Sustainable Packaging for Artists: Unwrapping the Story of Geami® in Asheville, NC

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The town of Ashville, North Carolina, has a high population of artists and artisanal businesses. They are drawn to the state for many reasons, including the diversity of recreation—one can hike the Blue Ridge mountains, visit the Piedmont, and swim, sail, or fish in waters once patrolled by the legendary Blackbeard. The beauty of the region is famous, where blue skies and verdant hills lend a naturally brilliant palette to artists’ imaginations.

Sustainable forms of expression

On the banks of the French Broad River, the local artist community has become a success story for the development of sustainable shipping practices, with local potters among the first in the area to have adopted alternatives to plastic packaging. East Fork Pottery is one of the local businesses that has made sustainable packaging into a key part of their brand. Their beautiful and unique products are a perfect match for the protection and positive environmental impact of paper packaging.

When it comes to packaging fragile and unique items like pottery and ceramics, it’s not possible to compromise on protection. Looking to replace plastic bubble sheets and peanuts, the community embraced an environmentally friendly, sustainable, and 100% renewable material that they could feel good about—paper. Brian Stewartson and Alex Putman of Ranpak’s North American Sales organization were instrumental in working with distributors to help introduce paper packaging to the community, and to be there as more potters and other artisans came to request it.

Paper packaging is a perfect fit for artists’ needs

Instead of plastic rolls of bubbles, Geami® expands die-cut kraft paper into a 3D honeycomb structure supported by an inner leaf. The paper is flat until it’s needed, expanding and retaining loft.

  • Paper is a 100% renewable and biodegradable material, with Ranpak sourcing paper from FSC® certified mills
  • 1 pallet of Geami® material is the equivalent of 9.8 pallets of plastic air bubble material, saving valuable studio and retail space
  • Wrapping can be up to 3.6 times as fast with Geami® compared to plastic bubble sheets, with no need for tape or other adhesives to secure the material in place, helping meet growing e-commerce demands
  • Honeycomb paper presents a visually appealing look that can improve the unboxing experience.

Another reason why artists appreciate the material is branding potential, Putman notes. “Our inner leaf paper can be customized with color. For example, an artisanal honey company we work with chose yellow because it represents a bumblebee and provides an extra pop of presentation for their customers.”


What are artisans wrapping with paper?

Some of the products that are being protected with paper include:

  • Specialty foods such as handmade chocolates
  • Condiments like honey, mustard, and spices
  • Handcrafted Jewelry
  • Prints, paintings, and sculptures
  • Handblown glass
  • Pottery and ceramics

“Protecting these items is essential since they are irreplaceable, unique, and high value,” Stewartson adds, “once people get a chance to start working with the solution and they see that it’s effective, word of mouth carries far.”


How did Geami® paper packaging get so popular in Asheville?

The interior of East Fork Pottery, pictured above, shows how a beautiful space and products can work perfectly with a Geami® wrapping system behind the counter.

“My impression of Asheville is that it’s a community that wants to grow together,” says Putman. “The people there want to pursue their passions and keep their employees happy and developing as individuals, and they prioritize that as they manage their businesses.”

Asked to share why he felt that paper became so popular in the town, Stewartson does not miss a beat; “Artists are passionate people, and they care about sustainability. They want to know that when someone makes a purchase, they are going to enjoy their work and not contribute to a negative cycle of consumption.”

Another point in favor of paper is that it’s one of artists’ best options for easily recyclable protection. In the city of Asheville, paper recycling is welcome, but plastic bubble sheets and peanuts are not.



6 Sustainable packaging tips for artists and artisanal businesses


1. Embrace sustainable packaging.

42% of consumers rate sustainability of packaging as their top reason to buy again from an online retailer, beating other factors like free samples.

2. Deliver unique presentation.

4 in 10 consumers would share an image of a delivery on social media if it came in a unique package.

3. Include a touchpoint like a business card, postcard, or sticker.

Unique, well-packaged products create delightful unboxing moments—a touchpoint in the box reminds your customers where they can shop again and helps in-store customers make the jump to your e-commerce website.

4. Learn from others in your community.

In Asheville, sustainable packaging spread largely through word-of-mouth. Artisans can often learn from each other and that holds true when it comes to packaging as well.

5. Go for space saving solutions.

Between studio or production space and retail locations, every bit of space has value. By making the switch away from plastics to sustainable paper, business owners can take advantage of flat profile and on-demand dispensing, expanding packaging materials only when they need them to protect an item.

6. Learn how to right-size your packing.

By selecting the correctly sized box for your items, you reduce the materials required to keep it safely secured and protected, reducing the costs and impact of packaging. While artisans may produce unique products that don’t adhere to standard shapes or sizes, planning logistics in advance by measuring inventory can help ensure that the right materials are on hand when a piece is sold.

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