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To cut paper waste, Belmont entrepreneurs sell reusable cloth gift wrap

Cindy Estes (left) and Monica O'Neil are the founders of Belmont-based Rapt.
Cindy Estes (left) and Monica O'Neil are the founders of Belmont-based Rapt.Rubi Lichauco

One day, Belmont resident Monica O’Neil was at a store purchasing several rolls of wrapping paper when she thought about the piles of trash that would soon be waiting for her as a result.

“I said to [the cashier] this is such a waste; all I can visualize is bags and bags of garbage on Christmas Day. All this beautiful wrapping paper is going into the trash and while paying for all this I said ‘do you sell reusable gift wrap?’ she goes ‘no but that’s a great idea,’” O’Neil said.

On the way home, O’Neil called her friend Cynthia Estes and the two got to work on developing a reusable alternative.

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“I thought fabric, first of all, doesn’t rip. It lasts,” O’Neil said. It’s “something that can you reuse. Fabric is a natural thing.”

Drawing on Estes’ prior experience with the clothing industry, the two experimented with different prototypes. They settled on using fabric early on, but didn’t know how to seal packages without tape.

Eventually, after testing several shapes and sizes, the duo found the answer to their modern problem in the past. O’Neil and Estes came across the Japanese art of Furoshiki, which uses fabric to wrap parcels. The practice persists today, with friends keeping the fabric used to wrap gifts to return with a future gift.

Using Estes’ connections, the pair sourced fabrics and opened their online store with a few different fabric colors. Today, they’ve expanded their inventory to include accents made from fabric scraps as additional decoration.

“What we’re trying to do is create a line that’s evergreen,” Estes said. “You could use the silver sheet all year for anything, but if it’s a little boy’s birthday, and he happens to love red, then you can grab the accent that’s red and put it on top.”

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A $28 ensemble kit purchased at www.raptgiftwrap.com includes three square sheets of different sizes, 2 yards of ribbon, three accents, and three gift tags.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic Estes and O’Neil would introduce potential customers to fabric-wrapping gifts at pop-up events. Due to social distancing requirements, the pair have primarily taught new customers how to use their product through instructional videos and paper inserts in their packaging detailing the steps.




Diana Bravo can be reached at diana.bravo@globe.com.