Wrapping that secondhand sweater in disposable gift-wrap is like using a reusable shopping bag for your bottled water. It's a small step for green living-that's beaten back by consumerism. Sharleen Smith, founder of WrapNatural, a company that sells environmentally friendly wrapping products, shows us how to kick our wrapping paper habit, while adding some style to the holiday season.
Most holiday gift-wrap is not recyclable because of the ink type—it uses metallic inks—and the tape, which is petroleum based.
What were your sources of inspiration for launching the site?
There were a few. My mother-in-law grew up during the Depression in a family of eight. They never had much money to spend on presents, but they would spend a lot of time trying to outdo each other with the presentation. So she would send us presents with these beautiful bows and ribbons on top and say, "Oh, I had that since I was a girl. Hold on to it and send it back with your next present." So I loved this idea of heirloom gift-wrap. And then one year after my kids were ripping presents open for an hour, we spent a lot of time trying to parse through what was recycable, only to find out that much of it wasn't. It undermined the spirit of the season. Finally, when we were away on vacation for my son's birthday, I ended up spending $15 on gift-wrap, which seemed absolutely wasteful. That night I googled "wrapping cloth" and ended up reading about Furoshiki, a centuries old tradition in Japan of fabric wrapping, and decided I was going to create my own store for reusable gift wrap. I launched last September.
I actually use my son's artwork to wrap presents. What else can you repurpose for wrapping?
Newspapers, magazines, a bandanna, a Hermès scarf. It's about being inventive. Then you adorn it. You paint on it, stencil on it, stamp on it. You have fun with it, versus making it this chore where you're banging out gift after gift.
What about your own products? What are you most excited about right now?
My holiday line of cloth wrapping bags, which are made from 100 percent raw cotton muslin. I'm block printing them myself. I'm also starting to make bags using materials that were either purchased from the garment district-scraps from, say, a company that makes curtains-or at very cool yard sales. Instead of buying new fabric, I've been trying to salvage fabric from someplace else.