to a tarnished reputation and reduced sales. 

The bottom line on sustainable gift packaging 

Sustainability isn’t a flash in the pan. It’s an issue that touches every area of modern life and one that we’re all grappling with daily. For retailers and manufacturers, this means leading the charge in sustainability with packaging that benefits consumers and the environment. 

The trend towards zero-waste gift packaging is gaining momentum, and businesses that see this as an opportunity to be creative will win over their audience.  

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might find this post on festive packaging ideas for your business helpful.