Chicago business makes earth-friendly products while creating jobs in third world countries

April 23, 2009 12:10:30 PM PDT
Most times when you make a purchase or receive a gift, you're more interested in what's inside than the box in which it is packaged. One local man hopes to change that.

Each of Katherine Duncan's truffles is handmade using only local, organic and fair-trade ingredients. Yet Duncan, the owner of Katherine Anne Confections, says she is just as proud of the boxes that hold them.

"We were looking for a round box and everybody that I was going to couldn't do it because most packages are made with machines," Duncan explained.

Like Whole Foods where her chocolates are sold, Duncan wanted to do business with a company that shared her values -- using natural products and sustainable practices.

"We can compost these boxes," said Duncan. "How cool is that?"

"The materials we use are things like wild grass, bamboo, banana fiber, mulberry, coconut and these are natural and abundant materials," said Richard Cohen, owner of Distant Village Packaging.

Distant Village Packaging supplies Duncan's boxes. He started it after travelling to remote villages in Thailand and the Philippines and being marveled by the craftsmanship of some of the artisans. He also saw they had no access to the Western economy.

"By combining my business experience with their artisan craft, I decided I could create Distant Village and enable them the opportunity to sell their products in a more relevant way to people in the United States," said Cohen.

Cohen first connected with high-end chocolatiers who craved custom packaging. Since starting in 2002, he says customers from around the globe now find him.

"It quickly expanded into other areas such as jewelry, perfume, bath and body products, organic clothing."

Distant Village Packaging will be one of the first companies to move into the new Green Exchange in Roscoe Village when it opens this spring. That building will house a community of firms that only offer eco-friendly goods and services.

www.distantvillage.com

www.katherine-anne.com

www.greenexchange.com


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