"People find a purpose in their life and they pursue it, because it makes sense. That‘s how invention happens," recalls Ann DeLaVergne, founder of ecoEnvelopes. It was 2002 and while sorting the mail, she noticed an envelope with a request to, "Reuse this envelope." Unfortunately, there was no easy way to do that.
As a former organic farmer and bee keeper who cared about the environmental, Ann already saved large envelopes to reuse-despite the complex camouflage they needed to be mailed a second time. "There should be an easier way to reuse envelopes," she thought. "Why not one envelope instead of two?"
Combining her design expertise and background in fine arts, Ann started making prototypes by hand at her kitchen table. Ann used her sewing machine to speed up the process of making perforations in paper to make it easy to open her ecoEnvelopes. The new eco friendly envelopes she came up with were functional, practical, and most importantly, helped the environment.
Her first mailing was ten envelopes she sent to friends across the country. Every one of them came back and she says with nostalgia, "I thought I was done. I mailed them, they came back.I was done," she recalls. "No. That was the start. I made envelopes from scratch with my sewing machine for the next two years!"
Over the next few years, Ann devoted herself to perfecting ecoEnvelopes. She received grants from the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance and the Eileen Fisher Foundation and won supporter after supporter, including the former CEO of one of the largest envelope manufacturers in the U.S. Soon, Ann was in Washington meeting with the US Postal Service and key people in the industry. "It became a community whose goal was to help the environment, we were working on something that could make a significant difference," she recalls.
Her timing was perfect. With consumers driving demand for environmentally friendly products, corporations greening their operations and the USPS supporting environmental initiatives, it was clear that ecoEnvelopes was an idea whose time had come.
For Ann, ecoEnvelopes are empowering, "People don‘t realize something as small as an envelope can make a difference." More than 80 billion reply envelopes are mailed in the US each year. "My purpose is to take a product that people use everyday and make it more environmentally responsible; it‘s my passion. It drives me forward every day."