Note, this is a re-post of an article we wrote for The Vendeur, a site for the seriously stylish with a social conscience.
Wrapping. Unless you are a serious ‘uber-wrapper’ (you know who you are), our research shows that wrapping tends to be the last thing we think about when it comes to gift giving. The fact that every Christmas Britons use the equivalent of 50,000 trees just in wrapping paper however has given us pause.
We’re on a mission to make more people pause and re-write the definition of ‘good wrapping’.
In the past it may have meant neat corners, pleats and a fancy bow. We think that good wrapping should be about - is it good for the planet? A reused newspaper wrap with bold stars scrawled across it? Good wrapping. Slightly crumpled last year’s wrapping still sporting a shred of tape? Good wrapping!
Being more eco seems to be a step-by-step thing if you are anything like us. For those looking to step towards a more eco-friendly Christmas here’s some suggestions on how you can get zero-waste and delight friends and family with your creative ideas.
Experiences, not things
Increasingly people are valuing experiences over physical gifts. Appreciating less rather than more. Ironically as it is ever easier to buy and receive things, we value them less. With a bit of forethought, what experience could you give a friend that you know would be most meaningful to them? And how could you give it to them in a way that is zero-waste?
“There is a fundamental shift in...values towards experiences over things that bring happiness and well-being...The trend extends beyond just young people, to every age bracket and socioeconomic class.” Euromonitor
Thoughtfulness is love
We got curious about the best gifts people have ever received. Thank you Oprah and Quora and the many givers we’ve spoken with. It was resoundingly clear that what people valued was not the size of their present mountain (albeit we didn’t interview children), it was those gifts that showed someone really ‘got’ someone else and what mattered to them. Less, but more.
My, this is where we have heard the most stories. Some families have made it a tradition and a family challenge to see who can wrap without tape and re-use wrapping paper as many times as possible. A grandma or an uncle taught by post war austerity who was always thoughtful of gifts and wrapping and had a special dresser drawer filled with wrap to be used again.
Here are some thought starters for reuse to make your gift wrap more eco-friendly.
Upcycle upcycle upcycle
Here’s a challenge - what could you use in your recycling bin to wrap a gift right now? Probably more than you think if you paint it, stick some scrap fabric or unused clothing fabric to it or even post-it wrap it!
We wanted to share some of the most common examples of upcycled wrapping we have stumbled upon. All of them work well on their own or even better with some personalised drawing, words or stamps to give some added wow. Or simply a sprig of Rosemary or winter foliage tied on with string.
More fabulous upcycling ideas can be found at Upcycle That, Remodelaholic and Confessions of a Refashionista and Reduce, reuse, renew.
The gift wrap itself is reusable
Getting non-traditional you can use baskets, reusable storage containers, glass jars, cute tins and bento boxes. One of my favourite stories is from a fabulous eco-wrapper who for the men in her life used variously T-shirts and socks as wrapping.
Our favourite is clearly reusable fabric gift wrap. Inspired by the Japanese art of Furoshiki, reusable fabric gift wrap is increasingly well known and available. One of the most commonly known examples is Lush for their bold and lovely reusable knot wraps. They have been using them for over 10 years!
Available in the UK in classic Japanese styles from the likes of Zusetzu or the stunningly modern and timeless Link Collective, there are many to choose from on The Fabric Wrapping Co. and Etsy.
Alternatively, here are some affordable and eco-friendly ideas for sourcing or making your own furoshiki or wrapping scarves.
A final brief note on recycling. Many still don’t realise that wrapping paper or cards with foil, glitter or fancy embellishments so steering away from these options is a great first step. All that glitters is sadly not always recyclable.
We hope that’s given you some inspiration to get creative and zero-waste this Christmas and join us as we re-think and share the message of good wrapping.
The traditional furoshiki wrapping cloth sizes are 50cm (19 inches) and 70cm (27 inches). These sizes are the traditional hard-working all-rounders that can be used to create a carry bag, wrap gifts or used as a bento wrap for your lunch.
We figured hundreds of years of use is a pretty good indicator of useful sizes so we based our original range on these sizes. Through trial and error we landed on two most popular sizes - the medium (45 cm) and the small (30cm). We added ribbons as it just adds a beautiful finish to the gift and frankly a lovely feeling to the whole process of wrapping the gift.
The medium gift wrap can be used to wrap several books, a pot plant, a wine bottle (albeit our wine bottle bags are a simpler alternative) or a small box. The small is perfect for jewellery, accessories or a small box of chocolate.
For lunches we use cotton vintage scarves that around around the 50cm mark. They are the perfect size to go around a normal lunch box without being too bulky. And double as a zero-waste napkin too. It certainly makes it easy to find one's lunch box in the office-fridge melee too.
Here's some lovely examples of various sizes of furoshiki in use.
We're all about giving here, so here are seven plastic free gift ideas that you can start to use today, and throughout the rest of the year.
First up, a reminder to make sure that whatever you give, please do so using wrap that doesn't contain glitter or foil which cannot be recycled. Generally, if paper wrap passes the scrunch test, it's recyclable.
Now, for those plastic-free gift ideas
Our wraps build on traditional Japanese methods of cloth wrapping which started as both art and necessity. It is interesting to note that the tradition of using fabric to wrap started in a similar period but in different parts of the world.
Furoshiki, which means Japanese bath spread, derives from the traditional practice of using them to bundle clothes while at the sento or public baths. Arguably, the tradition dates back to the Nara period in the 8th century. Furoshiki's are also commonly used to wrap goods and gifts and almost anything. Their use declined with the introduction of plastic bags but they are still commonly used to wrap lunch boxes in Japan or bento, doubling as a table mat. They're enjoying a modern resurgence with new awareness of eco-friendly wrapping! There is a plethora of videos on the many different ways to use Furoshiki. Our faves include a simple and elegant how to wrap video from Marie Kondo, how to do a Furoshiki bunny wrap and this Furoshiki Ninja! Here at The Fabric Wrapping Co. we use vintage scarves for a totally zero waste and totally fabulous way of doing Furoshiki. I always keep one in my handbag as a quick and easy bag for purchases.
Tenugui are another Japanese fabric that are often used as a wrap, but also often used as a wash cloth or even a headband. Rectangular and with surprisingly raw edges, Tofogu writes an excellent article describing some of its history and modern uses.
There is a Korean tradition of using silk wrapping cloth called Bojagi (also known as bo) to give gifts, in weddings or in Buddhist rites. It is thought they first were used in the Three Kingdoms period to the 7th century. They range from finely embroidered masterpieces to more everyday wraps made from fabric scraps, which are known as chogak bo. These were used by commoners as food covers and for carrying goods. More recently they have been featured in exhibitions in fine galleries around the world, including these stunning examples at the V&A.
Beeswax wraps, Eygpt
Primarily used for the preservation of food, beeswax coated wraps originated in the seventh century when the Ancient Egyptians domesticated bee hives to harvest beeswax and honey.
Do you know of any other traditional cultures who used fabric to wrap? Whilst these are the most widely known, there must be examples in many cultures with their own textile traditions that are perhaps are not as well documented.
Not all wrapping paper is created equal. Equally recyclable that is, according to the BBC.
Although recycling does vary by borough, here are some top tips from the Recycling Association.
1. Say no to glitter. Yes, we too love shiny, but not at this price.
2. Wrapping paper with shiny silver or gold foil fails the recycling test also.
3. Skip the sellotape, or ensure you remove it all before putting paper in the recycling.
4. Scrunch it. If it stays scrunched it's recyclable according to Recycle Now.
5. If it's already recycled, it's a very good bet it can be again.
Next time you're shopping for wrapping paper, please skip the foil, glitter and sello and if in doubt, do the scrunch test!
Or even better - get resourceful and creative and see what you can use that already have on hand. We've heard some brilliant stories of people saving magazine articles relevant to family members to wrap. Using old family flight navigation maps and even T-shirts were also fab wraps!
Two words. Waste and beauty. Not two words you often see together.
It was the mountain of waste after Christmas that got us. It's the guilt as we try and stash those recycling and rubbish bags away before they ruin our perfectly planned Christmas decor. It's just awful, and not at all how we try and normally live our lives - with an intent to minimise our environmental impact (it's a work in progress).
Also, a love of fabric, ribbon, colour and pompoms. Or simply, beautiful things.
An idea was born - can we create beautiful and eco-friendly gift wrap?
So we started researching. The waste figures are staggering.
Happily, when researching fabric wrap we discovered the beautiful tradition of furoshiki and several brilliant companies already providing clever fabric wrap solutions. And a HUGE groundswell of people of people working towards a zero waste lifestyle. Many of whom are sharing fabulously creative ways to give gifts in a zero waste way.
We're happy to now be adding our own bold, colourful wraps and bags to this groundswell of people creatively finding new ways to make gifting good in every sense. We call the notion simply "good gifting".
Do you have any examples of good gifting that we could share?
Whilst researching fabric wrapping, we've talked to all sorts of people about how they wrap. And the verdict is - there are no two wrappers alike!
This piece of research sums it up most succinctly. There is the...
Smug Wrapper - who has everything wrapped up ready to go months before the event.
The Articulate Wrapper who can spend up to 15 minutes carefully wrapping and embellishing a single gift.
The Fast Wrappers, who spend just seconds on wrapping each gift, often blessing the invention of sellotape as they draw those last ends of wrapping paper together.
The Last Minute Dash Wrappers. Often resorting to gift bags as they dash to a party. Or at Christmas, you'll find them wrapping until the wee hours Christmas eve.
We'd also add the Bribe, Beg and Avoid Wrappers. Those that don't know how to wrap, don't have time or are plain embarrased by their gift wrapping skills. For those, there is a brilliant tutorial on How to gift wrap like an adult. Or this one, kindly collated by The Telegraph.
We're on a mission to add another kind of wrapper - the Fabric Wrapper! With your stash of reusable gift wrap on hand, able to elegantly gift wrap in a minute flat, no sellotape required!
Be it using one of our fabric wraps or gift bags, or brilliantly re-using a vintage scarf or simply a scrap of fabric you have on hand, we're on a mission to reduce waste and help people re-discover the simple joy of a beautifully wrapped gift.
What kind of wrapper are you?