July 26, 2008

Helping the environment one envelope at a time

Everyone is looking for eco-friendly ways to save the planet.  So, it's wonderful when you see a good example of someone who not only had a great idea but actually created a business around it. I enjoyed reading the story of Ann DeLaVergne, who looking at a stack of used envelopes in her recycling bin thought that she could make a difference. She founded ecoEnvelopes, a company that is creating a reusable envelope movement.

It's worth reading the story on their website...

“People find a purpose in their life and they pursue it, because it makes sense. That’s how inventi
on happens,” recalls Ann DeLaVergne, founder of ecoEnvelopes. It was 2002 and while sorting the mail, she noticed an envelope with a request to, “Reuse this envelope.” Unfortunately, there was no easy way to do that.

As a former organic farmer and bee keeper who cared about the environmental, Ann already saved large envelopes to send out again—despite the complex camouflage they needed to be mailed a second time. “There should be an easier way to reuse envelopes,” she thought. “Why not one envelope instead of two?”

Combining her design experience and background in fine arts, Ann started making prototypes by hand at her kitchen table. The new eco friendly envelopes she came up with were functional, practical, and most importantly, helped the

Ann used her sewing machine to speed up the process of making perforations in paper to make it easy to open her ecoEnvelopes. Her first mailing was ten envelopes she sent to friends across the country. Every one of them came back and she says with nostalgia, “I thought I was done. I mailed them, they came back….I was done,” she recalls. “No. That was the start. I made envelopes from scratch with my sewing machine for the next two years!”

In the next couple years, Ann devoted herself to perfecting ecoEnvelopes. She received grants from the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance and the Eileen Fisher Foundation and won supporter after supporter, including the former CEO of one of the largest envelope manufacturers in the U.S. Soon, Ann was in Washington meeting with the US Postal Service and key people in the industry. “It became a community whose goal was to help the environment, we were working on something that could make a significant difference,” she recalls.

Her timing was perfect. With consumers driving demand for environmentally friendly products, corporations greening their operations and the USPS supporting green initiatives, it was clear that ecoEnvelopes was an idea whose time had come.

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