Chicago company offers 'green' packaging

January 23, 2009 (CHICAGO)

It's a classic case of a business owner seeing a demand and finding a meaningful way to supply it. That's what happened when a Chicago man who has traveled to more than 50 countries, wanted to make earth-friendly products while creating jobs in third-world countries.

Each of his truffles is handmade using only local, organic and fair-trade ingredients. Yet Katherine 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," she said.

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. How cool is that?" Duncan said.

"The materials we use are things like wild grass, bamboo, banana fiber, mulberry, coconut and these are natural and abundant materials," said Rich Cohen, who owns Distant Village Packaging, the company that supplies Duncan's boxes.

Cohen started the company 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 Icould create distant village and enable them the opportunity to sell their products in a more relevant way to people in the United States," Cohen said.

He 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," said Cohen.

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.

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