Middletown-based E. Frances Paper is on a Mission to Reduce Plastic Packaging

The brand behind Little Notes® draws attention to single-use waste


Film buffs may remember the conversation in The Graduate, when a middle-aged partygoer utters one-word advice to titular character Benjamin. “Plastics,” said Mr. McGuire with intensity. “There’s a great future in plastics.” Jump-cut to 2023 and indeed the polymers are ever-present in our daily lives – their durability, light weight, and low production costs have led to domination in a multitude of uses but their sluggish-at-best (hundreds of years) decomposition rate is wreaking havoc on the environment. “The world is surrounded in plastic and it doesn’t need to be that way,” says Jenni Laundon, chief executive officer at E. Frances Paper, a stationery brand based in an auto garage-turned-luminous studio and HQ in Middletown.

In her own little corner of the world, Laundon wants the “positive paper goods company” she runs with Alison Flippin (artist, chief creative officer) and Emily Roberts (chief operations officer), to “be the change.” Having spent a semester sailing as a biology student in college, Laundon saw with her own eyes the floating barges of plastic in the sea. “We realize we are part of the problem, so we want to be part of the solution.”

When the trio started their company in 2013, vendors demanded each product come wrapped in individual plastic cello sleeves to avoid damage from handling. Excited for those first orders, E. Frances Paper acquiesced: cards and notepads were stuffed into single-use plastic sleeves and all boxed sets like their popular Little Notes (as seen on actress Jennifer Garner’s Instagram account) were housed in clear plastic boxes. “Papyrus started this trend of cards in plastic sleeves about 25 years ago,” says Laundon of the company known for placing decorative embellishments like felt flowers and wood-cut ornaments on card fronts. Roberts chimes in, “Before that, cards were just sitting on shelves, no plastic sleeves.”

Efforts to appease retailers while allowing the E. Frances Paper team to sleep at night includes implementing changes like housing sets of cards in cardboard boxes with cutout windows, cardboard sleeves for notebooks, and low-tack sticker labels indicating what’s inside individual greeting cards – and no more plastic sleeves on cards. The company recently introduced plastic-free packaging with their gift tag boxes, and source only 100 percent cotton for gift tag string. Envelopes come from mills that practice responsible, sustainable forestry and are produced without elemental chlorine (PCF), and every effort is made to choose paper that contains at least 30 percent post-consumer waste. The printing process relies on eco-friendly inks and soy-based solvents, which emit very low traces of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). E. Frances Paper also provides recycling for all pens, markers, and dental care products, and launched PaperNotPlastic.org to share their research and efforts in hopes to create a movement within their trade and beyond.

“Paper packaging is often a lot more expensive,” Laundon shares. “We can’t snap our fingers and expect our customers to be okay with completely new practices in the industry. What we hope is that with time, slowly using less and less plastic will lead to more awareness. So this will be a process. We just hope people are ready sooner rather than later.”


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