You may remember my past Green Swap q + a with designer Amy of Smock paper. I also got to talk to Debbie Urbanski, owner of Smock, about greener alternatives in stationery. Smock, as you may know, is a pioneer in creating lovely bamboo stationery, including custom wedding invitations. Here's part one of a feature about eco options in stationery: Debbie of Smock on going green in the paper world.
Did you start Smock with being green built into the business structure?
Yes! Smock is a relatively new company (it launched in May 2008 at the National Stationery Show) and our goal with Smock was to create an inspired letterpress stationery/invitation line that was both beautiful and green. And we wanted the “green” in Smock to go deeper than simply using eco papers and eco inks.
Why was being green important to you?
My business partner/husband and I are great lovers of the outdoors and we’ve always dreamed of using our small business to do more than making pretty things – we want to use our business to do good as well. We’re inspired by companies like Patagonia, who have a strong sense of ethics and also happen to create top-notch products. During our hiking adventures, we’ve seen first hand the devastation that clear cutting can do to an environment. We would hate to look back 10 years from now and think that we contributed to the environmental problems that the world will surely be facing. There’s a wonderful book called Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World by Stoneyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg. Hirshberg argues that, for the green movement to work, and for the world to get better, businesses – both large and small – are going to need to be involved. Consumers can’t change the world by themselves. We totally agree.
We’ve found a lot of fabulous books out there – essential reading for any business owner, large or small, who wants their business to make a difference. Our favorite book is Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. The Green Marketing Manifesto is a must-read as well. We’ve also found great support and green business ideas from organizations that we are involved with, like 1% for the Planet and Green America. My husband Harold did spend a lot of time researching paper options before we launched Smock – he talked with numerous paper mills and suppliers before we decided bamboo was the greenest, and the most luxurious, we can go (we helped develop the bamboo paper that we use.)
What are options available for eco papergoods?
Thankfully the quality of eco options for paper has been increasing lately – we’re paper snobs and our favorite papers (like the bamboo) have to measure up in quality to conventional, non-eco papers. Bamboo is our favorite option of course – soft, luxurious, eco. 100% post consumer recycled paper is also great for more everyday uses (our office paper in our laser printer, for instance, is 100% post consumer recycled paper). We make our gift wrap from 100% post consumer recycled paper too. I have to say I’m fascinated by the Elephant Poo Poo paper as well.
Do you think using green practices benefits you as a business?
The state of the Earth has become difficult to ignore, and I think customers want to cause the least amount of harm with their purchases. You don’t want to trash the planet during your joyous and beautiful wedding, for instance, or send a birthday card to a loved one made from virgin tree pulp. So using green practices has helped us connect with customers. Certain green practices (like reusing inbound cardboard boxes, keeping computers powered down at night, etc.) helps keep operation costs down as well.
What's one of your favorite custom jobs that you've done?
I love this save the date we did:
I love the slightly daring, full of energy raspberry ink, and the use of calligraphy highlights (it’s a font that Smock had created just for us, based on our favorite calligrapher’s handwriting) is just perfect as well. I think it’s sophisticated, energized, stylish, full of warmth, and gorgeous – which is how I’d describe my favorite letterpress designs.
How can people be more mindful with their use of paper?
My philosophy is to get rid of the mail you don’t want, and make way for the mail/paper that you do want. I think there is a place for keepsakes, heirlooms, and handwritten notes, even in a green lifestyle. We signed up for 41 Pounds — a nonprofit that gets you off of mailing lists for a small subscription fee – and aggressively make sure we’re kept off of print catalog lists. We think twice about subscribing to print magazines and read the newspaper online. That said, I still treasure receiving beautifully printed invitations and handwritten letters and notes (ideally on eco papers of course). Don’t forget other household paper usage – napkins (go cloth); paper towels (go real towels); toilet paper (go 100% recycled, honestly it works just fine!)
Your stationery line uses bamboo paper. How is bamboo transformed into paper?
Although bamboo is a grass, it's pulped just like any other wood based paper. This process extracts the cellulose from the bamboo to make paper on traditional papermaking equipment. The advantage to bamboo is how it’s grown: without pesticides or irrigation, and much more quickly than tree fibers. It’s also not extracted from the wild, but from family-run bamboo plantations in Thailand. Bamboo has been used in the past for various commercial grade papers, but nothing nice enough to print wedding invitations.
A big thank you to Debbie for these thoughtful ideas! Part two on eco-friendly paper will be with Vivian of 9SpotMonk.