Photography by Natalie Lasley Social Marketing
One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is opening presents.
Afterward? Not so much, as we’re left with heaps of paper, bows, and ribbons to clean up, which usually get crammed into a large trash bag that’s then stuffed into the garbage can without a second thought.
But perhaps we should take a pause. It’s estimated that Americans throw away a whopping 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper every year—and half of that inevitably winds up in landfills.
One woman was determined to change this disturbing trend. Columbia, Missouri resident Libby Hampel consistently sought out American-made gift wrap that was both visually intriguing and truly 100 percent recyclable. The search grew exhausting and felt never-ending since most of the ones she found had unclear messaging about their actual recyclability. Armed with a passion for design and the planet, she set out instead to create what she couldn’t find: a line of wrapping paper that met her standards.
Perfecting her craft
Hampel began her journey studying and experimenting with surface-pattern designs like fabric and wallpaper before eventually transitioning to textile design, where she developed her trademark style and use of color. Just before COVID-19 struck, she considered licensing her designs and freelancing her work; however, the pandemic scuttled her plans.
Realizing she now had a collection of original designs, Hampel redirected her focus in 2021 to establishing her own business, which would align with her principles. She chose the name MASU, from the Japanese words for “giving from you” (agemasu) and “giving to you” (kuremasu).
Picking a paper partner
In this new venture, Hampel’s mission was to source only recyclable and sustainable materials at every phase of the production process, support her local economy, and produce everything in the United States.
However, finding an American paper mill that met her standards was a challenge. “Lots of companies out there claim eco-friendliness, but I wasn’t going to jump on the greenwashing bandwagon,” she says. Hampel was relieved when she finally found New Hampshire-based Monadnock Paper Mills. As the oldest continuously operating paper mill in the country, the two-hundred-year-old company marries longevity with a high sustainability profile. “Since our core values were so aligned, I ordered a few samples of their Astrolite PC 100 Velvet paper,” Hampel shares. “As soon as I held it in my hands, I knew there was no going back!”
Hempel’s paper of choice paper is not only sustainable but also ideal for coated fine text and cover applications—the ink doesn’t absorb into the high-quality coating of the paper, making her playful, thoughtful, and bold designs and colors pop. And her customers love it; they swear that her wrapping paper is luxurious to the touch, does not crack or scratch, and is easy to wrap with.
“When people think of recycled paper, the general misconception is that it’s poor quality and not worth the price,” Hampel notes. “Through MASU, my goal is to show people that they don’t need to sacrifice quality or sustainability to have a gorgeous product. You really can have it all.”
This sentiment even extends to her packaging. Hempel works with a local corrugator to create custom, easy-to-open, recyclable boxes for her products that ship flat and use 100 percent recyclable tape rather than the ubiquitous plastic film that typically encases wrapping paper. The overall result is a product that looks good, feels good, and does good in every respect.
Expanding her mission
So what’s next for Hampel and MASU? “I’m really excited to get into greeting cards and gift tags,” she divulges. “My plan is to continue creating, growing, and building relationships with sustainable partners who can help elevate my vision now and into the future.”
For more info, visit givemasu.com