Getting Green With French Paper

Lately we’ve been getting in an eco groovy mood and have been looking through our ingredients and supplies to see if we can get a little greener.  This is a fun exercise we do several times a year because we just don’t think its a good idea to rest on our environmentally conscientious laurels.

So, you may be wondering what little gem our search uncovered?  Only a sixth-generation, family owned paper company that has been making paper in the USA for 140 years.  Hold on, it gets better!  In 1922 the French Paper company installed hydroelectric generators on the St. Joseph River which flows by their mills in Niles, Michigan.  Since that year, they have been generating all the power they needed, and a little extra for the rest of us!

Here is an old school post card with a pic of the French Paper mills next to the river


The environmental impact of producing all that power on site is huge.  They have saved the equivalent of one million barrels of fossil fuel and have avoided the release of more than 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere (the equivalent to the use of over 4,878,049 lbs of coal).  While we are big fans of carbon credits and support companies buying these to offset their carbon footprint, credits just can’t beat this type of onsite, renewable energy!  Way to go French Paper!


So you are probably reading this thinking, Wayne, this is really cool but what does a paper mill in Michigan have to do with  Whispering Willow , a little soap company in North Carolina. Well, it just so happens that we use thousands of sheets of paper annually labeling bar soap, neck & eye pillows and more.  So, in the coming weeks you will notice that the labels will look a little different.  We are transitioning to French Paper’s Speckletone kraft paper.   Speckletone is French Paper’s line of recycled paper which they have been making since 1955 (talk about being ahead of the trend)! Our labels will be a little lighter in color and you will see more natural flecks and shives.    We will also eventually start using French’s standard copy paper for our office use and are working on some ideas that may be perfect for some of French Paper’s other lines of great paper.

So this is how I (known for being a little wordy) like to announce that we are changing our paper supplier.  Whoever said ‘brevity is the soul of wit’, just didn’t get it!

Be Well,

The Bearded Soap Guy


Eco-Friendly Shipping

As we are catching our collective breaths after a hectic holiday season, we are taking this opportunity to evaluate what we could have done better in fulfilling our mission of bringing you great all natural soap and lip balm, with excellent service while creating no carbon footprint.  One are we can improve on is reducing the footprint of our shipping process for our internet customers.

This year we have used USPS Priority Boxes.  You know the ones with the cool slogan, “If it fits, it ships!”.  This was great for us for a lot of reasons.  The boxes cost us nothing so we could stockpile without any expense, we could pay for shipping online and print off the labels at home, and we didn’t even have to go to the post office since we could leave the packages in the mailbox for the postal person to pickup.

However, there are several downsides to this process.  First, the USPS boxes do not indicate that they are made from recycled (post-consumer or otherwise) materials.  Secondly, the fact that there are only a few different sized boxes means that we frequently had to use a lot of packing materials for orders that were just slightly too large for the small box.  Finally, the envelopes don’t have any padding so we couldn’t use those since we were concerned about the products arriving safely.

For 2011 we are going to mix it up a little.  First, we will continue to keep and reuse the packing material that our suppliers use in sending us the ingredients we use to make natural soap and lip balm.  We hope this will allow us to not have to buy packing material although it will make for a cluttered garage =-).  Secondly, we have found some shipping supplies that go by the name Caremail.

Caremail is a line of products made by Duck.  Available Caremail products include packing tape, padded envelopes, boxes, packing material and craft paper.  We are going to start out using the padded envelopes for select orders.  These envelopes are made with 95% recycled content and 55% post-consumer reycled content.  Also, these padded envelopes are plastic free.   This means none of the bubble wrap or lining which is super cool to play with but really sucks for the environment.

Our plan is to use the envelopes for a while and if all goes well, expand our use of Caremail products.  If anyone out there has any further suggestions on how we can improve this process further please let us know.

Thanks & stay clean!