Why you should consider ‘furoshiki’ – the sustainable alternative to wrapping paper

By Celine Aagaard

Photo: Aiayu

Switching out your Christmas wrapping paper habit for the Japanese furoshiki tradition is easy to do, and will make your gifts even more special

Given all the stress and pressure that can so often come with Christmas, it’s perhaps not a surprise that sustainability isn’t always at the top of people’s minds at this time of year. But a greener Christmas is possible - and being more environmentally-friendly doesn’t mean you have to forego the fun or festive factor.


Even seemingly small changes can make a huge difference. Consider Christmas wrapping: in 2018, people in the UK threw away the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper in the aftermath of Christmas. Globally, it’s estimated that some 50,000 trees are cut down each year to create the shiny mass-produced paper that adorns our presents one minute and is flung in the bin the next. Added to that, most wrapping paper contains microplastics meaning that it doesn’t get recycled and instead goes into landfills.

But there are alternatives. And super stylish ones at that, as a number of Scandi designers are demonstrating this season.

Photo: Aiayu

Maria Høgh Heilmann, Founder and Creative Director at Danish interior and fashion brand Aiayu, is one of a number of Scandinavians finding sustainable inspiration in Japan this Christmas. "Inspired by the simplicity and sustainability of the beautiful Japanese furoshiki tradition, we have replaced all disposable gift wrapping with cloth made from leftover organic cotton from our production process," she says, pointing out that the material can actual double as a gift too. "The cloth wrapping can easily be reused as gift wrapping, or sewed into something else – there are a myriad of clever ways to make use of it."

The tradition of furoshiki can be traced back over a millennium, with its first recorded use being for the protection of precious objects in temples and shrines. It's slowly catching on in other countries, with author Christine Leech one of its growing number of champions. Leech has literally written the book on furoshiki, entitled 30 Ideas for Furoshiki and Other Sustainable Solutions, in which she notes "What could be nicer than receiving a present and the beautiful scarf its wrapped in?"

Photo: Aiayu

Anette Bastviken and Susanne Bastviken - co-founders of Norwegian eco-friendly living brand Radical Broccoli - are going one step further, by using vintage and pre-loved materials as part of their furoshiki wrapping. "We use beautiful thrifted materials from flea markets in Oslo, gathered throughout the fall," they explain. "The best part of using thrifted materials is that they can be reused year after year. It makes the gifts look unique and the recipient can reuse it too."

Photo: Aiayu

Ultimately however, you don't even have to look online or head to the shops to wrap your presents sustainably. Other eco-friendly ways to wrap your Christmas presents this year include old boxes, fabrics, dust bags, laundry bags, or jars - objects that most of us have lying around the house already and can be made to look nice and festive with a little imagination.

Get creative and you can have yourself a merry (and greener) little Christmas.