Tuesday, December 07, 2010

PAK 2000 Fails to Meet Its Public Commitments

The luxury shopping bag and packaging company PAK 2000 is back in the Paper Planet news, but this time for very unfortunate reasons.  Readers may recall an announcement that better protection for Indonesia's rainforests was, "in the bag."  At that time, New Hampshire based luxury packaging company PAK 2000 announced that they would cut all financial ties with their majority shareholder, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), by the end of 2009. 

The commitments were made working closely with Rainforest Action Network (a member of Environmental Paper Network).  In December 2009 RAN wrote to about 100 customers and potential customers of PAK 2000 informing them of the positive commitment and outlining the steps to be taken in the coming year.  Unfortunately, after working over the past year to resolve the situation, RAN has been forced now to communicate once again with those same companies, this time to inform them that PAK 2000 has failed to meet its commitments. The letter also details APP's deception over the past year.

The new letter sent this week to current and potential customers of PAK 2000 by RAN's Executive Director, Rebecca Tarbotton, states....
"In December last year, PAK 2000 made commitments to your company, to RAN and to other customers to sever its connection with Asia Pulp and Paper, stop sourcing Indonesian and other controversial paper and fiber and adopt a best in class paper purchasing policy. I am deeply disappointed to inform you that PAK 2000 has failed to meet these commitments and appears to be unwilling to do so. Because of this, I once again urge you to suspend contact and business with PAK 2000. RAN believes this company is both misleading and continues to contribute to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. 
Since making these commitments last December, PAK 2000’s founder and former CEO Claude Roessiger has been forced out, and control of the company has been taken back by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) under the leadership of long time APP associate Howard Lo."
the letter describes events over the past year, and concludes by saying...
"Our conclusion is that PAK 2000 is back under APP control and has lied to the staff of PAK 2000, RAN and your company. The transparency and trust that had been growing though our negotiations with PAK 2000 under Mr. Roessiger’s leadership, and that had been a cornerstone of the voluntary agreement reached between PAK 2000 and RAN, have disappeared. Further, PAK 2000 has reneged on their commitments to eliminate controversial fiber by July 2010 and to adopt an FSC preference procurement policy. In fact, as an affiliate of APP, PAK 2000 may lose its FSC chain of custody certification entirely.

Given these developments, RAN can no longer recommend PAK 2000 as an environmentally responsible or reliable business partner. We urge you to eliminate any business you have with PAK 2000 due to the company’s failure to meet its commitments, lack of transparency and links to APP, a company whose history is rife with social, environmental and financial controversy."  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Richard N. Goldman (1920-2010): A Remarkable Life Remembered

The entire Environmental Paper Network was saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Richard Goldman yesterday. He will be greatly missed and we celebrate his life-long commitment to family and community.

Mr. Goldman was a visionary philanthropist. He co-founded the world-renowned Goldman Environmental Prize and he and his family have been instrumental in creating a better, healthier world for generations to come.

The Environmental Paper Network and the environmental community have enormous gratitude for The Goldman Family’s immense generosity and all of the important work that they made possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and everyone at the Goldman Fund during this time.

For more information, please visit the Richard and Rhoda Goldman fund website: http://www.goldmanfund.org

Starbucks Makes Cups from Cups

Earlier this month, Starbucks Coffee Company and International Paper, with Mississippi River Pulp, LLC., completed a six-week pilot project that – for the first time – proved Starbucks used paper cups can be recycled into new paper cups, or at least into 10% of a new cup so far.  This advancement brings Starbucks one step closer to its ambitious and leadership goal of ensuring 100 percent of its cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015.

“This innovation represents an important milestone in our journey,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of Environmental Impact. “We still have a lot of work to do to reach our 2015 goal, but we’re now in a much stronger position to build momentum across the recycling industry. Our next step is to test this concept in a major city, which we plan to do in collaboration with International Paper and Mississippi River in 2011.”

While some communities already recycle paper cups, most do not have the infrastructure in place to handle collection, hauling, and processing due to a lack of demand for cup material by the recycling industry. To date, Mississippi River is the only pulp mill in the U.S. that has successfully recycled used cups into fiber suitable for producing new cups.

The Paper Planet wonders.....

Could other companies follow the lead of Starbucks to find a market use for their wastestream and a fiber source for its new products, such as KFC, who is currently dealing with heavy criticism for sourcing its iconic buckets from endangered forests?  What if Starbucks and additional retail food service companies banded together to create economies of scale for cup recycling?

Will the new cups made by International Paper still max out at 10% post consumer fiber, or can it grow that amount to use more recovered cups?

And if recovered coffee cups grows as a fiber source for tissue, will that create more availability and better prices for high-grade office paper to be made back into printing and writing paper, its highest and best use? 

What do you think?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sustainable Forestry Initiative the Target of a Troubling New Report

A new report by ForestEthics uncovers the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) industry-sponsored greenwashing to market wood and paper products. Titled SFI: Certified Greenwash, the report highlights how the SFI serves the interests of the timber, paper, and forest products industries. Its centerpiece is a two-page infographic depicting the web of influence through which industry dominates SFI.

“Greenwash is deception pure and simple,” said Aaron Sanger.  “Our report exposes SFI’s greenwash, an industry-sponsored scam that threatens our forests, communities, fresh water and wildlife.”

Among the findings of the report are:
•    Virtually all of SFI’s funding comes from the paper and timber industries;
•    SFI’s most commonly used label, the Fiber Sourcing label, requires no chain-of-custody tracking of a product’s content or origins;
•    Out of 543 audits of SFI-certified companies since 2004, not one acknowledges any major problem on issues—such as soil erosion, clearcutting, water quality, or chemical usage—that should be the focus of a ‘sustainable forestry’ program;
•    In one case, the SFI audit team—which included only two auditors—spent just five days assessing an area larger than the entire state of Pennsylvania. They reported no violations of SFI standards and didn’t identify so much as a single opportunity for improvement;
•    Board members representing SFI’s environmental and social sectors include Mike Zagata, former NY Gov. Pataki’s “most controversial agency head”, and Marvin Brown, who this October resigned as Oregon state forester amid accusations that his department conducted and tolerated environmentally-harmful forestry practices.

The report comes out as the green building sector makes its annual pilgrimage to Greenbuild, the world’s largest green building conference, held in Chicago this year. Last year, Greenbuild attendees in Phoenix witnessed a balloon banner floating over SFI’s booth that said “SFI = Greenwash”, as well as a full-page ad in the local edition of USA Today, which said that SFI’s name “belies its greenwashing practices of certifying ‘destruction as usual’ logging.”

In March, ForestEthics mailed letters to Fortune 500 companies that rely heavily on direct mail to market their products and services, including companies from the insurance, financial services and telecommunications sectors. Citing public controversy about SFI’s deceptive ‘green’ marketing practices, the letters offer ForestEthics’ expertise to help companies find legitimate ways to improve and promote the environmental attributes of their products.

In September of last year, ForestEthics filed legal complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that became the focus of an article in The New York Times.

The FTC complaint described how SFI, funded and managed primarily by large logging companies, gives a ‘green’ seal of approval to destructive logging practices of these same companies. The IRS complaint focused on how SFI’s funding and activities serve the private interests of the paper and timber industries, an improper purpose for an organization with the same nonprofit status that the IRS gives to public charities.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's in Your Children's Books? Are Your Favorites Rainforest-Safe?

UPDATE:  Candlewick Press has been added to the list of recommended publishers 

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) wants to help consumers make better choices about the books they buy this holiday season. A report and consumer guide released by the group called, “Rainforest-Safe Kids' Books: How Do Publishers Stack Up?” finds that publishers of popular kids’ books including Where the Wild Things Are and Baby Einstein are using paper linked to Indonesian rainforest destruction, social conflict and global warming.

RAN’s new report and consumer guide, including a downloadable pocket guide for shoppers, ranks eleven of the nation’s largest children’s book publishers based on their paper policies and purchasing practices. The consumer guide follows a report launched by the environmental group in May finding that a large number of kids’ books sold in the United States are now being printed in Asia using paper that is closely linked to the loss of rainforests in Indonesia.

“Kids are starting to make holiday wish lists this week. This guide is a tool to help book-loving families avoid kid’s book publishers that are linked to rainforest destruction,” said Lafcadio Cortesi of Rainforest Action Network. “The good news is that many of the country’s largest publishers, six out of the eleven in our survey, are taking decisive action to help protect Indonesia’s endangered rainforests.”

Rainforest Action Network’s guide recommends that consumers buy from industry leaders that have taken action publicly to decrease their forest and environmental footprints by creating time-bound commitments to phase out controversial Indonesian paper fiber and paper suppliers. The recommended companies include:

  • Candlewick Press 
  • Hachette Book Group
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • MacMillan
  • Penguin Group (Pearson)
  • Scholastic
  • Simon & Schuster 
Indonesia’s rainforests, home to unique species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are under severe threat from paper companies that rely on clearing rainforests and peatlands for fiber plantations to supply cheap pulp to their paper mills. This controversial paper is then used by Asian printers to manufacture kids’ and other books for U.S. and international markets. The huge carbon footprint from the destruction of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands has made the country the third-largest global greenhouse gas emitter, behind only the U.S. and China.

By specifying non controversial papers and using rainforest-safe alternatives,  the “recommended” U.S. publishers are encouraging Indonesian pulp and paper companies to transition their practices away from an unsustainable business model, which often relies on evicting communities, clear cutting rainforests, draining carbon-rich peatlands and replacing them with plantations. These publishers are looking to grow business and trade with companies that align their practices with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation.

Rankings for the consumer guide were determined based on the companies answers to a paper procurement survey conducted in August 2010 by RAN as well as each companys public statements, environmental policies and commitments. After an initial scoring, RAN shared its assessment with each publisher and requested feedback and further clarification. RAN then re-evaluated and finalized the rankings.

A supplementary list of “rainforest-safe” book titles can be found at http://ran.org/readinglist.

RAN is a Steering Committee member of the Environmental Paper Network.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Georgia-Pacific Policy Increases Protection for Millions of Acres of South’s Natural Hardwood Forests

In a bold commitment to forests, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific (GP) has announced that it will not purchase trees from Endangered Forests and Special Areas, or from new pine plantations established at the expense of natural hardwood forests. This commitment to increasing protection for forests is the result of six years of engagement between GP and environmental groups Dogwood Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

While GP’s new forest policy applies to all of its operations, as a first step in implementing its commitment on Endangered Forests and Special Areas, GP worked with the environmental groups and scientists to identify 11 Endangered Forests and Special Areas totaling 600,000 acres in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Eco-Region, as well as 90 million acres of natural hardwood forests in the Southern region. Endangered Forests and Special Areas in other regions will be mapped in a similar process, over the coming years.

“No other U.S. company has demonstrated this level of initiative in mapping unique forests across such a broad region,” said Debbie Hammel, NRDC Senior Resource Specialist. “Through this process, GP has proven that—by harnessing scientific advances and seeking conservation guidance—corporations can help protect unique places without sacrificing profitability.” 

“Georgia-Pacific has shown real leadership on issues of critical importance in the South. At the same time, our forests are not completely out of harm’s way until other companies also agree to protect them,” said Danna Smith, Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance. 

The South’s natural forests are home to more plant and animal species than anywhere else in North America. They also help protect the drinking water for millions of people and naturally eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet less than two percent of the region’s forests are protected, and the South produces more wood and paper than any other place in the world. 

The 11 designated Endangered Forests and Special Areas span North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia and include forests in the Alligator River Region, Camp Lejeune Area, Congaree River Area, Croatan National Forest Region, Fort Jackson, Francis Marion National Forest, Holly Shelter Region, Great Dismal Swamp Area Green Swamp Region (account for two distinct areas), and Savannah River Site. These areas are home to endangered species such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker, rare plants including the carnivorous Venus flytrap, and unique geographic features—including pocosins, the Algonquin term for “swamp on a hill.”

To see a map and learn more about some of the special areas that will be protected, click here. (PDF)

In addition to helping protect Endangered Forests and Special Areas, GP is helping to protect the South’s natural hardwood forests from being converted to plantations in the future by not buying pine fiber from natural hardwood forests that have been converted to pine as of July 1, 2008. Over the past several decades, the intense wood and paper production in the region has resulted in the conversion of millions of acres of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations. 

These plantations are more intensively managed than natural hardwood forests, often involving the spraying of chemical herbicides and fertilizers, causing concerns about the human health impacts in nearby communities. In addition, the replacement of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations diminishes biodiversity and wildlife habitat and releases carbon into the atmosphere. The conversion of wetland forests to pine plantations has also been linked to increased flooding on the southern coast of North Carolina.

“We will continue to urge the companies that are lagging behind to take action to protect unique places on the Southern landscape and end the conversion of natural hardwood forests to plantations,” added Danna Smith.

Dogwood Alliance, NRDC and RAN are members of the Environmental Paper Network.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Announcing the Sustainable Design Auditing Project

Republished from the Re-Nourish Blog

Re-nourish, together with several partner organizations including the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), is excited to announce the official launch of the Sustainable Design Auditing Project (SDAP), a multi-stakeholder working group tasked with developing open-source metrics for measuring the environmental, social and economic impacts of the graphic design supply chain. It’s time for the graphic design industry to start walking the walk.

The need for metrics in a changing industry

Many would have us believe the design industry is changing from a dependence on designing commodity materials to experiences and systems. This may be true: with climate change and conventional resource extraction now recognized globally as a legitimate threat to human development, we’re rethinking our relationships with production, consumption and disposal. There are many opinions about how designers should go through this process, and what direction we should move in as an industry, and as a culture. But which direction the industry moves is irrelevant if the language used to articulate this new reality remains opaque and exclusionary.

There’s no doubt the design field has changed dramatically over the last decade or two. Technological developments have made obsolete many traditional design roles - typesetters, anyone? - requiring designers to adapt or go out of business. Then came crowdsourcing and the proliferation of competitions as a means of soliciting creative work at low cost. This debate continues to rage, with many seeing such a development as yet another commoditization of creative services. And now - perhaps as a backlash to this commoditization - there seems to be another shift occurring. This shift in particular calls into question the very nature of design itself: what, exactly, are we all designing? And what should we be designing? Services, systems, experiences - these are the most frequent answers right now.

But without a universal and transparent means of communicating impacts and outcomes, whatever we choose to design going forward will be nothing more than a best guess or worse - a shot in the dark. And what exactly do we mean by “impacts and outcomes?” We mean: the true cost to individuals and communities, to waterways and land and air, and to economies. Outcomes and incomes are the what: the degree of toxic contamination swimming through a particular lake, or the number of jobs lost or healthcare plans cut, or perhaps the number of species disappearing from a particular monocultural tree farm.

Outcomes and impacts are not the same as standards, which is where Re-nourish started our journey and have since moved on from. Other industries already recognize the danger of proscribing one-size-fits-all solutions rather than measuring real-world impacts, and are furiously at work developing metrics and measures that serve as the building blocks for any honest, accurate discussion of social and environmental impact. The design industry needs to lead this charge, not play catch-up.

A universally-accepted set of metrics that measure impacts and outcomes in meaningful ways will allow designers to explore the implications of new design methodologies and frameworks on equal footing. It will prevent one small group of people or one particular commercial interest from monopolizing the conversation. It will encourage transparency and accuracy instead of greenwash and platitudes. This is a matter of fairness and inclusion and justice - everyone with skin in the game (and that includes every designer who finds themselves grappling with their changing industry) must have access to a shared language to ensure private interests don’t dictate the terms of our existence.

Underlying principles of SDAP

There are four principles underlying this project that must be present for it to be a legitimate process:
  1. Multi-stakeholder engagement. This should include the private sector (equipment and paper supply chain), working designers (including freelance designers, design firms, and in-house designers), academia, and nonprofits/NGOs.
  2. Ample public review and commenting opportunities. This should be executed through both online and offline outreach for maximim reach and inclusiveness.
  3. Full transparency, disclosure, and crediting. It is essential that all legal entities involved (including both for-profit and nonprofit institutions) are publicly disclosed in the interest of transparency. It is also critical to allow individuals operating independently of established organizations or agencies be able to participate in an anonymous fashion to encourage those who might differ from their places of employment to have a voice.
  4. Consideration of other credible, established metrics systems and processes.This process cannot be conducted in a vacuum, nor would it be wise to repeat efforts already underway. Specific systems worth considering as potential models or case studies include but are certainly not limited to LEED (architecture and construction industry), Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (agricultural industry), and ISO processes (accreditation industry), ULE 880 (general private sector), and Oxfam’s Poverty Footprint project (general private sector). 

What will be measured?

While specific metrics will have to be determined through the SDAP process, the following general impact areas should be considered:

  • Environmental impacts (e.g. energy, water, GHG emissions, toxicity levels)
  • Social impacts (e.g. labor and employment, health and safety, community development)
  • Economic impacts (e.g. productivity, profitability, local investment)

How will SDAP be governed?

Currently, Re-nourish is facilitating the formation of a Steering Committee comprised of representative stakeholders including designers, environmental nonprofits, manufacturers and suppliers, and academia. This Steering Committee will be the primary governing body, and will oversee a General Assembly of further stakeholders. Anyone can join the General Assembly and provide input into the metrics development process.

SDAP governance structure

We’re also working on a way to include an option for anonymity, to ensure those who might have input that differs from an employer will be protected. The challenge will be to balance this anonymity with the need for transparency.

How can people get involved?

In the interest of inclusivity and accessibility, we encourage anyone and everyone with a stake in this process to join us. There is no fee to join, and there is no minimum commitment.

We also encourage you to leave your comments below, and to spread the word: 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Historic Agreement to Protect Tasmania's Ancient Forests

For decades, environmentalists have been trying to protect Tasmania's stunning, ancient forests from destruction. Indeed, the Paper Planet has reported on the issue and progress multiple times, and members of the Environmental Paper Network and other allies from around the world have rallied in support, helping chase Gunns around the world as they sought financial partners.
Its also true that timber workers have been trying to protect their jobs. And this unresolved dispute has led to protests, arrests and, sadly, ongoing logging in high conservation-value native forests.

But with the Tasmanian timber industry in collapse, after five months of good-faith discussions, the key stakeholders have come to a place of agreement. The Statement of Principles agreed between conservation groups, timber communities, forest unions and the industry gives Tasmania a unique opportunity to create a sustainable timber industry, protect its remaining native forests and resolve the conflict over logging.
The benefits for the whole of Tasmania are huge, including:
  • a moratorium to end logging in the most precious forests within three months
  • world class forests like the Tarkine Rainforest, Great Western Tiers, Styx, Blue Tier and the Upper Florentine Valley will be formally protected
  • detailed planning and consultation for the timber industry to transition out of native forests will occur over the next 12 months – protecting and developing timber jobs that are sustainable
  • Tasmania’s image as a clean, green state will be preserved, in a major boost for tourism
You can see the statement signed by the Wilderness Society, here.

This is the second major agreement of this nature in the past year in one of the key areas of the world where endangered forests and pulp and paper industry development overlap.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Seattle Passes Nation's First Yellow Pages Opt-Out Ordinance

Seattle residents and businesses tired of getting two or three - or more - unwanted yellow pages phone books will soon have an efficient, effective way to stop those deliveries following yesterday's 8-1 City Council vote.

The new Seattle ordinance also requires yellow pages publishers to begin paying for recycling of unwanted and outdated yellow pages directories beginning next year.

The new law creates an Opt-Out Registry that Seattle residents and businesses can access on the web, by phone or by mail and requires yellow pages publishers to pay the costs of operating the registry, for which the City expects to hire a contractor. The legislation also sets out penalties for yellow pages publishers who continue to deliver books when requested not to.

"Seattleites are constantly looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment, and the Council has heard from an overwhelming number of people who don't want phone books," said Councilmember Mike O'Brien, who chairs the committee and is the prime sponsor of the legislation. "Creating a one-stop shop managed by a third party will help reduce clutter, increase residential security, and, save Seattle Public Utilities customers, the people of Seattle, money. This is a win-win for Seattle."

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) has been working tirelessly over the past couple years to find these win-win solutions for municipalities and citizens relevant to the deluge of multiple, and often unused, phone books per household, and the mountain of waste created for cities to deal with.  PSI deserves a lot of credit for the progress that has been made.

Another Environmental Paper Network member, Catalog Choice, is great service for people all over the country to reduce unwanted junk mail, catalogs, and phone books.  Its free and easy to use.  

The Yellow Pages Association have been trying to offer there own tools for opting-out, but they have only moderately useful and effective in addressing the issues of waste, and more municipalities after Seattle are likely to take matters into their own hands.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Arborgen Plans to Operate Like Monsanto

Arborgen, a firm developing genetically engineered trees for the United States, plans an initial public offering of common shares to raise as much as $75 million, they said in a regulatory filing. Headquartered in Summerville, South Carolina, Arborgen is a joint venture of International Paper, Mead Westvaco, and New Zealand's Rubicon Ltd. 

ArborGen, is the world's largest seller of conventional seedlings for forestry, and it is developing freeze-tolerant eucalyptus trees for the U.S. South.

Bloomberg News reports,

"ArborGen said it plans to produce modified trees for the paper industry in much the same way Monsanto Co. provides genetically modified crops to agriculture."
For those familiar with the history of Monsanto Co., that's another serious reason to be concerned.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Montgomery County Maryland Saves $2 Million Taxpayer Dollars with Paper and Printing Efficiency

A little over a year ago, Environmental Paper Network was contacted by Montgomery County, Maryland to provide advice, contacts and resources on paper use efficiency.  In August of 2009, the County instituted a paper and printing reduction initiative to reduce waste and save taxpayer dollars.  The results from year one of the program are in!  This past week Montgomery County announced it had saved $2 million (US) and avoided the use of 3,000 trees last year through the initiative.

The paper and printing reduction initiative launched last year by County Executive Isiah Leggett has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in overall County paper purchases, and a $2.09 million savings in printing and mail expenditures, while reducing the County’s environmental footprint. The information was reported at a meeting of the CountyStat program, which reviewed the County’s progress toward the initial goals and recommended an additional target reduction of 3 to 5 percent moving forward.

CountyStat is an accountability and assessment process that reinforces the County government’s focus on results in an effort to improve performance. Through a series of presentations and meetings, CountyStat provides a forum to continually monitor and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of County government services, and is responsible for ensuring Data-Driven Performance, promoting strategic governance, increasing government transparency and fostering a culture of accountability.

The initial goal of the paper and printing reduction effort was to reduce paper use 15 percent in a year and save the County approximately $1 million. County departments not only met the goal but exceeded it -- saving more than $2 million compared to the latest FY10 budget, and reducing paper use by more than 52 million sheets.

One example of how County departments saved paper and printing costs can be found in the Department of Environmental Protection, which changed the way it provided construction-related solicitations to vendors. Instead of providing printed engineering drawings with solicitations, the department began to attach electronic copies of the drawings on CDs with detailed printing instructions for those vendors who need to print selected pages.

“I am very pleased with our progress on this initiative,” said Leggett. “Good government is important in Montgomery County, and CountyStat ensures that our programs and services are efficient and effective. Our taxpayers deserve the best possible value for their tax dollars, and with CountyStat overseeing our operations, I believe they are getting that.” 

For great ideas on paper use efficiency get a short fact sheet here or check out Shrink!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Paper Because.....

Following on the heels of a post this past week on the Paper Planet discussing Domtar's decision to join the Two Sides campaign, a new website targeting the North American market was launched, called "Paper Because."

In what appears to be a much more reasonable, and thoughtful approach, Domtar is promoting the special attributes of paper, as well as suggesting there are efforts paper producers can and must take to become ever more sustainable.  The first impression is that it is more reflective of their efforts to work with conservation groups such as WWF, Rainforest Alliance and the Carbon Canopy project, and their growing use of FSC fiber.

There are some good points, including on social benefits of paper:
Jakob Nielsen, a web usability expert noted that: “The online medium lends itself to a more superficial processing of information, you’re just surfing the information; it’s not deep learning.”1 
On environmental improvement, and superior credibility of FSC certification:
Whenever possible, Domtar favors certification to FSC, due to its inclusive mandate, which involves striking a balance amongst environmental, social and commercial interests in a forest.
However, there's also a bit of misleading environmental information, an attack on recycled paper, and some dodging of the reality of the carbon footprint of making paper, especially in the "Quiz," including,

When it asks if paper is a major contributor to landfills, the website claims the correct answer is, "False," and yet that's simply not true.  The US EPA and the facts disagree.  Yes, we recover and recycle a lot, and at a higher percentage than other materials, which is great.  However, paper is still the single largest component of the wastestream and even after recycling, its the largest contributor to our landfills, constituting about 25% of the waste goes into landfills, more than any other single product. (Municipal solid waste in the United States: 2005 facts and figures. www.epa.gov/msw/msw99.htm)

It just shows how massive the volume of paper we use is, and that to reach sustainability we are going to have to be a combination of (1) more responsible in making it and managing where it comes from (2) more efficient in using it and (3) find continued success in growing our recovery rate for paper.

In the quiz you will also find many of the same old forestry facts that sound good but don't really mean much, such as, "There are nearly 750 million acres of forests in the U.S. — about the same as 100 years ago. "

And many attempts are made in the quiz to claim that burning wood and other tree-byproducts are "carbon-neutral", a dangerous assumption that science has proven to be false, but federal and international policy is still working to catch up with.  We can't have a reasonable discourse on how to properly account for the carbon emissions released to the atmosphere in this process, when critical stakeholders flat-out deny any responsibility whatsoever.

We all buy paper, and when we do, I hope we buy "paper because" it is the best performing or only viable medium for the application required, and because it was made by a leadership company using the most environmentally responsible production possible.  (Learn more about environmentally superior papers at WhatsInYourPaper.com)

Visit the site, Paper Because, to see what its all about yourself.  Tell us what you think.  Share your favorite clip from the site based on either its truth about the benefits of paper or its dubious environmental claims.

Groups Plan 2011 Day of Action to Stop GE Trees

In 2004, September 21st was declared the International Day Against Tree Monocultures by organizations throughout the world. On this day, people in every continent carry out actions to generate awareness about the impacts of large scale tree monocultures on communities and their environments.

This past week on September 21st, 2010, in the United States, there was an urgent focus on the looming threat of genetically engineered eucalyptus tree plantations, being pushed aggressively, and many say quite recklessly, through the regulatory approval process.

The Dogwood Alliance's Executive Director, Danna Smith said, "The USDA recently approved a request by GE tree company ArborGen, headquartered in South Carolina, to plant over a quarter of a million genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and South Carolina, -many of the same regions still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. This would be another disaster for the region."

On July 1, 2010 Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, and the International Center for Technology Assessment filed a lawsuit challenging the USDA's decision in order to stop ArborGen's GE eucalyptus plantings.  The case is pending.

Dogwood Alliance and its allies in the Stop GE Trees Coalition released a short video, embedded below, which makes the case quite persuasively that common sense and good scientific ethics dictate the need to slow down, and halt the introduction of what are commonly known as "Frankentrees."   In it they call for a political  "day of action" in 2011 to bring additional attention and energy to the campaign.  

Those concerned may sign a petition to join their voice to the effort.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Most Finance Execs Looking to Increase Efficiency, Reduce Paper Use

J.P. Morgan Treasury Services, sponsor of Treasury & Risk's first annual Going Green survey, found that approximately 80% of the more than 200 finance executives surveyed say green strategies or sustainability efforts have saved or are expected to save their company money. Approximately 79% of these executives expected to see increased efficiencies if they were to shift to a completely green treasury operation. Certain green strategies are quite popular, including converting paper-based treasury processes to electronic transactions, which was cited by 71% of participants.

"Migrating to electronic Treasury processes can have a measurable impact on a corporation's carbon footprint as large treasury operations can easily generate 5.5 tons of paper each year--the equivalent of 143 trees and 106 tons of greenhouse gasses," said Susan Webb, managing director, J.P. Morgan Treasury Services. "We sponsored this survey to highlight the benefits of establishing a completely green treasury and help bring greater focus to what role finance executives can take in improving corporate sustainability efforts."

"In addition to environmental concerns, today's economic climate is making it even more essential for treasury departments to go green," observed Gregory Long, Vice President, J.P. Morgan Treasury Services. "Many face tremendous pressure to trim costs, operate more efficiently and improve customer service. Electronic solutions help businesses automate workflow, give them instant access to financial data and eliminate the costs and risks of producing and storing paper."

J.P. Morgan Treasury Services began its own "Go Green" campaign in 2007. Since then, the Bank has helped treasury clients eliminate more than 101 million paper documents and save three million pounds of paper annually. In addition, J.P. Morgan clients report that the Bank's Web-enabled image technology has helped improve efficiency within their own treasury operations. For example, clients have decreased the amount of time needed to identify and resolve exceptions; manually enter data into accounts receivables or payables systems; manage, store and retrieve paper documents from on and off-site storage facilities; and research and respond to internal and external requests.

J.P. Morgan has made available more survey results can be found online at www.treasuryandrisk.com and a free white paper, Sustainable Treasury Management: It's Easier Than You Think

J.P. Morgan will be presenting a free webinar with its client AXA Equitable on Wednesday, October 13th at 2 pm ET titled "The Road to Green Treasury is Paved in Dollars Saved." Register Here

At the Paper Planet, we applaud this efficiency effort, and encourage businesses to incorporate these strategies.  Cost savings can in part be applied to implement other green initiatives, such as purchasing of environmentally responsible paper for purposes where it is still needed.  It is also important that J.P. Morgan and other businesses look honestly at the impact of energy used to power electronic transactions and data storage, and account for those impact as well, so that similar ingenuity can be applied to reducing the environmental footprint of that activity.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CU-Boulder Greens their Paper

The Paper Planet applauds the commitment of CU - Boulder to purchase a minimum of 30% recycled content paper. In an effort to continue aligning campus sustainability initiatives with the Governor's "Greening of the State Government" executive order of 2007 and to meet campus goals, Staples will work with all departments on campus to substitute virgin paper orders with recycled paper of 30% or greater recycled paper content.

Greening the process by substituting recycled paper was proposed by members of the Zero Waste Sustainability Action Team. The Boulder campus is already well on the way to using only recycled paper. About 78% of paper purchased in FY 2010 contained a minimum of 30% recycled content.

The University has committed itself to attaining the goals set for 2012 by the Governor's Energy Office to reduce paper use by 20%. This change to 30% recycled paper will not only help the campus reach this goal, but is in line with the greener campus culture that is desired.

During FY 2010, a variety of departments and staff on the Boulder campus made independent decisions that shifted paper purchases from primarily virgin paper to paper with a recycled material content of between 30% and 100%. The switch from virgin to 30% recycled may seem small but will move the campus steps closer to state and campus goals, and overall environmental health.

Once again, individuals that make up the campus community have demonstrated a commitment that has made CU-Boulder a national environmental leader. Their efforts are commended and the Paper Planet hopes to see many more campuses follow suit in the near future.

Domtar's Two Sides of the Atlantic

News came this week that Domtar has become the first North American company to join the Two Sides campaign, a UK based organization funded by some in the industry to promote wasteful consumption of paper products, more costly ways of doing business, such as its active campaign to eliminate the "don't print" reminder at the bottom of emails. Its not exactly the kind of leadership our "paper planet" needs.

Its unfortunate, because apart from its aversion to recycled fiber content, Domtar is generally regarded as an environmentally conscientious company, and has been a leader in many ways in the past decade. The Two Sides campaign on the other hand, actively promotes a fairly outdated perspective and anti-conservation views. On its webpage, for example, under its Q and A, is included a question stating,
"When they promote the use of FSC/PEFC automatic they send a negative message to the general public, because it appears that all remaining fibers are not completely sustainable." and the
Two Sides answer is, "I quite agree.
It is Two Sides' ambition to ensure that public perception now sees print media as a natural product that can be used with complete confidence."
The perspective that all paper fibers can be assumed "completely sustainable" even without third-party certification is an extreme point of view pretty far out of the mainstream marketplace in 2010 and unsupported by the facts and the science.

Don't think, just print. Don't be efficient, just print. Don't consider your brand, just print. That seems to be the message.

No one can blame Domtar or other companies for wanting to sell paper (in Europe), and make a living. But the Paper Planet would like to encourage Domtar to step back and consider an approach we believe will be more effective, and save everyone a lot of money and healthy forests.

Even conservationists recognize paper's got a lot going for it, and plays an important role in our lives. Just like digital devices, paper isn't going to vanish from our lives, and shouldn't. But encouraging wastefulness will never fly, it will never be leadership. Could it be that the industry would find more success through authentic environmental responsibility and by selling paper's unique characteristics, experience and applications, rather than marketing wastefulness to simply increase volume and number of units sold?

The essay, Paper, Paper, Skin and Body, by David Barringer on paper's virtues and its affect on us in our lives, offers a window for inspiration. It is obviously art, poetry, not marketing, but it gives an insight into how to highlight the unique attributes and experience that comes from paper, and lead us to value it more. It is through this higher value for paper, which includes incorporating transparent, authentic responsibility to the people and the land where it comes from, that there is opportunity for a viable paper industry in the unavoidable reality of decreasing consumption in developed countries.

What are your thoughts about Domtar joining the Two Sides campaign?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Office Supply Companies Get their Green Grades for 2010

As students go back to school, Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics released their annual Green Grades report card today, While the sector saw overall progress on critical sustainability issues such as Endangered Forest protection, several prominent brands continue to earn poor marks from conservation groups.

Now in its 4th year, the Green Grades report card informs American consumers and large purchasers of paper products on what companies are doing--or not doing--to safeguard the environment and the world's forests.

While FedEx Office, Staples and Office Depot continue to lead the pack, according to the report other companies such as Amazon.com, Costco and xpedx continue to fall short on critical questions about the sustainability of their products and processes. In the middle are companies such as Target and PaperlinX, each of which are adopting new green paper purchasing policies, representing important progress toward really making the grade.

The 2010 Green Grades features a new category, SFI Greenwash, to address rampant use of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's phony eco-label on office supply products. Conservation groups assert that SFI labels and certification provide "green" cover for harmful practices such as large-scale clearcutting, Endangered Forest logging, and conversion of forests to sterile tree plantations.

"It's a shame that some US wood and paper producers are spending millions to mislead consumers with SFI marketing," said Daniel Hall of ForestEthics. "That money would be much better spent on protecting remaining natural areas and endangered species' habitats, and restoring watersheds hard hit by years of excessive industrial logging."

This edition marks the fourth straight year that environmental groups Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics have collaborated on Green Grades, and the report card has helped catalyze considerable progress by the sector over the years. For example, this year's grades reflect a growing commitment to protecting Endangered Forests around the globe and increased scrutiny of the impact of company paper habits on global climate. There is also an increased commitment from a number of companies to better practices via use of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Open Forum on Taxpayer Subsidies for Burning Black Liquor

This Sunday there was article in the Mobile (Alabama) Press-Register that continued to illuminate the real world implications of the confusing and troubling story of the paper industry's second big windfall in the past year from taxpayers for continuing to burning its black liquor waste. (Article from Mobile also has a good summary of how we got here, in addition to the interest new case studies)

The conservation community, acting in defense of taxpayers, recycled pulp and paper manufacturers plus their mill employees, and common sense, strongly disagrees with the IRS's recent overruling of the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) determination that black liquor does NOT qualify for this second tax incentive, the Cellulosic Biofuel Producer Tax Credit. As the Clear Air Act authorizes EPA to handle registration of biofuel producers and to determine if different fuels should qualify, 27 leading conservation groups sent a letter to the EPA late in 2009, and received correspondence in return clarifying the issue. From the EPA's correspondence.....
"The $1.01 cellulosic biofuel producer credit is a tax credit put in place by the 2008 Farm Bill and administered by the Internal Revenue Service. The act's language requires that among other things, in order to qualify as cellulosic biofuel, the fuel must meet "the registration requirements for fuels and fuel additives established by the Environmental Protection Agency under section 211 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C 7545)." These registration requirements are applicable only to motor vehicle gasoline, motor vehicle diesel fuel, and additives for these fuels. Our understanding of black liquor is that it is a byproduct of the paper milling process with the consistency of molasses."
Its clear from the people who know, black liquor doesn't meet registration requirement for a "cellulosic biofuel producer" under the Code.

The article from Mobile helps us start to get more real world information on how each pulp producer will handle the surprise ruling by the IRS, and the new opportunity to cash in on burning their black liquor.

If you are familiar with this issue, you know that some companies will have plenty to keep their accountants busy, because they claimed .50/gallon for all of 2009 already. Some got started adding diesel fuel to the mix late, so they have early 2009 black liquor burning they can claim the 1.01/gallon tax credit outright for that volume. Without the diesel mix, they couldn't fit through the tax loophole. As the article shows, some of the companies, like International Paper, whose consultants had the impressive imagination to find and negotiate their way through this loophole, got a head start and got a cool $2 billion, won't be returning the cash to take advantage of this tax

The Joint Committee on Taxation is currently studying how much this new twist will cost taxpayers, and to be accurate, they would have to take each company's considerations into account. For example, they can not say this will cost taxpayers $2 billion dollars additional for IP, since it is valued at twice as much a gallon for 2009

However, the leadership of the US Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus and Senator Charles Grassley, would be acting irrationally and irresponsibly not to close this loophole, and to repeat the mistake they made in 2009 by sitting on their hands as the US Treasury bled $8 billion dollars.

What do you think? Post your comments below in this open forum on the black liquor issue.