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.