In a landmark decision made last Tuesday, office supply superstore Staples Inc. agreed to a new recycled paper policy and endangered forest protection. The Cornell Society for Natural Resource Conservation (SNRC) and the Ithaca community played a significant role in the national Paper Campaign that pressured Staples into the agreement, according to SNRC member Garrett Meigs ’04.
The agreement is a result of a two-year effort by the national Paper Campaign, a national coalition of activist groups devoted to revolutionizing the marketplace and moving it towards recycled paper and forest protection.
Concerning the new guidelines, Maureen Vogt, accounts manager at Staples Business Advantages, said, “This is an ongoing initiative, and will only get better.”
“We do have over 1,000 recycled products in our office supplies,” added Vogt.
Staples has agreed to phase out purchases of paper products from endangered forests, including U.S. National Forests, old growth forests, and the world’s last remaining ancient forests such as the Boreal forests of Canada, according to an SNRC news release. In addition, the company “will achieve an average of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content across all paper products, and aggressively market” and “promote recycled paper products both in-store and through coupons.”
SNRC organized protests at the downtown Ithaca Staples store on at least four occasions in the past three years. Working with students from Ithaca College, Ithaca High School, the Alternative Community High School, and Tompkins Cortland Community College, SNRC has made a huge impact in the national Paper Campaign.
SNRC worked with students at these various institutions to develop a large presence in the campaign. “We wanted to send the message to Staples that they needed to adopt more sustainable business practices and show a commitment in writing,” Meigs said.
Stephanie Juice ’04, current SNRC president, feels that Staples Inc. fully complied with the demands of the national Paper Coalition. “Staples has fully met the demands of the campaign against them, and this is why the protests have stopped,” Juice added.
“It’s really satisfying to see the tangible impacts we all can have with the Tree-Free Initiative. It’s also fulfilling to be a part of a national coalition that can make major changes like this happen, and this is still this the beginning of the paper revolution,” Meigs said.
Additionally, SNRC’s involvement in the campaign included helping to coordinate actions to create a campaign presence in Geneva, N.Y. Throughout the campaign, SNRC supported the work of activists nationwide, specifically in Buffalo on national days of action.
Activists nationwide are hoping Staples’ new adaptation of these guidelines will set a precedent for other large corporations that still have room for improving their environmental policies.
According to the national Paper Campaign’s web site, over 50 Fortune 500 companies and over 300 small and medium sized companies have changed their business practices by refusing to buy products from endangered forests and increasing their use of recycled paper.
Boise Office Solutions (formerly Boise Cascade), one of the world’s largest forest products companies, has a similar campaign “working to change some of [their] practices for several years now,” Meigs said. “In terms of Boise going tree-free, we are hopeful that Boise will come through with a comprehensive policy similar to Staples.”
Boise has been supplying a large amount of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper on Cornell’s campus, but as Meigs believes, “They could do much more.”
SNRC has also been working with Cornell to adopt endangered forest and recycled paper policies. Currently, the Cornell Tree-Free Campaign, dedicated to bringing 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper to all departments and offices at Cornell, is SNRC’s main campaign.
SNRC has coordinated various workshops to promote the 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Their most recent workshop entitled the Tree-Free workshop was held earlier this month in Warren Hall.
Vogt was in attendance at this workshop as a representative for Staples Inc., “showing support for the organization and Staples’ commitment to the environment.”
“SNRC is hoping that by purchasing 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, Cornell will have an effect on environmental sustainability,” Juice said.
Archived article by Sarah Workman