Spring 2011
A Good Wrap By Lin Grensing Pophal

Green Packaging Glossary

NaturalMade from natural materials such as jute, bamboo, cotton, paper etc. Products made from natural materials are usually compostable and biodegradable.

ReusableBags can be reused many times.

RecyclableProduct can be broken down and remade into usable product.

CompostableBreaks down within six months in a compost environment.

BiodegradableBreaks down within one to five years in trash dumps or sunlight.

No, it’s not an oxymoron. Gift wrap can be green. Tree-free paper, recycled wrap and a stunning array of reusable bags are giving this category a strong sales boost.

It was once common for people to wrap gifts in readily available and often reusable items. This trend is reemerging as consumer interest in green living and sustainability continues to grow.

Joy Harding is the founder of the Earth Balance Bag Company in Sarasota, FL and says that the concept of green gift wrap has seen a rapid surge in popularity among the public at large.

Retailers too are increasingly recognizing the important role they can play in setting a good example for consumers. Joni Compton, the advertising coordinator at Nashville Wraps in Hendersonville, TN, says: “We believe our customers—retail store owners—are educated and care about the environment. They understand the importance of stewardship and responsible community leadership.”

Amy Coane is an example of one such retailer. The retail curator at GRACIE, the gift shop for the Santa Monica Museum of Art, has a strong commitment to being green which is reflected in the items the store sells as well as in the materials used to wrap them.

Tree-free paper

There are many ways to go green with wrap—tree-free, recycled paper and reusable gift bags are just a few of the options.

The paper used in Earth Balance’s products comes primarily from limestone, calcium carbonate. Harding says that residual waste is used—80% is calcium carbonate and the other 20 is non-toxic binder to hold the paper together. There’s no water used in the papermaking process. And, Harding adds, the process uses less energy than traditional paper manufacturing. As a bonus, the final product is tear-resistant and waterproof, according to Harding. Earth Balance started out with wine bags and has expanded to a complete gift bag and gift wrap line.

Another twist on green gift wrap is Lyziwrap’s tubular gift wrap concept. The tubular fabric wrap can be used over and over again. The wraps are designed to cuff at either edge so, unlike a fabric sack, they can conform to the shape of the gift from a length standpoint.

Variety fuels demand

Clyde Brownstone, president of Gift Box Corporation of America in Brooklyn, says that he is encouraged by the spike in demand for green gift packaging options. He says the company has been supplying green gift wrap and packaging items to retailers for a number of years. “We have always made our boxes from 100 percent recycled materials,” he says. “This goes back 50 years. “Not only is it recycled, but it’s old newspapers and used corrugated cartons, so the boxes are very environmentally friendly.”

The Gift Box Corporation of America also has a line of natural jute bags that can be reused endlessly. “It looks great, and it’s not terribly expensive although it looks highly expensive,” Brownstone says.

Gift wrap made from recovered papers used in the textile industry was the first product introduced by Nashville Wraps, says Joni Compton. In 2008, the company introduced its Green Way line of eco-friendly packaging which includes paper shopping bags, plastic shopping bags, tissue paper, gift wrap, among others. “They all vary in recycled content from 25 percent to many being 100% recycled material,” Compton says. “We also carry biodegradable cello bags and cello rolls as well as reusable shopping bags.”

In addition, the company’s Distant Village collection features sustainable packaging handmade from natural eco-friendly plant-based materials including cogon grass (an aggressive invader of natural and disturbed areas throughout the Southeast) bags, banana paper bags, cocoa paper window boxes, nested boxes, sinamay (banana plant fibers) mesh bags, ribbon and twine.

Appealing products, reasonably priced

Nancy Dickson, the creative director at The Gift Wrap Company in Northborough, MA, notes that not just any recycled product will do, especially when it comes to gift wrap. It’s an area where aesthetics matter. “I think that people want to purchase the recycled paper, but at the same time the design has to be quirky, it has to be fun, it has to be appealing,” she says. This is true particularly when the finish is flat and not “shiny and glittery,” Dickson says.

Jocelyn Childs, founder and CEO of Lyziwraps, says consumers are also price-sensitive and the cost of wrapping items can quickly add up, Childs notes.

Recycled or green wrapping products are often not more expensive than their conventional counterparts Harding points out. Her products, she says are “right in line with traditional paper.”

Merchandising that works

Dickson says demand for green gift wrap is greatest among small retailers who have a greater opportunity to invest time and personnel in learning about the products and educating consumers.

Nevertheless educating consumers about green gift wrap can be challenging, especially with designs that have evolved beyond what many would consider a typical “recycled look.” Wholesalers offer help through educational materials that can be used in stores as displays and signage. For instance, Compton says: “Our website offers a free tent card download to print and display on a counter to let customers know you use our eco-friendly packaging.”

Earth Balance supplies retailers with POS signage that they can use to display with the product and that can work when the product is merchandised by itself on a spinner rack, flat wall or fixture.

But there are many other instances where these products are placed along with traditional paper, creating a challenge in terms of helping the product stand out. To help here, Harding has developed easily removable labels that can be placed on gift bags. The tags let consumers know that these bags are different, that they’re tree-free, eco-friendly bags. Signage and labels are provided at no cost.

For Childs, the combination of retailers using the product for wrapping and also making it available to customers for purchase, has worked very well. “Offering it as gift wrap and then selling it in the store has been hugely successful because [customers] see the demonstration of how it’s used,” she says. She encourages stores to display the item in a sample set that allows people to see, feel and even play with it.

The wide range of options, increasingly appealing designs and attractive price points make green gift wrap items a natural choice for both consumers and retailers.

“Be creative,” urges Amy Coane about using and selling green gift wrap in the store. “Just think a little outside of the box. Don’t be afraid to go a little bit beyond conventions.”

Mouse over images below to view.

Lin Grensing Pophal

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance business journalist in Chippewa Falls, WI. She writes about marketing and business management issues for national and trade publications and is the author of Marketing With the End in Mind (IABC, 2005).

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