Staples goes green 

On Nov. 12, the nat

On Nov. 12, the national office supply chain Staples, Inc. announced its plans to adopt new guidelines that will help protect America"s endangered forests. The announcement comes after two years during which The Paper Campaign, a movement organized by dozens of local environmental groups across the United States, targeted Staples as a key player in its plan to change the character of paper manufacturing in the United States. At this point, 90 percent of paper manufactured in the United States comes from virgin tree fiber, according to a Worldwatch study, "Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape." Timber continues to bear the burden of paper manufacturing, even though alternative materials are available at reasonable prices. Reliance on trees in the manufacture of paper not only devastates forestlands, disrupting the balances of the ecosystem, but also requires far more energy than it would take to produce paper from recycled fibers. Since Staples is the largest store of its kind in the United States, its commitment to environmentally-sound products is an important component in protecting endangered forestland. In 1999, a group called Forest Ethics attempted to engage Staples in a discussion about the damage its paper suppliers inflicted upon old growth forests, the forests of the Southeastern United States and forests growing on public lands. But the initial reception from Staples made it clear that the company would not adopt more forest-friendly policies without compelling pressure from the public. Thus, Staples became The Paper Campaign"s first target. The alliance of local environmental groups that contribute to The Paper Campaign staged over 600 protests at Staples stores, three of which took place in Bloomington with the help of local groups American Lands, the Indiana Forest Alliance, Indiana University"s Student Environmental Action Coalition, Buffalo Trace Earth First! and Heartwood. The Paper Campaign also orchestrated a deluge of phone calls and letters to Staples corporate headquarters and worked with the media to publicize Staples" responsibility to the environment. Under Staples" new guidelines, an average of 30 percent of all the store"s paper sales will be made from post-consumer fiber. Staples will gradually reduce and eventually eliminate its purchase of paper that comes from logging endangered forests. Also, Staples plans to establish a division that will provide annual reports on the store"s environmental behavior. "This could be the beginning of a major shift in the paper industry toward using more recycled fibers, which protects virgin forest by increasing the demand for paper with recycled content," says Joshua Martin of American Lands in Bloomington. Convincing Staples to accept greater responsibility in protecting the nation"s endangered forest is a major win for The Paper Campaign. "Now," Martin adds, "The Paper Campaign will be turning its attention to the rest of the industry. We"re hoping other stores like Office Depot and Office Max will match Staples" commitment."

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