Monday, June 16, 2008

Shrink draws fire from the usual suspects

The Environmental Paper Network's new web site Shrink was criticized by... the paper industry. Not a big surprise: the goal of the web site is to reduce paper consumption in industrialized countries where paper consumption is out of control.

Here's a quote from the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI):

Teresa Presas, CEPI managing director, said: “We cannot accept that these NGOs attributed to the European paper industry issues, such as tropical deforestation and CO2 emissions...
Currently, paper consumers in Europe and North America ARE buying paper and pulp to make into paper that comes from tropical deforestation. I would encourage CEPI to research what is happening in Indonesia where large areas of tropical forest are being destroyed for trees plantations for paper. As for the CO2 emissions, there may bot be another industry with emissions as large as the paper industry. The EPN will be detailing these issues over time. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shrink wrap

This is the last of this week's special blog-fest about reducing paper consumption to celebrate the launch of the Shrink website, the place to go to express your willingness to save forests, the climate, water and pollution by reducing the amount of paper you use - please make your pledge to save paper now, and help us to send a message to the biggest paper users that they should waste less of this valuable and useful resource. And who are the biggest paper users? Well, the biggest pulp-using sector is the packaging industry, and their products mostly reach consumers via retail outfits, particularly supermarkets. The global packaging industry is an economy bigger than the Russian Federation, and while there is no denying that well-used packages can be good for food hygiene, for example, there is no excuse for the huge volumes of paper used solely to shout brand messages at consumers before a rapid trip from shopping trolley to trash.

In the UK, supermarkets responded to a government initiative called WRAP (waste reduction action programme) by agreeing the landmark Courtauld Commitment in 2005 to work to reduce waste, including packaging. Individual supermarkets have pledged to make sweeping cuts in packaging, but as they have defined their own reduction levels and timescales, some of these, such as Asda's promise of a 25% cut in their own food packaging by 2008, are much more impressive than others, such as Sainsbury's bid for a mere 5% reduction in the same period. But what's worse is that a recent study shows that the progress towards these targets has all but ground to a halt, with UK supermarkets achieving packaging reductions of only 2% in the past year. Our verdict? Must try harder.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Helping magazines go green

A new eco-kit to help Canadian magazine producers go green should attract interest all over the world, particularly as it contains detailed examples of how publishers can use paper more efficiently. This can both save publishers money and help to reduce their environmental impact. The kit spells out the benefits in terms of trees, water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and waste, in a similar manner to the way people who pledge to use less paper at the Shrink website get to see the benefits of their paper saving pledges (yes, there's a common theme to all of this week's posts here - have you made your pledge yet?).

The eco-kit's hints include reducing the base weight of papers used for covers and/or text, and reducing trim size. The kit shows that trimming just 3/8 inch (about 1cm) off the width of a monthly 160-page magazine with a print run of 250,000 could save more than 38 tonnes of paper. This would save 587 trees, enough energy to heat 13 homes for a year, enough waste to fill 3 garbage trucks, a swimming-pool's volume of water and the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 22 cars off the road for ayear (these figures, like those on the Shrink website come from Environmental Defense's Paper Calculator).

The eco-kit is full of practical advice about issues including the costs of printing on forest-friendly paper, ensuring supply and good quality, working with printers and understanding the chain of custody and forest certification. It also offers guidance on developing a company-wide paper policy and it highlights the important role of advertisers in influencing and encouraging magazine publishers to choose greener paper options.

Another great source of efficiency gains for magazine publishers is distribution. Given that 60-70% of the magazines on newsstands in the USA don't actually get read by anyone, according to a white paper produced by the Independent Press Association, there is plenty of room for improvement here. There are signs that better logistics can help: in the UK, IPC Media claims to have saved 15 million magazines through better-targeted distribution by Marketforce. More savings like this will help to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary paper consumption by the magazine industry.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Catalogues are going out of fashion

The days of paper catalogues may be numbered. Many companies are deciding to cease this paper-wasting form of advertising, recognising that online stores grow ever more popular and can be kept bang up to date. Many consumers prefer to shop online, because it's quicker and easier than post or because they want to use less paper (and if you haven't made your pledge to use less paper on the Shrink website, now is the perfect moment).

Earlier this spring, Canadian Tire announced it would cease printing the 6 million catalogues it has sent out every season for as long as anyone can remember. Its share price rose at the news, reflecting the fact that this is a sound business move.

More recently, Harper Collins has made the same decision, arguing that going virtual made both economic and environmental sense. The company's President Jane Friedman described paper catalogues in an interview, as 'such a waste of paper and so inefficient.'

Will this inspire the producer of the Argos catalogue, the Home Retail Group, which single-handedly consumes 1% of the paper used in the UK? The company estimates its carbon emissions as 217,000 tonnes per year, but that doesn't seem to include their paper consumption; even a conservative estimate of the carbon footprint caused by its consumption of 118,000 tonnes of paper would triple that figure.

The pressure is growing on Sears to stop unsustainable sourcing of paper for the 425 million catalogues it churns out each year. Surely it too should think about cutting its print run?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Online banking saves trees and carbon emissions - and money

Banks are being targetted by the new paper reduction campaign with five UK banks being asked to commit to using less. There are already lots of signs that banks are cottoning onto the financial as well as environmental benefits of such a move.

More than 400,000 banking customers of HSBC in the UK have requested not to get paper statements, with a million bank accounts now paper free. This is such a good business move for the bank it is giving tree-planting charity Trees for Cities £200,000 to plant a tree for each 20 customers who make the switch to online statements. They are also growing a funky virtual forest, with a dedicated tree for every customer who has gone virtual. HSBC estimates that their similar scheme in Hong Kong saves 5 million sheets of paper every year.

Another reason for banks to be concerned about paper use is its climate impact. The Citizen's Bank of Canada has identified its paper use as a big contributor to its greenhouse gas emissions - up to 14% of its total carbon footprint is down to paper consumption. So it too is offering paper free banking to its customers and instituting company wide measures like double-sided printing, cutting its paper use by 30% over the past decade.

Cuts of a similar order seem to be readily achievable, with Bank of America reporting a 32% reduction in internal paper use between 2000 and 2005 as 3 million customers switched to paper free statements. The goal of further paper reductions is built into their paper procurement policy.

Someday we will look back on this time and wonder why anyone bothered with paper banking at all. Until then, projects like Shrink will need to keep pressuring banks to commit to reduce their paper consumption.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Shrink - addressing the madness of over-consumption of paper

This is how much paper an average British person gets through in a year: more than 200kg, much of which is completely unnecessary. Americans use even more: almost 300kg each, which is six times the world average.

The launch of a new website today highlights the issue of paper waste and gives people the chance to pledge to cut their paper use. The site invites commitments to reduce unnecessary and wasteful paper use, with suggestions on how to limit all those leaflets, catalogues, tissues, photocopies and packaging, and it tallies up the trees, carbon, water and pollution saved by the cumulative pledges. Trot over there from here and be among the first to make a pledge!

Why? Here are three reasons.

  • Almost half (42%) of all industrially-logged trees end up as paper and too much of that logging is destructive.
  • Globally, paper production and disposal releases three times as much climate change emissions as global aviation.
  • Irresponsible production causes negative impacts on biodiversity and communities as well as human rights abuses in many pulp and paper producing region
The Shrink website is part of a project that will target big companies as well as individuals, encouraging them to make more efficient use of paper. It is run by the European Environmental Paper Network, more than 50 environmental non-governmental organisations that all share a common vision for transforming the paper industry.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Trash is a Big Climate Problem, New Study Finds

Legislators in Washington have another tool to confront the climate crisis, according to a new report released today on United Nations World Environment Day. Stop Trashing the Climate concludes that increased recycling and composting are easily-achievable and essential measures to help meet U.S. greenhouse gas reduction targets being debated this week in Congress. Along with waste prevention, expanded recycling and composting can have the same climate protection impact as closing 21% of the nation’s 417 coal-burning power plants says the report. Coal combustion is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Released today by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Eco-Cycle, the report links America’s trash to use of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, and calls for action to trigger change within a short period.

To view the website and report, visit:

Main findings from Stop Trashing the Climate include:

· A zero waste approach based on preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies to protect the climate.

  • Significantly reducing the amount of materials landfilled and incinerated has climate benefits comparable to closing one-fifth of all U.S. coal-fired power plants.
  • The one-way flow of materials from extraction, processing, and consumption to disposal directly contributes to climate change. Waste disposal is linked to more than one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; new resources must be continually extracted to replace those buried or burned.
  • Landfills are a top source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and landfill gas capture systems are not an effective strategy for preventing methane emissions to the atmosphere. The global warming impact of methane emissions in the short term is 72 times greater than CO2 and is three times greater than reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired power plants, and waste 3 to 5 times more energy than recycling conserves.

Among Stop Trashing the Climate’s key policy recommendations:

  • Set local and national zero waste targets, focusing on 20-year plans.
  • Eliminate subsidies to landfills and incinerators.
  • End the practice of waste incineration.
  • Stop sending biodegradable materials to landfills and incinerators.
  • Expand the national reuse, recycling, and composting infrastructure.
  • Regulate paper packaging and junk mail and pass policies to significantly increase paper recycling

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New Newspaper Industry Report: A Brighter Shade of Green

A Brighter Shade of Green: Opportunities for Newspapers in the New Era of Consumer Environmentalism is a new report from Green Press Initiative and Markets Initiative (June 2008) that discusses the social and environmental impacts of the newspaper industry and opportunities for leadership.

First Nations Victory at Grassy Narrows (Canada)

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) praised the decision by logging company AbitibiBowater-the largest paper company in the world-to stop logging on the traditional territory of Grassy Narrows First Nation. The move follows decades of lawsuits and peaceful protest by the First Nation.

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Face, Same Old Story

Maybe you have noticed the billboards and print ads advertising the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification scheme? They have been popping up in major metropolitan areas across the country from NY to Boston to Bentonville, AR. They have appeared in major newspapers and print periodicals and have even been spotted on the side of telephone booths. Maybe you wonder, what is this, must be good, right?

Well I am sorry to say my friends that the SFI still equals the Same-old Forest Industry. All the smiley faces and green words mean nothing compared to the continued large-scale clearcutting, conversion of natural forests to plantations, toxic chemical usage and logging of endangered forests perpetrated by SFI member companies like International Paper. It is nothing more than industry greenwash!

SFI companies are not changing their ways and continue to rely on the certification scheme as a crutch while the damage is being done in our forests. The only credible certification scheme out there continues to be the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is broadly supported by the North American environmental community. Additionally, the FSC is increasingly becoming the choice for Fortune 500 companies and consumers in the marketplace. When you are looking at labels on paper products, buy recycled and the FSC and don’t buy the SFI.