Avoiding plastic and single use packaging when gift giving

Your Simple Gesture: When gifting, look for opportunities to avoid single use packaging and upcycle where possible
Many of us love birthdays, celebrations and the festive season, and often mark such special occasions with a gift. It is time to embrace this gesture through our behaviour and spending decisions.

But too often in this day and age gifts come in copious amounts of packaging – soft plastic, hard plastic, paper, cardboard, you name it! In fact, in 2016-2017, Australians generated 67 million tonnes of waste, with a notable spike during festive seasons. 

To start, planning and reasearching are pivotal, especially when shopping online. Overall, we need less single use items, and to avoid unnecessary packaging. A card doesn’t need a plastic sleeve over it, and celophane and curling ribbon aren’t that great, are they?

Plastic is the recurring culprit in all of this and thankfully, there are so many fantastic alternatives. There are many brands moving towards more sustainable practices, that opt out of and challenge the packaging norms, typically disclosing how they avoid it from start to finish in their supply chains. Some great examples are Well Made Clothes and Flora and Fauna,and brands like Patagonia, with so many more fabulous ones out there. 

We also have the fantastic upcycling up our sleeves. A very important piece of the puzzle. Upcycling is the many creative ways we can repurpose, wrap and gift with things that we have previously received and reuse for our own gifting. This is a crucial step toward more sustainable gifting, because nothing should be considered single use! Materials and resources used for wrapping gifts can be utilised again and again. Even if they are recyclable, it is good to reuse them anyway and extend their lifespan. Paper bags are a great example. The sturdy paper and durability means they are perfect for gifting, carrying groceries, adding to your compost bin, and more. There are plenty of innovative ways to decorate gifts without buying rolls of new paper, ribbon and string. See below for more detailed gifting ideas and see what you can come up with for your next gifting occasion!

Action Steps:

Avoid packaging

1. When shopping online, if the brand doesn’t specify what kind of packaging they use, leave a note with your order asking for a reusable or recyclable packaging option and preference paper over plastic, if anything. Or, if it isn’t fragile, request a cardboard box (knowing you can repurpose it again later!)

2. If you can’t avoid plastic and single use packaging, purchase the gift from a store and wrap it yourself in fabric, upcycled paper, newspaper or just pop it in a bag with some string around the handles

3. When shopping in person, kindly decline a bag or instore wrapping when they offer, in order to upcycle your packaging from home. While you browse, ensure to choose items that don’t come blanketed in plastic where possible (if purchasing new – see our gesture on second hand gift giving!)

4. While undertaking this process yourself, also endeavour to let your friends and family know if they are intending to buy you a gift that you would prefer for it not to be wrapped at all. This will align with your gesture, while maybe sparking interest in them to decline wrapping/packaging also.


1. For wrapping, you can use newspaper or recycled paper with some string you already own. Just add a flower to the bow of the parcel and you have yourself a simple, rustic wrapped gift – all second hand!

2. If paper isn’t your style, and you have some fabric offcuts lying around the house, you can wrap gifts iusing the Japanese Furoshiki method– thoughtful, aesthtetically pleasing and so simple. 

3. Depending on the gift size, you can also not wrap the gift at all, and instead use an upcycled paper bag with some string around the handles. An idea to jazz it up is to buy a small bag of plant seeds or a bundle of leave, and tie those to the bag for decoration. You can also paper clip your card to the side of the bag to make it look beautiful as well.

Note: This gesture also strongly calls for minimising consumption and awareness of our spending choices.

More Simple Gestures…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This