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.

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

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 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, 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.