Colgate ‘paperboys’ grow green business

Back to All Stories
Ryan Smith '13 and Brendon Karson '13, founders of EcoCampus LLC, deliver tree-free paper to Case Library

Ryan Smith ’13 and Brendon Karson ’13, founders of EcoCampus LLC, deliver tree-free paper to Case Library.

Lumberjacks beware.

Thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of two seniors, Ryan Smith ’13 and Brendan Karson ’13, printer paper at Case Library, along with more than two dozen other departments on campus, is no longer a product of trees or recycled paper. It is composed of recovered sugarcane fiber which would have otherwise ended up in landfills.

EcoCampus LLC is a 2011 Thought Into Action (TIA) project of Smith and Karson. The green office supply company delivers sustainable office products to campus, and in most cases, the day after they are ordered online at

TIA is a Colgate program that pairs successful alumni entrepreneurs with current students to help them start up their own business or not-for-profit organization.

Colgate Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio, said EcoCampus is having a positive impact on the campus carbon footprint.

Use of the eco-friendly paper has prevented the release of 20.59 tons of carbon emissions, the production of 155,553 gallons of wastewater, the creation of 13,363 pounds of solid waste, and the use of 2,660 gallons of oil, according to Smith.

Pumilio said the entrepreneur team of Karson and Smith have proven themselves as reliable suppliers.

“They had to really follow through. That’s the difference between the student projects that never really see the light of day and this… these guys just stayed with it,”  Pumilio said

When a campus department places an order for paper online, Smith and Karson load up their cars with inventory they keep in Hamilton and deliver the next day.  This month, EcoCampus received a delivery of 1,200 reams, or about 12 carloads, of paper. Their first order was just 400 reams.

“We’ve upgraded our warehouse from underneath our beds to a shed out back….” Smith posted in the project update section of TIA’s website.

To become an approved supplier to campus, Director of Purchasing Art Punsoni said the students had to allay concerns about the operation. Karson and Smith returned to Punsoni and addressed everything in a business plan, including incorporation as a registered limited liability corporation in Madison County, and being fully insured.

“They went through the process,” Punsoni said. “They have done an excellent job and are well prepared.”

Smith and Karson say the effort has led to an invaluable education outside the classroom.

“Undoubtedly, Thought Into Action has been the greatest learning experience in our four years at Colgate. TIA alone has made coming to Colgate worthwhile,” Smith said. “You have to enjoy every obstacle, and every ‘No’ has to make you want it even more. Otherwise, ideas never happen.”