Brief History

Earth Care Paper was founded in 1983 by John Aebi-Magee in an effort to change the American waste ethic. In 1983, it was nearly impossible to buy quality recycled paper. Starting in his garage in Michigan, John contracted two paper mills to produce small batches of recycled printing paper which he then distributed to several local non-profit organizations. That same year, he produced a small catalog offering the reams of paper and stationery to the general public. Eight years later, with over 150 employees, Earth Care Paper was the 39th fastest growing private company in America -- and the movement of buying recycled had begun.

Some Earth Care Staffers who worked on the Ice Age Trail restoration in Lodi Marsh

Some Earth Care Staffers who worked on the Ice Age Trail restoration in Lodi Marsh

Earth Care helped create a market for recycled paper. Without a market, most waste paper goes straight to the landfill. Earth Care produced hundreds of different products made from 100% recycled paper. Hundreds of thousands of customers responded by switching to recycled paper.

Earth Care Paper was successful because the company remained true to its mission: to improve the world by making recycled paper readily available. As Mr. Aebi-Magee states: "We never compromised on our environmental mission and we insisted on doing business in a way we felt good about. We were proud of every single aspect of our products and operations."

Over the years, companies like Earth Care Paper demonstrated that consumer demand was strong for recycled paper. The mainstream paper industry and supply channels responded. Now, recycled paper and environmentally responsible alternatives are available at most printers and stationery stores. 

The most important force driving recycling is the people who go out of their way to demand buying recycled. Buying recycled products creates demand for waste, resulting in increased recycling rates.

Founder John Aebi-Magee stated in 1983 that the goal of Earth Care Paper was "to put myself out of business". He predicted that by creating a market for recycled paper, there would eventually be no need for a pioneering company. That would be the ultimate measure of success. In 1993, Real Goods Trading Company acquired Earth Care Paper. Several years later, Giam, Inc. acquired Real Goods. Gradually, the Earth Care line of products faded away. 

Earth Care Paper Today

Today, Earth Care Paper doesn't produce products. This web site is a public service to help promote and support businesses that are retailing recycled paper and alternative fiber paper products. We encourage you to support these companies.

Earth Care Paper’s Accomplishments

  • First company in America to retail a full line of recycled paper products
  • First company in America to print consumer catalogs on 100 percent recycled paper
  • First company in America to produce full color catalogs using soy ink
  • First company in America to develop non-plastic natural fiber cellulose packaging for stationery products
  • First company in America to produce 100 percent recycled wrapping paper
  • First company in America to process over 100,000 orders a year without any plastic packaging
  • First company in America to introduce the magazine/catalog “magalog” concept, dedicating over 15% of its catalog space to educational articles
  • First company in America to offer a school fundraising program that sells recycled greeting cards (instead of candy)
  • First company in America to retail 100% post-consumer recycled paper
  • First company in America to retail paper made from kenaf plant fiber
  • One of the original signatories of the Valdez / CERES Principles of environmental stewardship
  • One of the founding business members of Businesses for Social Responsibility
  • The 39th fastest growing private company in America for the five year period ending in 1991 (Inc. Magazine's Inc. 500 list)
  • Earth Care Paper was started in a garage in 1983
Earth Care Paper was the first company to publish posters and cards of NASA's photograph “Earth from Space”, which is now the most widely published photograph in history.

Earth Care Paper was the first company to publish posters and cards of NASA's photograph “Earth from Space”, which is now the most widely published photograph in history.

Headlines from the Past:

  • Participatory Management: An Effective Example in Action: Earth Care Paper, HR Issues, Norell Services, October 1992
  • Earth Care Paper: The De-Layered Organization, Wisconsin Small Business Counselor, March 1992
  • Marketers Develop a New Climate: Earth Care Paper, Direct Marketing, February 1992
  • Profile: Earth Care Paper, Co-op America Connections, September 1991
  • Earth Care Paper Practices as it Teaches, Winslow Environmental News, July 1991
  • On Saving the Forest and Paper: Earth Care Paper, the New York Times, February 21, 1991
  • Earth Care Moves to Soy-based Inks, Catalog Age, January 1991
  • Earth Care Paper Takes Its Mission to School, Winslow Environmental News,
  • Local Firm Joins Others Against War, Madison Capital Times, December 26, 1990
  • Earth Care Paper Wants to Help You Help the Planet, Madison Business, November 1990
  • Madison Firm a Recycling Hit, Wisconsin State Journal, September 2, 1990
  • Friends of the Earth: Earth Care Paper, Family Business Magazine, May 1990
  • Paper Firm Green About Environment, the Janesville Gazette, February 25, 1990
  • Care of Our Earth is at Central Core of Firm, Madison Capital Times, March 1, 1989
  • Company Profits from Environmental Concept, San Francisco Chronicle, Wisconsin State Journal, April 1988
  • Earth Care – Providing a Range of Recycled Paper, Building Economic Alternatives, December 1987
December 26, 1990, Madison Capital Times

December 26, 1990, Madison Capital Times

Comments from Past Customers and Staff

This Earthnote from Earth Care Paper was reused at least twice a year for 17 years

This Earthnote from Earth Care Paper was reused at least twice a year for 17 years

An amazing story from a past customer

Back in 1991 I bought a birthday card from your company. On the front, it has a picture of a boy toting a stack of newspapers in a red wagon to the recycling center. The sentiment reads "Not only is this card recycled....it is signed in pencil so you can use it again." Well, I did sign it in pencil and sent it along, to my friend, whose birthday is in November. This was back in 1991. Well, in April of 1992, I got the card back, the signature and note erased, and rewritten in pencil. Too funny, I thought. So, I erased the note, rewrote a new note and sent it to a mutual friend in July of 1992. In turn he sent it to friend #1 in November. Suffice to say that this card has floated in the USPS, at least twice a year, for the past 17 years. I do not know if the Guiness Book Of Worlds Records has a category for the most used, or mailed, greeting card but if it does, this one might just qualify. Just thought you'd like to know. R Wenzel, October 2007.


Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s (I think), I purchased box of birthday cards. My brother and I have been sending one of these cards back and forth to each other every year on our birthdays since then. Eventually we stopped erasing our signatures and just send the card as is. It's become a fun tradition between our families! Joan T, Feb 2009.


My friend Gary and I have been sending each other the same birthday card for at least ten years. Each year we sign it in pencil and mail it. It is a card from “Earthnotes®”. It shows a boy hauling a wagonload of paper to the recycling center. On the front it says, “Not only is this card recycled…” and inside it says, “It’s signed in pencil so you can use it again. Happy Birthday!” Rick & Amy S, May 2008.


Hi! Glad to hear you are back. I was a lifetime member of Earth Care way back. What a great company you were and will be again!! Kris S, March 2008.


Hi John, Yep, I'm a former Earth Care Paper customer, going all the way back to 1993. I was going through some old cancelled checks and came across one I wrote to you on 2/16/93! I bought Christmas cards, greeting cards, and stationery. I then did a search on the internet and came across your site and your message that you wanted to hear from previous customers. I sure do miss your products and hope to hear that you'll be back in business soon! Best regards, Maryeileen, Feb, 2008.

Share your story! Contact John

 

Excerpts

At Earth Care, we’re looking at an entirely different way to do business. We want people to align their personal mission with their work life. Working at Earth Care is about as close to a free speech environment as you’re ever going to see. It’s also a dream come true. Carol M, Marketing Director, Earth Care Paper, 1990.


As Director of Environmental Affairs, I know that there aren’t many positions like this in the entire country. Here I get to work with great people and get paid to write articles about the environment. People call up and say ‘I saw your article in the catalog and I am starting to recycle.’ It’s very gratifying. William B, Director of Environmental Affairs, Earth Care Paper, 1990.


Our team management style offers every Earth Care employee the chance to take ownership in the company’s direction. When company goals are met, employees feel that some personal goals have been met as well. Earth Care Paper’s participatory management truly works and it works well! Ann B, Administrative Services Manager, Earth Care Paper, 1992.


You folks are a beacon of hope and goodness in a sometimes depressing world. I’ve done business with you for years and am thrilled to see your business expand and flourish. Your catalogs are a paragon of wonderful products and useful informative sidebars. Keep up the good work FOREVER! Mary D, Earth Care Customer, 1993.