Tuesday, April 13, 2010

That's a Wrap!

Photo courtesy: B. Alter

Japan has been using the ancient art of furoshiki for centuries. It is a pleasant alternative to the paper-wasting, environmentally-unfriendly tradition of wrapping gifts in wads of paper and ribbon.

What is furoshiki? A 'furoshiki' is an oversized square piece of material that has been dyed in any number of colors, hues and patterns. These cloths are used for carrying and storing things, wrapping gifts, spreading on the floor, or even decorating a room. When it comes to gift giving, these cloths are the best. They can be folded so that a handle is made from the same cloth that is covering the gift.

The name literally means 'cloth for the bath.' It was popularized in Japan in the 17th century, when people needed a way to carry their toiletries to the public baths.

Lush has taken the art of furoshiki and applied it in their stores. They call it knot-wrap and it has proved to be very popular. They started by transforming 45,000 vintage scarves into colourful, reusable wrapping. Imagine being able to use your gift wrapping as an accent scarf – wonderful!

Photo courtesy: B. Alter

Lush was working in conjunction with "re-wrap" - a group working with Indian co-operatives to make fair trade textiles. This UK-based company has been so successful marketing the organic cotton knot-wraps sold in the Lush stores that they have been able to employ a social worker, finance children's education and make plans to construct a new building for their operation.

Photo courtesy: Informap.Japan

There are many, many different intricate wraps and folding for different-sized packages. Think of it as “cloth origami”.

The Japanese Environmental ministry is pushing it as an environmental way to reduce plastic bag usage at the same time maintaining an old and worthy tradition.

Hopefully, the idea of using fabric or other reusable materials as gift wrap will catch on and make a marked reduction in the amount of gift wrap used. One of the items I used to wrap my gifts in (before I realized I was so cool!) were dish towels. I have also used pages from magazines that were going for recycling (big, colourful, glossy pictures in there), paper bags (I used crayons for the decorative touches), or anything else that came to mind. Your environmentally-friendly friends will love you.

Via TreeHugger

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