March 6, 2002

Group Discusses Area Paper Use

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In the first of a two part series, the Cornell Society for Natural Resources Conservation (SNRC), a student environmental group, hosted a seminar yesterday to discuss the economic and environmental reasons for using one hundred percent post-consumer waste recycled paper on campus.

SNRC’s efforts are part of a national campaign designed to convert purchasing and usage of tree free paper on college campuses.

Yesterday’s event featured four speakers including Prof. Timothy Fahey, natural resources, Michael Peek ’88, a representative from the New Leaf paper company, John Demos from the American Lands Alliance and Tad McGalliard from the Cornell Center for the Environment.

“The quantity and type of paper we use here on Cornell’s campus [is] a real problem. We can be part of a real solution,” said Jennifer Heinlein ’04, a SNRC member.

Fahey added.

“Printing paper consumes one third of the paper in the U.S. and 90 percent of office printing paper is not from recycled fiber,” he said.

Heinlein explained that in an effort to create a more sustainable, environmentally responsible institution, SNRC works for a reduction overall usage of paper at Cornell and strives to encourage those who purchase paper on campus to buy tree free paper.

“Many consider recycling as American as apple pie [however] you’re not recycling unless you’re buying recycled products,” Fahey said.

America consumes a third of the world’s paper with only a fifth of the world’s population and is far behind other nations, especially North Korea and Germany, in national recycling efforts, Fahey noted.

100 percent post-consumer paper uses recycled fiber instead of virgin fibers — fiber that comes directly from newly logged trees — and is bleached by a process that uses hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine. The production of paper from post-consumer waste eliminates the release of toxic wastes emitted in the process of priming freshly cut trees into paper.

“Less than ten percent of all pulp used for office and printing paper is from recycled fibers, a [percentage that] peaked in the mid 90’s and has been falling off ever since,” Peek said.

University paper purchasing is generally decentralized so that the responsibility of purchasing paper falls upon individual departments and offices. SNRC member Stephen Romaniello ’05 stressed the importance of trying to consolidate the paper purchasing as an informal co-op.

“The University saves money, helps the environment and gets good press,” Romaniello said. “As more and more departments buy recycled paper, the price per ream will continue to drop, making it the more attractive option. In the end, switching to tree free paper saves both money and the environment.”

Audience members expressed surprise and concern about the usage of virgin fiber paper despite the availability of less costly and more environmentally sound alternatives.

“I thought the presenters were informative and the whole presentation was well done. It made me more aware of how available recycled paper is. I will definitely consider [buying one hundred percent post-consumer waste paper] now. It’s comforting to know all this reform is going on,” said Stephen Kraszewski ’05.

Juanita Heyerman, administrative assistant in computer science, also commended SNRC for their efforts, saying, “It’s refreshing to see student groups trying to make change.”

While Heyerman does not purchase paper for the department of computer science, she expressed an interest in the possibility of the department purchasing recycled paper, given the high volume of paper it regularly consumes.

“We’re a fairly large department [and] we use quite a bit of paper because there are a lot of printers and copiers in our department,” she noted.

A seminar on the same topic will be held this Thursday at 10 a.m. in 401 Warren Hall.

The week’s events mark the culmination of SNRC’s yearlong campaign directed at increasing a consumer demand for 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper on campus.

Archived article by Laura Rowntree