Zero waste celebrations - Greening Christmas - How to cloth wrap using the Japanese art of Furoshiki [Christmas series]

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Every Christmas, we end up creating 30% more waste than usual. That is 30% more stuff going to the landfills, amounting to more than two billion tons of solid waste. This means 0.74kg of waste per person, per day. That is staggering! Although recycling is on the rise, the festive season tend to send so much our way that we either feel overwhelmed or cannot keep up with the recycling. And if we get to the recycling bit, Stats SA has found that of the 78.8% households who do support recycling, up to 75.8% do not separate their waste for recycling. That means whatever is picked up for recycling, very little can actually be used so it ends up at the landfill in any case. Some of the biggest culprits are plastic wrap, bubble wrap, gift wrapping paper, and decorating items.

Zero waste, Green Christmas, Cloth wrapping Furoshiki, A life lead simply, www.alifeleadsimply (4).png

What most people do not realise, is that recycling won’t be such a schlep if they practice the principles of zero waste from the start. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. Firstly, refuse things that you do not need, do not want, and cannot use. Reduce those things that you cannot refuse, or actually need. Replace single-use items, reducing the amount of rubbish that is sent to landfill, or that you need to recycle. Re-use the things you already have, recycle what you cannot use or donate, and rot whatever is not eaten. During the Christmas season, this can be a do-able project.

1. Refuse – gift wrapping paper with metallic décor, glitter, or any plastic cellophane cannot be recycled. If you cannot refuse it, then unwrap it neatly so that you can at least re-use it afterwards. Refuse bubble wrap, it cannot be recycled. Opt for paper to keep fragile gifts safe.

2. Reduce – tinsel and baubles. Buy them only if you can re-use them since they are not recyclable.

3. Re-use – gift wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons and décor items such as bows can all be re-used.

4. Recycle – gift wrapping that can easily be ripped is usually recyclable. Envelopes, paper cards, cardboard boxes and plastic shopping bags can be recycled.

5. Rot

Zero waste, Green Christmas, Cloth wrapping Furoshiki, A life lead simply, www.alifeleadsimply (1).jpg

As part of our drive to waste less, I have decided to try my hand at cloth wrapping. A Japanese tradition used for over 1200 years, cloth wrapping is referred to as Furoshiki, and it is traditionally used to transport clothes, fresh produce, gifts or other goods. The word translates to “bath spread”, referring to the historical use of carrying dirty clothes to the bathhouses in these cloth ‘bags’. The whole practice is an embodiment of Japanese beliefs in beauty, versatility, practicality and thoughtfulness. Furoshiki “bags” used to be used instead of plastic bags. What makes it great is that you can adjust the size of the bag depending on how you fold it, and even a big bag folded from a big cloth can still be folded small enough to fit in a pocket or handbag when it is not used. It can also be used to carry different sized objects, even those with funny or difficult forms.

Traditionally the colour and print design was chosen to reflect the message or occasion. The giver would represent the receiver with the gift, unwrapping it to unveil the gift, keeping the cloth for the next use. One furoshiki cloth can be used for a multitude of uses, including:

• Gift wrapping

• Shopping bag

• Decorating bags and handbags

• Picnic “basket” or blanket

• Tablecloth

• Scarf, belt or bandana

• Carrying clothes

Cloth wrapping is beautiful, fun, and so easy! In actual fact it takes less time “wrapping” presents in cloth than with paper. For this festive season’s gifts, I collected a range of cloths, even ending up using some of my new dishcloths when I ran out of other cloths! Other ideas to find enough cloths are to buy scarfs, pashminas, or other wraps from second-hand shops or even the Salvation Army. Buy cheap off-cut fabrics from a fabric factory or seamstresses. Re-use old clothes and linen. Cloth serviettes, dishcloths, tea towels, handkerchief. Anything that is pretty, big enough and of the right thickness can be used to wrap gifts in. A nice idea I read on another blog is to include a note explaining how the recipient can re-use the piece of cloth to wrap a gift they want to give someone else. Unless it is a dishcloth – sure nobody needs instructions for that.

For wrapping, the cloth should be at least 2 to 3 sizes bigger than the object you want to wrap. A traditional furoshiki cloth is not really square, the height is slightly longer than the width, but for my and your purposes a square or even rectangle will work just fine. When choosing your fabric, it must be thick enough to conceal the contents, but not too thick to keep you from tying the ends. If you have a thicker fabric that you would love to use, you can always flat wrap the fabric around the object then tie it with string or yarn. If you use old sheets or plain fabrics, you can use fabric paint, pens or natural dyes. You can even do simple sewing or needlework to make each wrap a personalised work of art.

Using cloth wraps is a great way of minimising waste, while ensuring your presents are beautiful, personalised and special. Give it a try!