File under quietly brilliant. I needed to move some books, a lot of books, so I started to look around for some boxes. Professor M suggested twine. Check it out: a simple double loop of twine is a flexible, reusable, and perhaps most important, easy to store book schlepper. With a built-in handle. And you can see exactly what books are in each bundle. Even one cardboard box takes up more space than a whole ball of twine. Wow.
A recent trip to Japan made me think about packaging again. They love the stuff. There seems to be no purchase too modest to merit a crisp paper bag with a bit of tape across the top, and if you buy something of substance, you'll always be offered the option of gift-wrap, and it'll always be gorgeous. As much as I love nice paper and packaging, all that paper and plastic waste was getting me down until I discovered an older Japanese packaging tradition, the 風呂敷 or furoshiki.
Like twine, a furoshiki - a square of fabric about 18-24" square - is flexible and reusable. Unlike twine, a furoshiki is attractive, often beautiful, suitable for display as artwork in its own right. Still getting coffee in to go cups even when you're staying? Still getting paper bags at the grocery store? Forget recyclable, think reusable.
PS for the pun-inclined, there's this joke about string in a bar.