Sustainability — Paper Options Not Clear Cut
Lingerie clad women carrying chain saws sounds like a scene out of a B-movie horror flick, not a topic for a story on trends in paper usage. Which is the point, in a sense.
In late 2005, environmental activists were able to grab headlines by dressing in lingerie for a series of protests outside Victoria’s Secret stores. The organizers sought to call attention to what they considered irresponsible and wasteful use of paper by the company in its catalog marketing program. They challenged the clothier to stop using paper that tracked back to trees from the Great Boreal Forest in Canada, to buy more recycled tonnage and to cut its overall paper usage.
ForestEthics, one of the environmental advocacy groups behind this and other actions, has received some praise for its willingness to engage corporations in a constructive way. Yet, commitment to recycling and use of recycled paper still seems more in the vain of a cause driven by activists. Stunts such as the Victoria’s Secret protest can work against having the message taken seriously by mainstream consumers and businesses.
The “sustainability” movement, by comparison, is more Main and Wall Street. It is being embraced by Corporate America partly for image building (or repair), but also because competing in a global marketplace means satisfying the more stringent environmental regulations of other countries.
The concept of managing resources and carrying out processes in a sustainable fashion to ensure their environmental and economic viability over the long term has broad applicability. So far, paper sourcing has been the main focus in the printing sector.
Sustainable forestry is distinct from recycling but, in the big picture, there is overlap in the goals of the two movements. In terms of paper usage, this includes halting the practice of clear-cutting forests and, depending on the group, preserving old growth forests. Recycling does have the added benefit of reducing the amount of paper that ends up in the waste stream.