Furoshiki, an Environmentally Friendly Alternative to Wrapping Paper
Like a Rorschach inkblot test or a game of word association, the trigger “Christmas day” arouses a flurry of images for me. While Santa, stockings, cookies and Christmas trees are all in the reel of my memory, there’s another image that stands out: wrapping paper. Mounds and mounds of wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes, gift bags, cardboard. And more wrapping paper.
On Christmas day in my family’s house, what started as a few scraps of tissue paper or torn metallic snowmen ripped from a package would soon grow into a mountainous, colorful heap of garbage. Sitting in the corner meant running the constant risk of a tightly rolled wad of wrapping paper to the head as the pile rapidly grew.
While I love the memory of that heap of wrapping paper and ribbons, I realize the environmental impact extends beyond the moment when we would finally shove the colorful mass into a garbage bag. According to the Stanford Recycling Center, Americans generate and throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, which is equivalent to an additional 5 million tons of garbage.
The Stanford Recycling Center also reports, “if every American family would wrap 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.”
Easing the Holiday’s Environmental Impact with an Alternative to Wrapping Paper
If you don’t want to sacrifice the appeal of a beautifully wrapped present but you’d like to reduce the environmental effect of gift-giving this holiday season, consider furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth.
Historically used to wrap and carry items including clothing and toiletries to and from bathhouses, furoshiki is a versatile, striking and reusable alternative to wrapping paper. In Korea, similar wrapping scarves are referred to as bojagi.
The Infinite Possibilities of Wrapping Scarves
Using furoshiki or bojagi not only reduces the unnecessary waste created by excessive wrapping paper, it also gives you a chance to explore your own creativity and expression and to truly personalize your gifts. Plus, you can pass on the tradition to those you’re giving the gift to.
While there are numerous sites that sell furoshiki and bojagi in an array of sizes, patterns and colors, you can also rummage through your own home for recyclable fabrics or visit thrift stores to find vintage scarves. Even materials such as tablecloths, new dishtowels, bandanas—any fabric with an appealing design and texture—can be used and reused as a wrapping scarf.
Cutting Down on Holiday Waste
As infinite as the possibilities for materials and designs are when using furoshiki, there’s also a plethora of stunning ways to tie the wrap. Japan’s Ministry of the Environment provides illustrated examples of many different ways to use wrapping scarves. Diylife.com also offers comprehensive resources for creating your own furoshiki or purchasing a wrapping scarf. And why not use furoshiki to create a wine carrier for that bottle of New Year’s champagne as well?
As I gear up for my last-minute holiday shopping and look towards the New Year of birthdays and anniversaries, I’m looking forward to scouring my local markets and thrift stores for interesting, reusable materials to use instead of wrapping paper or gift bags. Great as the mountain of wrapping paper tradition was, I think it may be time to replace it with a new, eco-friendly tradition instead.
We’ll find something else to throw.
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