Friday, May 25, 2012

Green Groups Turn the Heat Down on National Geographic But Up on KFC

Please see also the May 30, 2012 follow up to this article, The Recycled Debate: Can We 'Get Beyond the Stereotypical Industry-Environmental Relationship'?, where Locantore and industry pundit BoSacks debate the green-ness of recycled paper.

The environmental group that aimed a "Practice What You Print" campaign against National Geographic for not using recycled paper says it is now engaged in "productive discussions" with the magazine.

Frank Locantore, director of the Better Paper Project, revealed the discussions in a comment today on Dead Tree Edition's article, What Exactly Is Environmentally Preferable Paper? Acknowledging that there is more to "green" paper than recycled content, he called for "a broad cross-section of stakeholders" to establish measurements that will lead to making paper more environmentally friendly.

Here is Frank's comment in its entirety:

I've wanted to post a comment to this blog for a long time now. But, there is so much here to comment on that it has been hard to figure out where to begin. First, I want to thank DTE for repeatedly trying to get a conversation going about this. My hope is that the conversation finds a different venue than on-line commenting. It is really difficult to substantially and meaningfully discuss this issue without the benefit of being in the same room with one another.

My three comments are these:

1. As the Director for the Green America Better Paper Project, I'd like to clarify - we are NOT protesting National Geographic. We are actually in some productive discussions with them and hope to be able to report out on the results in 2012.

2. I don't understand the claim that paper is not going to landfills when over 25% of landfills consist of paper, in fact, that is the largest single component of landfills. One could argue that the increasing demand for recycled paper has made paper's percentage of landfill waste decrease in the past decade. Something we should all be proud of.

3. I agree that there is no simple answer to the question of what paper is "greenest." However, I don't think that it is an impossible question to answer. Can we not work collaboratively as industry, NGOs, govt's, and the public to create a list of metrics that can help determine the environmental "health" of paper? My doctor checks my cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, etc. to give me an analysis of how healthy I am. Can't we do something similar for paper?

Is there any appetite to convene a broad cross-section of stakeholders to discuss and determine metrics that will continuously improve the environmental characteristics of paper? I hope so.

Just two days ago, Greenpeace activists hung a huge banner showing a Sumatran tiger and the message "KFC: Stop Trashing My Home" on the fast-food chain's corporate headquarters.

Dogwood Alliance was already using its Kentucky Fried Forests campaign to criticize KFC's use of International Paper food-packaging products that allegedly result from IP''s destruction of Southern U.S. forests.

Now Greenpeace is upping the ante, claiming "The Colonel's been keeping his chicken fresh with packaging made from rainforests" because KFC also buys products from Asia Pulp and Paper, which has been widely criticized for destroying Indonesian rainforests.
Both NGOs are having fun with riffs on KFC's fast-food packaging. Dogwood Alliance has created a mock Kentucky Fried Forests chicken bucket depicting a chainsaw-wielding Colonel Sanders. The bucket is shown on "Get Forest Destruction For Free!" coupons that activists have handed out at KFC locations.

Greenpeace this week released a series of videos showing animated KFC food packages revolting against the company's paper-purchasing practices. In one, the Colonel drawls, "So what if I make a few tigers homeless."


Anonymous said...

From a carbon emissions position an integrated virgin pulp -paper mill is massively less polluting than the use of recovered paper. Turning old paper into new paper is dangerous in regard to climate change. Any study of co2 emissions from various paper mills clearly shows this fact. There is no peer reviewed research study that specifically supports recycling waste paper into paper is good for the environment. Old paper shoud be used for other less Eco damaging uses, isolation, building materials etc.
Paper in suitable dry landfill is capable of sequestering carbon for an extremely long time, proved by research.
The time for environmentalism by heresy has to end. We should find solutions based on facts, not social beliefs, the earth is too important for that.

BoSacks said...

This debate is for the undereducated. If you really understand “green”, which most don’t, it is terribly wrong for the proper carbon footprint to insist that recycled paper be forced into virgin pulp. The true answer which is admittedly hard to sell, because of the misinformation and knee jerk reactions of the “ I wanna do some good, so I want recycled paper in everything”. WRONG…. Recycled paper in the virgin process is counter-productive to a successful green footprint.
Paper in the landfills or out of the landfills is a completely different question. The biggest reason landfills have paper isn’t because mills won’t use it. The real reason is because people are lazy and aren’t part of the solution, they are part of the problem.
There are great and wonder uses of recycled paper, and each day science is creating more creative uses for the renewable product.
The answer to this is education, legislation, and common sense. We all know that common sense isn’t that common, so that leaves us with education and legislation. I have little faith at either is going to happen with any common sense any time soon, so we will be left with the wronged headed groups demanding that we need recycled paper in every magazine. Sad but true


Frank Locantore said...

Don't take a lack of commenting here as support for the positions above. "Blog-ments" are not even close to the best way to have a meaningful discussion. If you are interested in communicating about this in a respectful and rational manner, feel free to get in touch with me: And please, except for DTE, let's get out from behind the "Anonymous" curtain.

-Frank Locantore, Green America

Tein Atkerson said...

Bo, you are absolutely right: it is generally very inefficient (or "wrong") to inject recycled fiber into a virgin paper production process. That said, it can be even more efficient to make new paper from old paper than from trees if that recycled paper is made at a mill purpose-built for recycled paper.

There are many paths to green, and there are ecological benefits to both recycled and virgin papers. Regardless of whether you're talking about a recycled or virgin mill, they can only achieve maximum production efficiency -- and thus optimal resource conservation -- only if the mill adheres to the type of production it was designed to accommodate. Injecting recycled pulp into an integrated virgin mill makes no sense, but that doesn't mean that recycled fiber is bad. Quite the opposite: it simply takes far less energy, water and chemicals to make new paper from old paper than to make new paper from trees, especially in the printing & writing grades.

An integrated virgin pulp mill can be extremely efficient from a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standpoint, but the reason for that is because methodologies for calculating carbon footprint do not measure all GHG inputs. Some of the most respected NGOs would even say current methodologies are faulty. For instance, most calculations of carbon footprint do not factor in the burning of biomass at virgin mills. The burning of wood waste for fuel is treated as carbon-neutral. This is considered by most NGOs to be an unintended loophole in the Kyoto Protocol, because burning biofuel definitely does generate GHG emissions--lots of airborne emissions in particular. The commensurate GHG impact is not measured, however, because Kyoto says it does not need to be. If virgin paper producers did count the impact of their biomass practices, however, they would probably find that the GHG generated per ton of paper produced would be higher on an absolute basis at a virgin mill than at a purpose-built recycled mill.

Frank Locantore said...

After re-reading Bob Sacks response above, I think that there are at least two points on which we agree. We are both:
a) Frustrated with the current dialogue about what constitutes environmentally preferable paper, and
b) Concerned by the dominance of PR and greenwashing rather than science in environmental paper decisions.

Really, this is not a bad starting point for a potentially meaningful discussion (once I look past the name-calling).

The past is full of confrontational approaches to force one another's hand on issues. Who among those of you reading this will step forward to help steer a constructive dialogue that has a goal of reaching agreement on metrics to determine what constitutes environmentally preferable paper? Anyone? Buehler?

The Environmental Paper Network (EPN) worked with some of its members to create a fact sheet that articulates why many of us believe – a belief based upon science – that recycled content in all grades of paper reduces energy, water, chemical use, pollution, and solid waste. Contact me if you’d like a copy of the fact sheet and I’ll email it to you (

I really hope that we can get beyond the stereotypical industry-environmental relationship. Don’t you?

In cooperation,
-Frank Locantore