Nearly seven years ago, Ann DeLaVergne got an envelope in the mail from an environmental company that was encouraging people to reduce waste by reusing envelopes. But it was sealed shut, plus it had print and labels all over it. There was no way to reuse it.
"I thought it should be easy for people and companies to reuse envelopes because it'd be a simple way for everybody to reduce waste," describes DeLaVergne, who took that same faulty envelope to the government-sponsored environmental agency and ended up getting a "waste reduction grant" from it to start her company, ecoEnvelopes.
Her first few prototypes, some made with her sewing machine on her kitchen table in Minneapolis, sold to various clients but were incompatible with the USPS' high-speed insertion and postal-processing equipment. After more research and development for a couple of years, ecoEnvelopes re-entered the market in a big way in 2006 with reusable envelopes in a variety of business-appropriate sizes, made of mostly recycled paper. Now it's approaching the $40 million sales mark as a business.
Lastly, her company just announced the first two-way postage indicia approved by the USPS for direct marketers, making it even easier for them to simultaneously cut costs and go green by eliminating the need for separate postage when using reusable envelopes. I recently spoke with DeLaVergne about her pioneering efforts.
Boldt: What went into making the two-way postage indicia happen with the USPS?
DeLaVergne: After I got the [reusable] envelopes up and running, a smart thing would be to have a postage concept that works with it. Four and a half years ago, I started presenting that to the [USPS], and the green market kind of evolved at the same time along with the "greening of the mail" task force. If we had postage behind the concept, then other products could evolve that were reusable.