Write This Down: Sustainable Stationery for Every Occasion

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Creativity is alive and well! We were floored by the multiple examples we saw at the National Stationery Show in NYC — beautiful designs, clever wording, brilliant concepts. And who knew that so much of it was environmentally-friendly? If you want to talk about making items last, many of these manufacturers use presses that are truly antique; at least one dates from 1890. Paper from cotton fiber instead of trees, alternative inks, and alternative power sources are just a few examples of practices that make these small companies worth supporting, not to mention their diverse styles and products. Below are some of the companies whose works and products I especially liked. They might be a bit more difficult to find than your average greeting card or notebook, but they’re worth it!

Everyone listed does some custom work, whether it’s wedding invitations, custom notebooks, both, or something else entirely. If you decide you’d like custom work done from one of these outfits, please remember that these are not megacorporations with hundreds of employees. You must give smaller businesses like these enough time to work, so plan accordingly.

There is currently a debate surrounding different types of ink and how environmentally-friendly they are (or aren’t). Traditional letterpress ink is oil-based. That doesn’t sound environmentally-friendly at all, I know, but we’re not talking crude oil here; it’s most often linseed oil, so it’s plant-based. Soy-based ink is very trendy now; that and rubber-based ink are newer products, and each has advantages and disadvantages. The most intelligent discussion of various inks I’ve found is on the Paisley Dog Press website (you’ll also find a write-up of Paisley Dog Press below). Although they were not at the NSS, they make some fine products and are doing something positive about their environmental impact.

Companies are listed in no particular order.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

This Canadian business uses 100% post-consumer recycled paper (they’ve won multiple awards for their tree-friendly practices), as well as “veggie” inks, glues, and dyes. All packaging is biodegradable. They donate workbooks and pens to children in need. Their paper comes from Cascades Fine Papers Group in Canada. It’s acid-free and chlorine-free; methane generated by the waste produced in local landfills is piped in and fulfills 93% of thermal energy needs in the plant. For every jumbo journal sold, ecojot donates a workbook or a pen to a child in need — to date, over two hundred forty thousand workbooks or pens have been donated to kids in some of the poorest countries on Earth. The bright, cheerful character of the designs available here are most appealing, and they have a very wide range of products. My favorite product might just be the Owl Blue Note Cards, but there are others I like almost as much.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Green Field Paper Company
I didn’t think it could be done, but someone has finally come up with a good use for junk mail! Green Field Paper Company makes it into one-of-a-kind specialty papers and note cards. Shredded junk mail is combined with post-consumer pulp (no chemicals, dyes, or additives are used), and the resulting products are of great quality. This business also features Grow-A-Note Plantable Seed Paper in sheets, greeting cards, and more. These, too, are made completely from recycled material, and are designed to be planted (there are instructions and descriptions on the backs of the cards). The planted papers yield flowers, vegetables or herbs, depending upon the variety you select. Still want more? How about 100% recycled gift wrap? How about hemp papers? They’re acid-free, chlorine free, made up of 25% hemp and 75% post-consumer pulp and great for water colors, pastels and all drawing mediums. There are too many other options for me to tell you about them here, so head over to the website for complete details.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Look for the Rebottled Under The Sea and Rebottled Wild Garden Journals, with pages made of 100% post-consumer waste paper and a cover fashioned from 85% post-consumer waste recycled plastic bottles. Sustainably-forested paper is employed in the Casebound Sketchbooks. The Landmade Cork products are fashioned from sustainably harvested cork in Spain. But unquestionably, my pick from this company is the Decomposition Book, a riff on the old Composition Book of grade-school days. According to the website, the Decomposition Books use 100% post-consumer-waste recycled pages that were manufacturing in a mill powered by biogas-derived energy. Why didn’t I think of this first? There’s more, too: all of the white and ruled paper in their products is acid-free.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Oblation Papers & Press
You’ve got to see the line of Rock n’ Roll Cards. Never before have I seen a greeting card with the words “Play that funky music white boy” on it (hey, if you grew up in the same era that I did, it’s important). And look for the Wild Winter Greetings — too cute! Actually, Oblation has quite a number of items I find appealing, and that’s in addition to their environmentally-caring practices. The fiber source for their paper is 100% cotton, acid-free, and recovered from the garment industry, and they make their own paper in their very own urban paper mill with that cotton fiber. They have a line of wedding invitations with but a single envelope and an RSVP postcard, to reduce waste. They use soy inks and citrus solvents. And there’s even more information about their “green” approach on their website. If you live in or near Portland, Oregon, you can drop in to their retail store; otherwise, online ordering is the way to go.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Twinkle Brands
Anyone can make a gift tag, but not everyone would think to make a combination gift tag/gift card holder/message holder out of 100% wool felt, a rapidly renewable resource. The wool felt used here is Oeko-Tex certified. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is a globally-uniform testing system for raw textile materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of production. They are tested for banned chemicals (known health hazards) and prohibited or banned substances, because people who use end products aren’t the only ones to come in contact with textiles. I respect the concern I see here for those who process and manufacture the wool felt. The felt for these gift tags/gift card holders/message holders is imported from The Netherlands, but all items are cut sewn, constructed and packaged in the US. There’s a great variety of gift tags from which to choose, and look, too, for their Wine and Butterfly Tiedings the next time you’re presenting a gift. Great designs and colors here, and someone has a fun sense of humor with the T-shirts for multiple babies.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Les Bois Letterpress
I have a thing for letterpress. It’s an ancient, labor-intensive, more expensive method of printing, whereby ink is actually pushed into the paper, rather than just sitting atop it as with modern conventional printing. In this case, ancient traditions are combined with the use of 100% cotton or recycled paper, soy-based inks, and minimal packaging/display materials to create some incredibly detailed cards, notes, and invitations. I even have an information sheet from Les Bois that was printed on pulverized stone! You would never know this wasn’t some sort of heavy paper, but it is actually recycled, crushed stone. Head over to the Etsy shop and look at those Hand-Carved Heart Cards and the Bisou Bisou Valentines Greeting Cards (good for any time of the year), and you’ll share my enthusiasm.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Pistachio Press
Another letterpress business, with each card hand-printed on a vintage letterpress machine. Rubber-based inks are employed here, along with citrus-based solvents for cleaning up. Printing is done on either 100% cotton paper or recycled paper with a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste. Proprietor Rachael Hetzel obviously has a great love for animals, particularly dogs. Other designs range from eyelet lace to Mexican tile to cross stitch to “Mid Century Modern”. Look for the charming Mask Kits, which would be perfect for an afternoon of make-believe with a young friend. The masks come complete with a few crayons and a ribbon, so all you do is color the mask, cut along dotted lines, make eyeholes, and attach it to your head with the ribbon. I see a Bunny, a Fox, and a Pheasant in the Etsy shop at this writing. What a marvelous idea! Note that Pistachio Press also has a bricks-and-mortar boutique in Rochester, NY.

Write This Down: Notes from the National Stationery Show

Paisley Dog Press
Whimsical. Modern. Traditional. All of these adjectives can be used to describe this husband-and-wife-run letter press business in eastern Pennsylvania. From the hilarious “Geek” and “Nerd” cards to the “Rock Horns” coasters to the elaborate Paris-style wedding invitations, everything I see here shows personal touches and great imagination. The paper used here is made entirely of cotton recycled from the textile industry, and the scraps are themselves recycled. Even the rags used to clean the presses are recycled! Paisley Dog Press has done their research regarding inks, and they choose to go with rubber-based inks (see the link in the introduction to this article for their discussion on the various inks used in their craft). Their slogan, “Inky Hands, Antique Presses, Open Hearts” is well-suited to their attitude. And how can anyone not like a company who offers a print of the Kraken engulfing a pirate ship?

Top image: card by Les Bois Letterpress

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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