If you’ve ever found yourself cursing the proliferation of non-renewable packaging that accompanies every product that arrives on your doorstep, you’re not alone. No one knows that particular frustration better than Jim Lovinsky, who founded Sylvacurl with his wife Mary-Ellen in 1993 in an attempt to create a renewable, ecologically-conscious packaging option that could help support the forest economy in and around their northern Vermont home. As the recipient of the Forestry Accelerator’s $10,000 prize, we thought it was a good time to sit down with Jim and ask him a few questions about his company and his experience in the Accelerator.
What problems are you trying to solve with Sylvacurl?
Jim Lovinsky: What we’re trying to do is provide a truly sustainable packaging material that really works to protect products. That’s the first mandate, because if our product doesn’t deliver, we’re not going to accomplish much. Beyond that, we’re really seeking to support the forest products industry, as well as help our clients improve their image with the people buying their products. We often get feedback that consumers are talking about our packaging more than the products shipped in our packaging.
What are the tangible environmental benefits of Sylvacurl?
JL: First of all, there are no chemicals or any other hazardous material. You can use Sylvacurl as mulch in your garden, or as kindling to start a fire, and it’s perfectly safe. Sylvacurl also absorbs moisture without dissolving, so it’s perfect for shipping products with high moisture content; that’s one of the reasons cheese producers love it. And because we’re using poplar trees, which most consider a “junk” wood, we’re creating value out of a byproduct that’s not dependent on fossil fuels or chemicals to grow. People like corn starch packing pellets because they dissolve in water, which is great for disposal, corn is very dependent on non-renewable resources, so there’s still significant impact.
How has your participation in the Accelerator benefitted your business?
JL: The Accelerator helped us in a lot of ways. It was an intense program, and that helped us really gel as a team [Jim and Mary-Ellen’s daughter, Kathryn, recently joined the business in a marketing and outreach role] and accelerate our team building. It also helped us focus on our market research and get clearer on how to grow the company.