Monday, June 25, 2012

Mr. Tree Gets the Axe

After two years in the #43 slot, D. Eadward Tree, the writer of this blog, has been pruned from The RISI Top 50 Power List of the most influential people in the global pulp and paper industry.

The respected paper-industry publisher came out with its new list today, and I wasn't on it. I had to make way for the likes of Greece ("Tell me more, tell me more"), Starbucks, the iPad3, and a bunch of people who actually work in the pulp and paper industry. The good news is that the founder of TwoSides made the list, while Toshiba did not.

RISI had previously honored me primarily for Dead Tree Edition's coverage of the black liquor tax credits, a boondoggle that allowed U.S. pulp manufacturers to hijack a federal biofuel program.

But, as I pointed out last year in objecting to my repeat appearance on the list, my many articles on the subject (51 and counting) have actually changed nothing. The pulp companies collected their billions of dollars from the original black liquor tax credits, are still cashing in on Son of Black Liquor, and still haven't figured out how whether the income is taxable.

Related articles:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

9 Lessons From Toshiba's No-Print Day Debacle

Was it the negative feedback from printing-industry customers?

Or maybe seeing its "#noprintday" hashtag taken over by critics who screamed "Greenwash!"?

Or perhaps it flinched when the industry it attacked held up the mirror to its own questionable environmental record. (As the old cheer goes, "U-G-L-Y, You ain't got not alibi. You're ug-LY!")

For whatever reason, a U.S. arm of Toshiba pulled the plug today on its National No-Print Day campaign. Michael Makin, President and CEO of Printing Industries of America, announced the news this morning after a conversation last night with a Toshiba executive.

A few hours later, Toshiba's "Tree" spokescharacter got the axe; his video and web site were disabled. (Disclosure: Mr. Tree is no relation to D. Eadward Tree, the writer of this blog. I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot branch.)

But let's not celebrate too much before absorbing some lessons from this saga:
  1. We print lovers are still doing a crappy job getting the word out about how printing and paper usage are not necessarily bad for the environment. How many people do you suppose were involved in conceiving and approving of the No-Print Day campaign? (The main Toshiba web site linked to the campaign for the first few days, so the effort wasn't confined to some obscure corner of the organization.) Apparently not one of them questioned whether the campaign would actually help the environment or realized the effort would create a fact-based backlash.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greenpeace Sticks It To Toshiba: Company Has No Paper Policy

Update: Toshiba pulled the plug on its campaign the day after this article appeared. See 9 Lessons from Toshiba's No-Print Day Debacle for the full story.
Toshiba's misleading "No-Print Day" campaign may be an attempt to distract us from the company's dismal environmental record.

Greenpeace ranks the company tied for #13, out of 15 major manufacturers, in the latest edition of its annual Guide to Greener Electronics.

Toshiba's score of only 2.8 on a scale of 10 is actually an improvement over the previous year, when Greenpeace penalized it for backtracking on a previous commitment to remove certain hazardous materials from its PCs -- and lying about it.

But here's the kicker: The Greenpeace report says Toshiba "fails to score on paper sourcing as it does not have a paper procurement policy which excludes suppliers that are involved in deforestation and illegal logging."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hurry It Up, Key Senator Tells Postal Regulatory Commission

Chastizing the Postal Regulatory Commission for taking 12 months to issue an opinion on ending Saturday delivery, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) is asking the panel to work faster on other proposals to streamline the U.S. Postal Service.

"At a time when the Postal Service is reporting losses of$25 million a day and is doing all it can to head off financial collapse, there is a clear need for postal management to take a number of steps to streamline operations and adjust the Postal Service's network and product offerings to reflect the changing demand for hard-copy mail," Carper wrote in a letter dated yesterday.

Carper, co-sponsor of the Senate's main postal-reform legislation, said the PRC's advisory opinions "have been of great value to the Postal Service, Congress, and postal customers." But he expressed concern about the "lengthy, courtroom-style process" the commission has used in developing such reports.

The PRC's split decision on five-day delivery "suffered from a lack of focus on the key issues that I believe needed examination during the debate about moving to five-day service," Carper wrote. He recommended that the panel set time limits on its consideration of USPS's proposed changes to service levels.

A drawn-out process for considering such changes would "run the risk that the Postal Service could be forced to act on its proposal before the Commission has had a chance to share its thoughts and findings," Carper wrote. That could result in USPS making "serious mistakes in implementing a service change that might have been avoided had postal managers had the benefit of the Commission's counsel."

Related articles:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Toshiba's No-Print Day As Popular As a Turd in the Punchbowl

Update: Toshiba pulled the plug on its campaign. See 9 Lessons from Toshiba's No-Print Day Debacle for the full story.
In the last three days, it seems, nearly every leading commentator on the U.S. printing industry has spoken out against Toshiba’s ill-conceived National No-Print Day.

Words like “boycott”, “hypocrites,” and “what were they thinking?” keep popping up in various articles, comments, LinkedIn discussions, and tweets about the giant corporation’s clumsy campaign. “Toshiba’s Hatchet Job” was the headline on Richard Romano’s Going Green blog for, which analyzed Dead Tree Edition's June 10 article, 10 Questions About Toshiba's No-Print Day.

“Some lunatic PR person evidently convinced Toshiba head honchos that this insane, made-up event would bring them public praise. Ha! it backfired badly!” said Margie Dana, founder of Print Buyers International, author and Printing Impressions columnist.

“Doesn’t Toshiba manufacture print production machines?” wrote Heidi Tolliver-Walker of The Digital Nirvana. “This would almost be comical if Toshiba weren’t embarking upon a national ad campaign to promote the idea.”

“I declare 10/23 is ALSO National Toss Your Toshiba Day,” commented Deborah Corn, chief operations officer of PrintMediaCentr and founder of the 37,000+-member Print Production Professionals group on LinkedIn.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

10 Questions About Toshiba's No-Print Day

Update: Toshiba pulled the plug on its campaign. See 9 Lessons from Toshiba's No-Print Day Debacle for the full story.
 In a stunning display of greenwashing and ignorance, a U.S. branch of Toshiba has proclaimed October 23 National No-Print Day.

To raise awareness “of the impact printing has on our planet” and of "the role of paper in the workplace,” Toshiba America Business Solutions is asking people and companies not to print or copy anything that day.

"We know that approximately 336,000,000 sheets of paper are wasted daily -- that's more than 40,000 trees discarded every day in America,” Bill Melo, a Toshiba America vice president, said this week in announcing the effort.

The company is promoting the campaign with a series of web videos featuring Tree, an “affable spokescharacter” and alleged Toshiba employee. Viewers are asked to sign a pledge to give Tree “and his leafy colleagues” the day off.

The first video has a goof: Tree is shown marking Oct. 23 on a paper calendar. (Dude, that could be your cousin you’re writing on.) But even more serious are the questions Toshiba needs to answer, such as:
  1. What is the source of that statistic about 336 million sheets of paper wasted every day, and what exactly do you mean by “wasted”?
  2. According to that statistic, one tree is “discarded” for every 8300 sheets -- less than 90 pounds of office paper -- that is "wasted". But only one-third of that 90 pounds comes from whole trees; the rest is from sawmill residue and recycled fiber. What idiot is getting a yield of only 30 pounds of paper from an entire tree?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Does the Postal Service Cling to a Money-Losing Monopoly?

The U.S. Postal Service and American publishers are locked in a lose-lose relationship. Maybe they should consider a divorce.

For every dollar it spends on delivering newspapers and magazines, USPS claims it only receives 75 cents in postage. Meanwhile, notes the Columbia Journalism Review (in Postage due: The USPS is running out of money. Where does that leave magazines?), magazine publishers are growing worried about the increase in customer complaints regarding lost, damaged, and late issue. They fear coming changes will only make matters worse.

New interest in bypassing the Postal Service by using private delivery services was much in evidence at a recent magazine-industry summit, CJR reports.

But publishers also pointed out a major barrier to private delivery: Their subscribers want “to get their magazines in their mailboxes, rather than tossed at the end of the driveway like a newspaper. By law, only the USPS can put mail in mailboxes.”

Maybe the Postal Service would be better off loosening its grip on the mailbox monopoly by granting an exception for periodicals. (After all, whoever heard of a money-losing monopoly?) Not only would the agency lose unprofitable customers, it could actually charge the publishers a fee for each mailbox they use.