1999 Luther graduate Michael Walters brings sustainable, innovative company to North America

Oct. 27, 2009

In May 2009, Luther College alumnus Michael Walters, Whitelines director of business development in North America, celebrated the North American launch of Whitelines, a Swedish company providing innovative paper products while remaining dedicated to protecting the environment.

Walters, a 1999 Luther graduate, first encountered Whitelines while working within his company, studio503, where Walters partners with other businesses to direct their overall market strategy, bridging the gap between their products and large retail environments.

While working on a joint venture with Office Depot in 2007, Walters came across a Whitelines booth while attending a convention in Germany. One month later, Walters visited Whitelines in Sweden and established the partnership for business development in North America.

Whitelines, based in Stockholm, Sweden, was founded by three creativity and innovation consultants working with mental tools and training such as Lateral Thinking and TRIZ, a theory of inventive problem solving.

“Although these studies are rare in American universities, Tim Schweizer, Luther professor of management, is an expert in this field,” said Walters. “He was my mentor while attending Luther.”

Using these tools, the founders of Whitelines designed paper products that eliminate the visual conflict between traditional dark lines and writing on a page. By printing white lines on a light gray paper, Whitelines products allow the dark lines of writing and sketches to stand out against the light elements of the page.

This innovation has been shown to help people with learning disabilities, such as autism, dyslexia and eye stigmatism, by removing the eye fatigue, visual stress and distractions that occur when dark ink conflicts with dark lines on a page.

“This is a very important aspect of Whitelines,” said Walters. “Yes, Whitelines is innovative and a healthy option for our planet, but is also serves a very important purpose.” Whitelines is able to serve that purpose while working toward the goal of becoming carbon neutral by producing zero carbon footprint.

In a joint effort with Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology and paper producer Stora-Enso, Whitelines’ Nymolla Mill in southern Sweden operates with ultra-modern paper technology that re-uses the carbon dioxide in a closed-loop system, emitting no carbon dioxide from the plant.

Whitelines also focuses on preventing carbon dioxide emissions rather than compensating for them by maintaining short transports to warehouses, shipping large batches overseas by boat and by locally producing and assembling the paper products.

To show their low environmental impact, Whitelines is one of the first companies to place exact individual carbon dioxide footprint labels on all of their products, showing the impact of each product on the environment.

In 2009, Whitelines will start to offset the low, yet remaining carbon dioxide emissions by planting trees in Uganda, a process handled by U&W, a “change to green” consultancy with a 15-year track record.

Walters stated, “ I hope the partnership between Sweden and studio503 can serve as a model for other businesses to not only help our economy by creating new innovations, but finding ways for us all to better our planet.”

For more information, visit www.whitelines.se, or www.studio503.com.

Michael Walters '99