The idea of two Polish women that revolutionises the art of gift wrapping in a sustainable way
This article first appeared in Forbes Italia on 20 Feb 2021: original URL.
Author: Alessia Carpinello Tricarico
¨Have you ever wondered why we wrap gifts? Where did the idea of gift wrapping come from? According to a study published in 1992 by Daniel Howard, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, there appears to be reasons related to psychology.
Through three experiments he conducted with a group of students, prof. Howard tested whether people value wrapped gifts differently from unwrapped ones. And the results were quite significant: gifts that were wrapped and had a bow scored an average of over one point higher than unwrapped gifts.
Although the reasons are unclear, the author argues that gift wrapping is a visual cue associated with happy events in a person's life. The history of gift wrapping was first documented in China in the 2nd century BC, where an ancient Chinese text mentions that the wrapping paper was made from rice straws and bamboo fiber. The Koreans had the "bojagi" - about 1400. - traditional wrapping fabric made of cloth with elaborate often square designs, mainly seen in museums today. Then came Furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping in fabric that dates back to the 7th century AD. Although it lost its popularity briefly after World War II, due to the introduction of plastic bags and wrapping paper, it is a very precious tradition.
The large wrapping paper industry as we know it today is worth $ 15.1 billion . Half of the 85 million tons of paper products consumed by Americans each year is destined for the packaging and decoration of objects. The amount of household waste in the United States increases by 25% during the holidays, equivalent to five million tons of waste. And an estimated 30 million trees are cut down for wrapping paper over the holidays. From all this can only derive a growing social demand for ecological solutions and hence the idea of Joanna Zabinska and Magdalena Pytlos, two Polish women who live respectively in London and Barcelona, but as this year is showing everyone, they managed remotely to give life to Wrapuccino.
With this ecological brand, Magdalena and Joanna want to revolutionise the traditional gift giving by demonstrating that eco-wrapping can be unique and sophisticated, while being completely sustainable. They gave a modern twist to the ancient Japanese art of fabric wrapping (Furoshiki), adding a contemporary design to the fabrics. The fabric gift box does not require sticky tape, scissors or plastic tape. It can be as simple as tying two corners of the fabric together, or elaborate works of art can be created using the ancient Japanese techniques of Furoshiki. Wrapuccino is also working in partnership with Plastic Oceans UK and part of their profits go to support the mission to stop plastic pollution in our oceans. But let's understand more directly from the co-founder Magdalena.
How was the idea of Wrapuccino born?
The idea was born during a Christmas two years ago when Joanna told me: “If someone had done it 30 years ago, they would have been laughed at, at best called crazy”. We looked up at the pile of rubbish that had formed in the corner of the room: crumpled and torn colored papers, twisted ribbons, and bits of tape. “No one should buy a piece of paper, only to throw it away a few minutes later. Paper, like all materials, should be reused and respected ". She was right, wrapping paper was a huge waste, but was the situation so bad? We decided to investigate and the reality was worse than we could have imagined. We discovered that wrapping paper was invented 100 years ago and thought it was time to change that habit. The next step was the search for alternatives to paper. And so we came across the Japanese who have been wrapping gifts with fabric for several centuries now. In fact, they got so good at it that they made a beautiful and elaborate art out of it called Furoshiki. One thing led to another, and one year later we launched Wrapuccino. Our motto is: "Save the planet one gift at a time"
In this era in which more than ever we talk about environmental issues, the gift paper industry is in fact fueled by one of the many habits that is undermined, but not much talked about yet. What scenario emerged from your research?
We have found that waste is not the only problem. Not many people realise that it is not just the trees being destroyed, but also that many wrapping papers are coated with plastic and therefore cannot be recycled. The bows are also often made of plastic and the sticky tape that cannot be recycled. Every year, in the UK alone, we throw away enough paper to go around the equator nine times! And we're talking about one country only. Let's imagine how many countries Christmas is celebrated in. The scale of the problem turned out to be greater than we could have imagined. Glitter is another pollutant that we underestimate: it contains microplastics that are discharged into our waters and seas and assimilated by marine organisms, and then it reach us. The latest studies show that an average man ingests the plastic equivalent of a one credit card per week. Other studies suggest that paper waste from Christmas alone equates to 5-12 million liters of biofuel, enough to get a bus to the moon 20 times. We all love the idea of giving and receiving gifts, but let's ask ourselves if this habit should really cost the Earth.
Given these alarming premises, you have therefore chosen to give a new life to the ancient Japanese art of packaging. What is it about?
The ancient Japanese art of Furoshiki - the art of wrapping gifts in fabric - has been in use since the 7th century. The creations were not only beautiful and elegant, but also sustainable and completely reusable. We couldn't believe that this practice wasn't already widespread in the Western world, so we decided to help promote its idea. If the Japanese have been using the art of Furoshiki for about 1400 years, why can't we? With Wrapuccino we want to show the world that sustainable gift packaging is not only possible, but that it can have many more benefits. Although fabrics look beautiful on their own, every time you wrap a gift you create a one-of-a-kind little piece of art, with no need for bows or tape. This beautiful and ancient tradition of wrapping gifts in fabric is still used today by the new generations who especially appreciate the value of sustainability. The package is thus given away to be reused: the Japanese call it the "fabric with a thousand uses". Giving a gift wrapped in fabric is truly a special thought, it is a demonstration of affection on many levels: for the person, for the environment, but also for beauty, style and presentation. In fact, you are giving the lucky recipient two gifts.
What characteristics do the fabrics you choose have?
Our fabrics range from 100% natural cottons to soft velvets, silks and chic satins, to suit all tastes. When we choose our fabrics, we focus on quality and certifications. Our fabrics come from Europe and are carefully hand finished, its packaging FSC® certified, printed with vegetable ink, 100% compostable and absolutely plastic free. Cotton and linen are preferred by those who love a more natural, organic, simple style. Those who like a more elegant and sophisticated style usually prefer satin, silk or velvet. When it comes to design, we often take inspiration from the beauty and colours of nature. We run community surveys to see what they love the most and we also create custom designs - to make the gift even more unique and special. We do not mass production to avoid unnecessary waste and this is also what makes each gift unique. We select the best fabrics from Europe which are then handcrafted by our artisans who make the magic happen. All edges are finished with double fold hems to prevent fraying and then packaged by us in the UK in our plastic free and fully recyclable packaging.
Wrapping is not just a way to pack, but a real philosophy. For those wishing to deepen the true art of packaging, do you offer any services to teach the different techniques to your community?
We are in this extraordinarily fortunate position where we find ourselves bringing together people who love creativity and at the same time care about the environment. Together with them, we are creating a movement that wants to bring positive change to the world. We organize many workshops a year where we introduce the different techniques for wrapping gifts and give ideas on how to reuse the fabrics that we guarantee can be reused over and over again. Following the philosophy of “fabric with a thousand uses”, we encourage you to give new lives to fabrics such as scarves, bags, napkins, or tea towels. The possibilities are truly endless and limited only by the creativity of each person. Many companies we work with believe that limiting damage to the environment is no longer enough. We need to actively reverse this process.¨
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