Stationery Trends Magazine will be making it’s big debut at the National Stationery Show next week and we’re so excited to be a part of it! Shades of Green, written by editor Sarah Schwartz, focuses on a topic that retailers across the country are yearning to learn more about; green stationery and gifts.
Read entire article below
Shades of Green
Eco-consciousness makes a big splash in stationery.
What role will it play in your store?
By Sarah Schwartz/Editor
These days, it’s impossible to be unaware of what’s become known as the green movement. From cleaning products to cars, consumers are reexamining both what they use and leave behind. It’s easy to wonder, is this another feel-good, election-year trend — or an enduring lifestyle?
“There is no question in my mind that ‘green’ is more than a new buzz word or passing trend,” said Sue Rostvold, founder and owner of Verysupercool. “While it’s on the tipping point of the mainstream right now, I feel people are slowly becoming aware of the wider implications of their actions. As long as we’re still dependent on non-renewable energy sources, there’s no reason a green lifestyle should not be enduring.”
Indeed, the stationery industry embraced the elements of the green movement “long before it was on the tip of everyone’s tongue,” opined Patti Stracher, the National Stationery Show’s (NSS) Show Manager. Most players assumed “it was a given when green became a part of the consciousness, everyone in the industry would be compliant.”
However, manufacturers and retailers didn’t promote their green lines as much as they could or should. “I think the industry is waking up,” she concluded. “Even better, these days green products are refined, indistinguishable from anything else.”
As such, George Little Management has expanded its Best New Product Awards competition at 2008’s NSS, adding an eco-friendly Think Green counterpart to each category. The awards will recognize companies that exemplifying ingenuity with earth-friendly products.
However, the green movement is not all about products — it begins with the business model, pointed out Todd LeVeck, business and environmental director, Eco-Expressions. “We seek to enhance communication between people while creating positive change in the way business is done with respect to the environment. Creating a sustainable business model and [products] that are ecologically intelligent was paramount in our decision to bring them to market.”
But small, socially conscious stationery companies aren’t the only ones getting involved. In February MeadWestvaco Corporation was named to CRO (Corporate Responsibility Officer) Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens 2008. MeadWestvaco was recognized for its practices that exemplify a higher level of corporate integrity, accountability and stewardship.
And other lines have literally been green for centuries. Crane & Co. has used cotton paper, making the entire line tree-free, for over 2000 years. Once recycled from rags, now from textile clippings, their paper proves that everything old is new again.
Green v. green-washed
So there’s no shortage of great green paper lines — and vendors have begun highlighting these aspects on product, Web sites and signage with finesse. However, there remains some terminology confusion among many.
This occurs for a few reasons. “Often a company puts the word ‘recycled’ on their product without including percentages because it’s not required by law,” explained Rostvold. These companies are sometimes dubbed “green-washed.
Complicating the situation, LeVeck added, “The EPA uses standards in green labeling that fluctuate with the Washington political winds.” So don’t get hung up on terminology— just remember the common thread is attention to the health and well-being of the end consumer and the resources used in production.
When it comes to the recycled content of the paper itself, 100 percent post-consumer waste (PCW) paper is top-shelf. “We received a custom order using 100 percent recycled paper, and researched it further,” noted Mark Gavin, owner and founder of Ecojot, “We decided products that were 100 percent recycled and made in Canada would be attractive to people. With all the miscommunication today, we wanted to emphasize that our products have 100 percent PCW. With clients from Barnes & Noble to Whole Foods, the response has obviously been quite positive!”
For a given paper to be called recycled, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer content for uncoated papers, and a minimum of 10 percent post-consumer content for coated papers. Other paper types, such as newsprint and corrugated packaging, also require post-consumer content. VerdePaperie, an online venue that literally means green paper store, has a minimum PCW content of 30 percent.
Also look out for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications. Recently, some U.S. commercial forests have undergone a sustainable harvest certification process overseen by the FSC, a non-profit organization set up to encourage the use of sustainable forestrly practices. Their “Chain of Custody” is followed from the forest to the final product. The FSC certification also pertains to papers with a certain percentage of recycled and post-consumer waste content.
Soy or vegetable-based inks are less harmful to the environment than their petroleum-based counterparts. There are several types of vegetable-based printing inks, including linseed, tung, castor, canola, and safflower. Soy is popular because it is a very stable material with excellent “wetting” properties, enhancing its ability to carry solid pigments.
Amy Holland, co-owner of Eco-Wise, Austin, Texas, looks for lines that succeed on multiple levels. “Historically, finding 100 percent PCW greeting cards has been far from easy. To my surprise, most reps do not seem to know what PCW refers to or about recycled verses recyclable. Verysupercool cards was the first to be promoted as using 100 percent PCW paper while printing a color photograph using soy-based inks! The message from Verysupercool promotes mutual respect for animals, people and the planet in a creative and unique way.”
Some of the most interesting green stationery is not paper at all. Night Owl Paper Goods’ line of sustainably harvested wooden journals, desktop notepads, postcards and A2 cards has been selling around the globe — as far away as Australia. “Everyone has been really receptive to our illustration style paired with the wood,” said Partner Jennifer Tatham.
Packaging, or rather a lack of it, is also paramount. “We like suppliers who reduce their packaging where possible,” opined Scott Walker, co-owner/manager of Greenward, Boston. “This means we prefer no plastic bags on greeting cards. We would like to see more cards packaged just with a paper band, biodegradable cellophane sleeves or other environmentally responsible packaging.“
Loop, of Philadelphia, Penn., packages its product with a slender paper band featuring its tagline, “Happy People, Healthy Planet.” “We design our packaging to be as minimal as possible,” pointed Elissa Brown Barbieri, owner and designer. “We don’t believe one must sacrifice aesthetics for ethics.”
The Eco-luxe Lifestyle
This doesn’t mean that you have to only carry green lines and overhaul your business practices. Rather, consider an eco-luxe line or two as a necessary element in your merchandise repertoire — and realize that it may cost a bit more.
“A few wholesale clients don’t agree that consumers are willing to pay more for an eco product, but the sales of Loop products prove that consumers are eco-savvy and are indeed willing to pay a little extra,” Barbieri commented. “I am constantly re-iterating what makes Loop eco-luxe, versus a card that’s been green-washed by tacking a recycled logo on the back; being eco is more than being recycled or recyclable.”
In a typical boutique not earmarked as green, finding a visually pleasing green line can really please customers, explained Sherry Brown, card buyer, Breed & Co., Austin, Texas, who carries Verysupercool. “Customers love knowing they’re helping the earth and getting a cool card.”
Whatever line you select, talk it up. “Art N Soul, in Encinitas, Calif., has taken an educational approach to selling our products,” said LeVeck. “Each customer is told about the importance of our ecologically intelligent design and social give-back programs.”
Often the best way to educate customers is in narrative form. Such is definitely the case with Copper Willow Paper Studio, started by Jill Velez and Leora Mauck. “Our first movements in the eco-friendly direction were inspired by our families. Our letterpress was in Leora’s home, when her son was 18 months old,” noted Jill, who was also pregnant and operated the press well into her ninth month. “So our first priorities were using soy ink, oiling the machine with food-grade oil and cleaning up with a bio-solvent. Our first line was printed entirely on tree-free papers and premiered at NSS last May.”
Their range includes both a stationery and bridal stationery album. Now they’ve left Leora’s home, and their studio and production space are green too. With bamboo flooring, recycled wallpaper, no-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paint and refinished antique furniture, their application to be a fully green-seal certified studio is currently up for review.
Walker also finds that small signs are well received. Dan Korman, who owns Park + Vine in Cincinnati, Ohio, agreed. “Little signs next to something makes an impression, we notice that people tend to spend more time in that spot.”
Finally, one under-recognized aspect of earth friendliness involves being friendly to each other, emphasized Shannon Martin, Girl Designer in partnership with Madison Park Greetings. “This has to do with community, who we are in the world, how we treat each other on a daily basis. Yes, recycling is important. But what of our own natural resources? Our humor, our compassion, our curiosity? What could be more earth-friendly than good working relationships, or a business where our success serves our local and business community?”