Story by Rita Goldman | Photography by Nina Kuna
Sara Smith arrives at Maui No Ka ‘Oi’s office, pops open her car’s hatchback, and starts handing out boxes of wrapping paper, empty boxes wrapped in wrapping paper, and a pair of kindergarten-worthy wooden crates containing scissors, staplers, glue dots, buttons, raffia, clothespins and twine . . . the whimsical implements of a serious quest to make the world a better place.
Smith is an entrepreneur whose startup company, Wrappily, is at once so simple, multifaceted, creative, eco-friendly and socially beneficial, one wonders (as she did) why nobody thought of it first.
Did we mention it’s also fun?
We’d wanted to do a story on Wrappily for a while — and not just because Smith was Maui No Ka ‘Oi’s associate publisher before she became a mom who cares about leaving her kids a healthy planet. We just thought Wrappily was a brilliant idea: giftwrap that is printed on newsprint with nontoxic soy-based inks, so it’s compostable and recyclable; and printed on newspaper presses, so it provides work for that beleaguered industry. Even her display stands are made of salvaged wood.
The day she shows up at our office, Smith has just come from a meeting with Ka Lima o Maui, a nonprofit organization that serves adults who have developmental disabilities. She’d like to employ them to create the paper flowers and other embellishments she makes out of scraps of wrapping paper. “These flowers are handmade by the CEO — me — so I can’t afford to wholesale them. But I could pay a nonprofit to make them.”
She’s also planning to create kits for the DIY crowd. Showing us how easy it is to make those embellishments is why she has hauled all the aforementioned materials to our office. As she settles into stenciling and cutting out flower petals, Smith explains her trip the previous weekend to the Seattle Gift Show.
“I launched Wrappily here in Hawai‘i,” she says. “It’s a great beta market, but I need to take it bigger. Four-million tons of giftwrap get trashed every year, among them shiny papers that have plastic laminates, foils and additives. Glossy gift bags, rhinestones and other decorations are resource heavy. Wrappily is newsprint, which can be recycled up to seven times, and will decompose in a landfill in as little as six weeks. The paper is nonarchival — it’s fleeting beauty, which is why it’s great as wrapping paper. I want to get this eco-friendly product into enough households to make a difference.”
She’s also exploring new uses for Wrappily, such as food wraps that could replace Styrofoam cartons for sandwiches.
Wrappily gets printed on Maui, O‘ahu, and, since September, in Seattle. Smith’s goal is to employ newspaper presses across the U.S., both to achieve economy of scale (as CEO and sole employee, she’d like to pull a regular salary one of these days), and to keep the business local to whatever community it’s in, reducing its carbon footprint, and enabling collaborations with nonprofits like Ka Lima.
Which is why we decided to feature Wrappily in our holiday issue, in this season of generosity and goodwill. You see, when it comes to doing well by doing good, Sara Smith has it covered.
For more information, visit wrappily.com. You can purchase paper there, at amazon.com or etsy.com. Wrappily is available on Maui at HUE in Kahului, Pearl Butik and Mana Foods in Pa‘ia, and Holiday & Company in Makawao. See website for retail outlets elsewhere in the Islands.