Image by B. Alter
In Japan it is called furoshiki and they have been doing it for centuries. At Lush they call it knot-wrap and it has been a huge hit in the last few months since they introduced it. Instead of using wrapping paper, they have been packaging purchases in colourful fabric squares. It's a convenient and environmental way of carrying things.
Lush started by using vintage scarves, transforming 45,000 of them into a beautiful new usage, as wrapping.
Image by B. Alter
Lush also worked with "re-wrap", a group working with Indian co-operatives to make fair trade textiles. Most recently re-wrap has been making the organic cotton knot-wraps that are sold in the stores for £4 (US$6). This has been such a success for the group that the co-op has made enough money to employ a social worker, finance children's education and make plans to construct a new building for their operation.
Being Lush, a very principled environmental company, and still privately owned, they then advanced their thinking a step further. They are now using a new fabric called Greenspun which is made from recycled plastic bottles. Two plastic bottles go into the making of each scarf. They look good; colourful and brightly patterned, but they do have a synthetic, slippery feel to them. Given that they are intended to wrap your gift, not your neck, it doesn't really matter.
Image from Informap.Japan
The Japanese have many intricate wraps for different sized packages. Dating from the Edo period (1603-1868) when people used a furoshiki to carry their personal items to and fro the public baths, it is used now to carry lunches and packages. 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.