Furoshiki: Saying “No” to Plastic Bags

Sunday, 25 May 2008

RM79—that’s the price I paid for one large square piece of cloth made of pure cotton, printed with geometric designs on both sides. A day later I went back to Isetan to get another! Just what had gotten into me?

This was the first time I had ever heard of the Japanese [Furoshiki](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furoshiki)—a beautiful and ingeniously functional demonstration of how versatile a humble piece of cloth can be. With a few simple knots, one can instantly have a means to carrying all sorts of things, from clothes to books, wine bottles and even bulky toy sets (I used mine to lug home a big [LEGO Aqua Raiders](http://shop.lego.com/ByTheme/Product.aspx?p=7775&cn=468) set once). I completely fell in love with the whole idea of using it on an everyday basis.

So why would I go through the ‘hassle’ of saying NO to plastic bags and opt to stand at the cashier, fiddling around with a piece of cloth to hold my purchases in while curious onlookers wonder what this pregnant hobo is doing?

* I’m guilty of being part of the throw-away society we have evolved to become. This is the least I can do to minimise the burden of heavy plastic usage on our environment.
* Education is paramount in environmental awareness. I have already spoken to quite a number of people who were curious about my actions (mostly salespeople), and I had the chance to talk about practical ways we can reduce our dependency on plastic bags.
* Furoshiki are SO much prettier than plastic bags! And I’m sure they’d even satisfy the requirements of the fashion-conscious.
* They’re reusable, washable (VERY important), compact and discreet—I fold mine into a rectangle and slip it into my handbag whenever I go out. No annoying crinkly sounds to put up with either. Apart from serving as a bag, it has also saved me from freezing in the cinema too!

So if you think you’d like to give it a go as well, here are a few things that can help you along:

####Where can I get a furoshiki?
Unfortunately Isetan doesn’t seem to sell them any more, but I’m sure you can go to any store that sells cloths by the metre, ask for the size that you want and just hem up the edges. Mine measures 3.5’x3.5’, and I can easily carry lunchboxes, bulky pashminas, and even combinations of both. IKEA sells fairly decent cloth for as little as RM19 per square metre. Virtually any kind of cloth will do, but I personally prefer those made of natural fibres as opposed to synthetics—so it’s either silk or cotton for me.

####How do I get from a flat piece of cloth to a bag?
Instructions to tie furoshiki knots Here’s a nifty instruction sheet produced by the Government of Japan’s Ministry of Environment (click on the image to view it full-sized) that shows 14 different ways to tie a furoshiki knot, depending on what you need to carry. The Tesage Bukuro is what I tie most often. If you haven’t already tried origami, this could be a nice introduction to it. :) The Japanese government seems quite serious about promoting furoshiki… You can read about their efforts [here](http://www.env.go.jp/en/focus/060403.html).

I was lucky enough to have been able to get a ready-made furoshiki and also learn how easy it is to use. If you like this idea, please go all the way to make it a part of your lifestyle. And tell others so _they_ can decide whether they’d like to adopt it as well.

3 Comments

#1Gravatar imagegerda hodges says:

I saw furoshiki on Tv and would love to do it as a hobby where in SA can i find scarves and who will teach me?

#2Gravatar imageMichelle says:

Hi Gerda, thanks for stopping by my blog :) Unfortunately I’m not familiar with your locale—perhaps a google search would help? As for scarves, well, you could pretty much go to any cloth store and ask for a 3’x3’ piece of material and get started! Or hop over to a shopping mall and get headscarves from there?

#3Gravatar imageStephanie says:

Oh wow I just love this blog! Thank you so much for posting that wonderful picture that explains how to fold those bags. I can’t wait to wrap my wine bottles at my next wine party. Thanks for the information!

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