As green as grass: Matabooks

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last updated: February 27th 2019

There are vegan chocolates, cakes, soaps, cleanings products and so on. Whatever you name – someone has likely already made a vegan version of it. Except for books. And this is where entrepreneur Kay Hedrich and his start-up matabooks come into play. One year ago I met him on a show and first heard about his vision to make the future a lot more sustainable through his books.

Sustainable, Fair & Vegan

With these three words Matabooks presents itself on it’s website. The concept behind the books is simple – sustainable and locally produced books, that not only use environmentally friendly grass paper and non-toxic printing dyes, but that go one step further and are completely vegan.

Now you probably wonder:

What’s not vegan about normal books?

Printing pigments

Printing dyes can contain the pigment Carmine (which can also be found in food under the label E120), which is derived from scale insects (like Chochineal). While travelling in South America Kay Hedrich by chance got to see one of these farms, where the chocineal were grown on certain cactus species.

He learned that after harvesting, the chocineal get turned into powder. After boiling this powder in a sodium carbonate or ammonia solution, it gets filtered and turned into the red aluminum salt ‘Crimson Lake’ by adding alumn to the filtered solutions.*

It takes about 100.000 female cochineal to create a kg of Carmine.**

It struck him, that this in a way is animal cruelty and made him wonder how this can be avoided. According to Kay this was the moment when he started to seriously think about making vegan books.

Book binding glues

Many of the normal glues used for book binding use bone meal. Personally, I think it is better to make use of every part of an animal, in a respectful way as our anchestors did, after it has already been slaughtered. Though if we could only reduce the world wide meat consumption, than there would be less bone meal and thus it is great to have alternatives. Either way, it is great to have vegan options.

Leather covers

Even though a leather cover can make a book look very stylish, it naturally has no place on a vegan book. Instead matabooks use the refinement processes of screen printing for its covers. All of which are designed by young aspiring often local artists.

What makes the books Fair and Sustainable?


Part of the ‘fair’ principle is to supports locals. In this case especially young authors and artists, instead of professionals, are given a chance to present their writings or Art to the world. But its not only seeing their books published or their Art in print. They also get their name out there and are allowed to be part of a young and environmentally friendly start-up business through which they can take part in the sustainability movement.

All the books are made manually in a ‘factory’ in Dresden (my hometown!). Since the books are produced locally they create local job openings. And since Germany has a minimum wage, these employees get paid ‘fair’ wages, instead of books that get prodcued abroad for dumping wages.

Sustainable – Using grass paper

By using GrasPap ® – an innovative grass paper developped by CreaPaper (Germany) – the creation of the book becomes even more enviromentally friendly.

This starts with an amazingly efficient factory, that reuses energy and water. It gets its hay pellet supplies locally and thus reduces the C02 footprint for transportation greatly.

Not to mention that by using grass instead of trees, trees can be saved and continue to do their job – clean the air and provide living habitat for our fellow creatures, but by doing so also reduces the amount of water needed to produce the paper. It takes about 80% less energy to produce paper out of grass compared to using wood cellulose. The water usage ratio is even more impressive! It takes only about 1-2 litres of water for a ton of grass paper. Compare tha to about 5,000 litres for a ton of paper made of wood.

All in all the paper has very positive footprint and the company CreaPaper – from what I have heard and read – is a very environmentally conscious businesses that puts an high emphasis on sustainability.

I found these note books in a local organic supermarket and took the opportunity to capture a few shots of them. Unfortunately, I could not figure out by which artist the second cover was designed. If you are the artist or know who it is, please use the comment section to let me know!

Original Artwork by ?Nina Egli?
Original Artwork by Sophie Ida.

One more reason why I like Matabooks (and grass paper)

Thanks to the well thought through concept all parts of the matabooks can be returned back into the ecologic cycle.

Meaning, any one of these like hay smelling books can be returned to mother nature, by simply composting or planting it. Since the book only contains environmentally friendly elements, this can be done without any worry of adding any more toxins to the earth.

There even are prodcuts that contain seeds, so you will get nice flowers growing where you planted you book!

I really like that aspect – as it naturally helps reduce the accummulation of things/waste.

The down side of grass paper?

Could possibly be the amount of time it lasts before it starts decomposting. It might not be the best notebook to use as a diary, or for business invoices. Assuming you still want to read it in 20 years.

Yet I see this as a real advantage for school notes, organizers or similar things. Same for postcards and letters, really, anything that has a limited purpose and eventually gets thrown out.

The same goes for any book. Once it has been read it usually ends up in shelf or ‘used books’ store where it ‘takes away space’. Throwing out books, hurts any avid reader. Personally, I just can’t see a book being burned or thrown away.

So a good way to ‘get rid of books that are not needed anymore would be to give them back to nature. With matabooks this can be done in a very environmentally friendly way, which will leave no toxins in the earth. How much better could it be?

What do you think about these books? Would you like to plant a book? I think I would! 🙂


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