29 April 2019

Thingtesting x Courier: Karst recycled stone paper

Jenny Gyllander, product reviewer and Courier columnist, tests out the latest in luxury stationery.

The pitch

  • Paper made from recycled stone
  • Founded by Kevin Garcia
  • Launched in Australia, 2017
  • Prices from £9.95
  • Instagram: @karst.stonepaper

The VC view 

Karst Stone Paper is made from repurposed waste stone (in other words, one of the most abundant substances on earth: calcium carbonate), which is crushed into powder and combined with a non-toxic, recyclable binding agent. I had never heard of paper made out of stone, but because of its waterproof and tear-resistant properties, it’s a common material used for things like hiking maps, shopping bags and envelopes. 

Designed in Sydney, Karst is taking aim at the paper industry – the fifth-largest consumer of energy worldwide. The combination of a rapidly growing stationary market (expected to reach £190bn globally by 2024) and a growing eco-awareness among consumers generally makes for a pretty interesting proposition. 

Karst’s vision? ‘To become a leader in luxury stationery and workplace tools that utilise a variety of innovative sustainable materials.’ To that end, Karst is finding new customers through its global multi-distribution channel strategy – e-commerce, retail, wholesale, business-to-business sales, and partnerships (fun fact: rumour has it Karst notebooks will be in this year’s infamous TED Vancouver goodie bag). 

It’s common for US-born companies to focus on one market at a time. But Karst has made me think – what positive impact might it have to be forced into thinking globally from day one due to your geographical origin? On that note: Karst has just opened its first European warehouse in Amsterdam – so expect quicker European deliveries.

The consumer view

I need to admit: ‘tech-Jenny’, as my friends call me, is a lover of old-school pen and paper note taking. 

I found Karst through an Instagram ad but was sceptical: could paper really be waterproof and tear resistant? But after pouring coffee over my notebook and trying to rip the pages, I can confirm these claims are pretty much true. Liquids don’t stain the pages – just wipe the coffee awayand it’s like nothing happened. The tearing argument is relative. The pages do tear, but it takes some extra effort. The paper itself is bright white, feels super smooth like egg shell, and I love writing on it. 

To summarise my ‘wow’ moments after getting a Karst notebook. First, the unusual material the product is made of. Second, its great design (at least if your middle name is minimalist, like me). Third, which I learned after a bit of research, is the sustainability angle. Not one drop of water is used or one tree is harmed in the making, it uses no bleach or acid in production, and the total carbon footprint of stone paper is 60% less than the traditional wood-pulp variety.

Jenny Gyllander is an investor at Backed VC and founder of product-reviews Instagram account @thingtesting.