When people see Sprout CEO Michael Stausholm's plantable business card, they think it's something of a joke. But Stausholm, who worked as a sustainability expert and consultant for 16 years with clients like Walmart and Nike, could not be more serious about sustainability.
"I got tired of throwing out business cards after meeting new people on conferences or networking events. There must be a smarter and more sustainable alternative, I thought," Stausholm recalls. "So I had my own card designed from recycled paper and embedded with flower seeds -- and started to hand it out."
While having a business card that can grow flowers seems counter intuitive (I mean, don't you want people to keep you card - not put it in the ground?), Stausholm says it actually has distinct advantages.
"People are generally amazed. Some even think it's a joke. But every time, it serves as the perfect icebreaker to get the conversation started."
In a modern world, where most people have ditched the Rolladex for a digital contact database, the chances are that your business card will be input into their smart phone or laptop, and then recycled (or just tossed in the wastebasket). With Sprout business cards, the idea is that you'll type in the details from the card digitally -- if it's useful, of course -- and then you'll plant it instead of throwing it out. A few weeks later, you will see green plants sprouting from the soil, which at a minimum will make you remember me," Stausholm explains.
How much difference can an eco-friendly business card make? The impact could, in fact, be substantial. 10 billion business cards are produced annually in the US alone," Stausholm reports. "I have seen studies showing that more than 80 percent of these frequently exchanged cards end up in the waste bin after a week, either because people don't need the contact or because they have already saved it digitally. That's a lot of wasted paper that I would love to recycle somehow." Turning your cards into a mini-garden is a clever and creative way to repurpose a business staple.
The plantable card is not Stausholm's first "business to garden" innovation. He started Sprout by making plantable pencils -- reimagining pencil nubs as a vehicle for growing herbs, vegetables and flowers. Today, the company sells more than 450,000 engraved pencils each month to companies like Disney, Bacardi, Bank of America, WWF, Marriott, and Coca Cola.
"Our Sprout pencils have already become very popular among a variety of businesses and organizations. My hope is that our plantable business cards will become popular too," he says.
Stausholm's hope is that his products will inspire actions beyond their size. "Pencils and business cards may seem insignificant when you look at the big challenges our planet is facing, but our message at Sprout is that you have to start somewhere. We want to inspire people to think, "okay -- if we can recycle pencils and business cards, what else can we do that will positively impact the planet?"
So look twice before you empty your pockets after a conference. Perhaps you too might find items that you could plant instead of throwing out?