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Company creates specialty paper from recycled and tree-free materials

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Founded in 1992 by Jeff Lindenthal, Green Field Paper Co. was well ahead of the eco-curve. Lindenthal initially sent the thank-you notes for his wedding on paper made from his wife’s wedding dress. Now, the company’s papermaking has expanded to include product lines such as greeting cards, stationery and promotional products from other non-wood, recycled materials like ground junk mail, organic cotton, garlic skins, hemp and coffee chaff. The most popular product: plantable paper.

The Grow A Note handmade, seed-embedded papers are typically made of wildflower seeds and are often used in promotional cards and invitations -- from weddings to NFL events -- because guests can then plant them directly into the ground to grow flowers. As Smith says, it gives another purpose to the paper.

“We just did a paper recently where we put mint seeds in for the rum company VeeV. They created coasters that said, ‘Grow a mojito.’ It was a cool promo,” said Rick Smith, president, who took over Green Field Paper in 2005.

Green Field Paper creates both machine-made and handmade, the latter of which is produced at its plant in San Diego. Because of this, even smaller quantities can be made, such as a roughly 2,000-sheet project for Petco bookmarks created from employee uniforms. Green Field Paper is also committed to an overall environmentally conscious approach -- even the water used to make the 100 percent recycled, handmade paper is reclaimed and reused in the next batch.

Green Field Paper did see a little decrease in sales for the first time last year with the market downturn, especially in the papers used for corporate promotional materials, but Smith has been seeing things start to pick back up this year and just completed projects for eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Hard Rock Cafe. The company is looking to expand into additional product lines, such as copy paper made of sugarcane, which is strong like hemp but less expensive.

“Our concern (with office paper) is obviously price point,” Smith said. “Yet even with 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper you pay more. And that’s flimsy and often jams in the printer. Ours will be a good alternative because it’s actually pretty strong from the sugarcane fiber.”

Another new product being investigated is a toilet tissue with a non-wood base, which is still in the developmental phase. Smith said Green Field Paper is always looking to grow and embrace new ideas, some of which come from client suggestions or requests. One such possibility is a coated gift wrap that doesn’t need tape to close it, which is still being explored.

“I was actually CFO for a medical device company and just fell in love with the products here. I knew if I had my own business, I was going to have to be passionate about it,” Smith said. “It’s a cool business and a happy business. If you go out and just buy copy paper, you don’t necessarily want to do it, but have to do it. With our specialty products, people want to buy it, so they tend to be a little bit happier.”


Blackford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

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