Thirty students from Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College demonstrated in front of the Ithaca Staples on Tuesday afternoon to put an end to the sale of old growth and national forest paper. It was the third national day of action in a year-long campaign that includes students and community members protesting at 204 Staples stores across the country.
The protest was organized by the Society for Natural Resource Conservation (SNRC), a subset of The Cornell Greens. There are three main national organizers of the campaign, including Forest Ethics, The Dogwood Alliance and the American Land Alliance, according to Aubryn Sidle ’04.
Protesters in Ithaca participated in the demonstration speaking out against the sale of recycled paper with other protesters across the country. Their campaign is vying for a post-consumer paper option, which is what most people equate to the paper that is removed from a recycle bin container, de-inked, processed and then re-used.
“On the other hand, general recycled paper [which is currently offered] means that they’ve taken a tree that was cut into timberwood and reuse all the scrap wood that is left over and not tossed out. Most people confuse the two,” Sidle explained.
With nearly 1,060 stores nation-wide, Staples is an industry leader, according to Tom Nutile, Staples vice president of public relations. “We are bearing a lot of the brunt of this and unfairly so,” he added. “They are being targeted because they’re the largest. If Staples changes, so will the rest of the industry,” said Jenny Heinlein, ’04, a member of SNRC and a protest organizer.
Sidle, organizer and Greens member, said that of all the paper offered by Staples, 97 percent comes from virgin wood fiber.
The campaign is also asking that Staples Brand paper be upgraded to a 50 percent post consumer content, that all paper made from old growth forests and national forests be phased out, and that paper coming from agricultural fiber be stocked in stores, according to Sidle.
“People go for what is the cheapest. Because there isn’t a high demand, post-consumer product paper has been expensive. But the reality is suppliers have become better at producing it and the demand is going up,” Heinlein claimed.
Staples is currently completing a feasibility study in response to shareholder demands, according to Nutile.
“We have already made an arrangement to sell 100 percent consumer product paper within the next 3 to 4 weeks. I don’t have the brand name or price yet, but this will be offered in the beginning through our catalog and website so we can observe how it sells,” Nutile asserted.
International Paper is one of the major paper suppliers that Staples currently uses.
According to Sidle, old growth forests, usually containing larger trees, have been in existence for anywhere up to 2,000 years.
“They are becoming very scarce today and we look at them as being a rare, non-renewable resource we want to protect,” she commented.
With nearly 400 paper based products from printer and fax paper to paper towels in every store, Staples offers a variety of recycled products, according to Nutile, with the Staples Brand paper (currently the company’s most economical option) offering 10 percent post-consumer content.
“In a day and age where recycling is economically feasible, this is unacceptable,” Sidle insisted.
In response to the national campaign, Staples has added more post-consumer paper options, according to Nutile.
“Most recently, we added an additional 30 percent post-consumer option for two products, and 50 percent in another one of our consumer paper products. Although we just introduced three, keep in mind that we have had a large number of recycled paper products for years,” he remarked.
“They’ve been receptive to our demands so far. Before this year they only offered 30 percent post-recycled paper at the Ithaca store,” Sidle noted.
Nutile pointed out that it’s more expensive to have a higher percentage recycled paper product.
“So far, they aren’t selling nearly as well as the other products that aren’t post-consumer paper [oriented]. We are also offering the best price that we can on these post consumer paper options,” Nutile added.
“We’re very proud of the record we have for being environmentally friendly in the products we sell. Environmental groups and activists in general have changed their tactics. In the 60’s, if they wanted to achieve something — they targeted the government. Now, they are targeting the marketplace — and coming after the industry leaders, like Staples,” he claimed.
SNRC started about four years ago with a group of people from Cornell Greens who wanted to focus on forest conservation, defense of public lands, and national forests. All members of SNRC belong to the Cornell Greens, according to Sidle.
Archived article by Chris Westgate