Meet the Christmas card designer ditching plastic

·3-min read
Katie Leamon (Sam Wright)
Katie Leamon (Sam Wright)

Katie Leamon recently moved into a brand new studio space in Tottenham and she is thrilled with the high ceilings. ‘And the quiet!’ she adds.

Until recently the luxury stationer was doing most of her designing in the same studio where her greeting cards, gift wrap and notebooks are produced and packaged, which didn’t help whenever she got ‘designer’s block’. ‘There was a lot of bustle,’ she says. ‘I always had an excuse to not sit down and draw.’

Katie launched her eponymous brand in 2010. Design-led, hand-finished and on creamy, thick-stock paper, her ‘Thank You’ cards quickly became the most coveted in the capital. Since 2019, her Christmas cards — made from coffee cups otherwise destined for landfill — have also appeared on innumerable ‘most wanted’ lists.

‘Recycled coffee cup paper doesn’t allow for quite the same breadth of choice in terms of colours and finishes, but it’s worth it,’ she says. ‘Christmas is such a gluttonous time of year. Everyone overindulges. I think recently more of us have begun to take stock of what that means for the future. And from a business perspective it makes sense to be in line with your customer as they’re going on that journey.’

Katie in her workshop (Sam Wright)
Katie in her workshop (Sam Wright)

Katie believes that small-scale businesses in particular are in a great position to be able to adopt environmentally friendly practices, offering alternatives to consumers who are becoming ever more conscious of how their spending choices impact the planet. In its biggest sustainability move to date, the company made a pledge in 2019 to be plastic-free within a year — a pledge it fulfilled within eight months.

‘I was packing cards to send to stockists and the sheer amount of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable cellophane sleeves that we were using felt really wrong,’ says Katie. After some trial and error, these were eventually swapped out for compostable equivalents made from corn and potato starch.

‘We considered having no wrapping but when people are paying for a beautifully designed item they want to make sure it won’t be damaged. The stuff we use now, though, looks exactly like plastic cellophane. It’s really amazing, costs basically the same and we’ve noticed a significant increase in shops wanting to stock us because of our green credentials.’

Katie says the past 10 years have been a learning curve when it comes to sustainability and she is realistic about how much more there is to do. ‘It’s hard to have a handle on every single process that goes into, say, making the recyclable paper we use,’ she says. ‘But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.’

How has tech helped Katie Leamon to grow?

‘When it comes to online marketing, we really appreciate the ability to advertise our products to customers willing to pay a little more to ensure a product is well made and sustainable.’

What are the benefits of going greener?

‘Consumers are getting more educated every day. They want to make more sustainable choices and as a business you don’t want to be left behind.’

Sustainability training for your business

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