"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Waste not Want not - Furoshiki


Do you know what a furoshiki is?

No I didn’t know either. Until I read Wangari Maathai’s new book, Replenishing the Earth. (I have reviewed this recently on Amazon). And what a super idea furoshiki is.

It is said that the United Kingdom generates three million tons of rubbish in the Christmas period alone. And much of that will be expensive colourful wrapping papers that are ripped off and instantly thrown away. When I was a child, wrapping paper was relatively expensive and it was valued all the more for that. We used to open our presents carefully, trying to avoid tearing the paper, and then after Christmas all the wrappings thus saved were carefully ironed for use another year.

Then such behaviour came to be seen as miserly and somehow “not done.” In those days eco sustainability was not even thought of.

Now thankfully the world is becoming more aware of its need to preserve its resources. And this is where the Japanese furoshiki comes into its own. It is a pretty piece of cloth used again and again for wrapping presents, dating back many centuries. The Japanese have a tradition of giving gifts on visiting anyone. Once all such gifts would be wrapped in a furoshiki, and the recipient on carefully unwrapping the gift would then give the cloth back to the donor, to use again and again. I say “would” in the past tense because with the advent of plastic shopping bags the tradition apparently fell away. But in 2006 the then Japanese Minister of the Environment Yuriko Koike made his own version of a Mottainai Furoshiki * cloth, to try and encourage the use of these environmentally friendly objects again. A google search now will readily show that this idea is indeed catching on. Surely we should all copy this wonderfully green idea this Christmas. Perhaps a little card could be attached to the greetings card with the present, explaining the origin of this tradition and urging all to take part next time a gift is offered.

* (The Japanese word mottainai basically means “it's a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full – or simply; don’t waste.” Yuriko Koike’s furoshiki was made of a fiber manufactured from recycled PET bottles, and has a birds-and-flowers motif drawn by the Japanese painter Itoh Jakuchu.)

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