There are a number of people who I have been blessed with meeting who have been a significant and concrete positive impact on my life. One of those people is Scot Quaranda.
"Every time we purchase something, we are
voting with our dollars and my vote is for a
healthy planet and for a world future generations
can love and enjoy."
Scot is dedicating his professional life to saving our forests. He works as a campaign director for the Dogwood Alliance, a non-profit based in Asheville, NC that focuses on saving US forests in the South by reducing non-sustainable forestry, lumbering and milling.
which are better alternatives whenever possible"
The primary message of the group today is to use less paper, and when we do use, choose 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) products. Dogwood Alliance celebrated a major victory in 1999 by urging a study to be conducted by the US Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
the study showed that the Southern United States produces more timber than any other country in the world and paper is the number one wood commodity produced in the region. It also confirmed that Southern forests are some of the most biologically diverse and endangered in North America.According to the Dogwood Alliance website, 90% of the forests in the Southern US are privately owned. This "private property" (as if such a thing could actually exist...) happens to be home to some of the most diverse forests in the country, and even the world, and, in addition to other aspects which you can read about when you go to their website), the highest concentration of wetlands in the US--which serve as an integral part of the eco-system for purification and water storage,
forests is 100% post-consumer recycled
packaging which ensures no new trees
were cut down in the production of that
and also are home to countless species of birds, aquatic life and mammals. In 2002, the Dogwood Alliance, in coordination with ForestEthics was able to get Staples (yes, the office store Staples) to commit to phase out paper sourced from endangered forests and invest in PCR products.
The campaigns that the Dogwood Alliance are focusing on today include continuing their work with the office supply industry and packaging reform. The amount of waste we produce because of unnecessary and wasteful packaging (think grocery bags, plastic bags, take-out packaging, online shopping) is unfathomable and "symbolizes the disposable society we have become," as the group's website so aptly puts it. The group, along with Campaign to Protect the Southern Forests, is targeting fast-food, and has a great website at www.nofreerefills.org
"If we work together to solve the packaging problem,
more of our forests will remain standing, meaning more
wildlife habitat, healthier communities and more valuable
land to sequester carbon thus helping to mitigate the climate crisis.
Click below to read what he has to say. Before you do head over to the Dogwood Alliance (click here!) and say, Thank you!
Justin: what packaging is the safest for our forests?
Scot: The first question you should ask yourself is, “is this packaging really necessary?” If it is, the second question is, “have a utilized a design that produces the strongest packaging using the least amount of material?” After you have answered those questions, the safest type of packaging for our forests is 100% post-consumer recycled packaging which ensures no new trees were cut down in the production of that packaging.
are there any large companies that have made real and meaningful change, have any completely committed to sustainable packaging?
While no company is perfect, a number of companies have taken meaningful steps to reduce their packaging footprint. Companies like Patagonia, Keen Shoes and Timberland have reduced excessive packaging. Companies like Kellogs and Celestial Seasons have committed to 100% pcr packaging. And even corporate giants like Wal-Mart have worked with its suppliers to reduce the overall use of packaging in products they sell at their stores.
for people who try to "reduce their carbon footprint," what can they do to stop using paper goods?
I believe that all efforts small and large make a difference on this front. The first question you should ask yourself is do I really need to use this paper? If the answer is yes, then take steps to be more conscious about it. Always buy 100% recycled copy paper and toilet paper. Buy in bulk whenever possible. Bring Tupperware and reusable mugs with you whenever you go to restaurants or coffee shops. Print on the backside of your paper or double-side your printing whenever possible and increase the margins in order to print on less pages. For more great tips, visit: http://www.shrinkpaper.org/
can't we just recycle it anyways, why does it matter if it's already been recycled or not?
First thing to remember here is that recycling is the third R after reduce and reuse which are better alternatives whenever possible. Recycling is a great step, but by purchasing recycled products you are stimulating the market for the paper you recycle and helping to dramatically reduce the number of acres of forests destroyed, reduce the tons of pollution spewed into rivers and the air, and reducing your overall climate footprint.
Are we better off using recycled paper goods or more, durable goods--even if those goods are plastic or other petro-chemical based product?
Paper versus plastic is a false dichotomy. Each material brings with it destruction associated with resource extraction, industrial processing and environmental degradation associated with our rampant consumption habits in North America. When you need to consume, your best choice is to buy less and buy smart. Every time we purchase something, we are voting with our dollars and my vote is for a healthy planet and for a world future generations can love and enjoy.
Is there such a thing as sustainable forestry?
Though all forestry has an impact on soil, water quality, wildlife habitat, and local communities, some forestry is better than others. Our organization supports Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of forests, which limits the size of clear-cuts, use of toxic chemicals in forest management, and creates no go zones for the world’s endangered forests. It is currently the only credible forest certification out there.
Again here, the best option is the smallest amount of packaging with the highest amount of environmental attributes. Reduce and reuse first, and if necessary make sure the packaging used is high post-consumer content recycled or FSC-certified.
What kind of packaging should I look for?
When you do need to buy something that is packaged rather than in bulk, look for the packaging that uses the least amount of material possible, that is high post-consumer recycled fiber and where this is unavailable, that is FSC-certified.
If real change is made, what will the difference look like in our forests, in our landfills, in our lives?
If we work together to solve the packaging problem, more of our forests will remain standing, meaning more wildlife habitat, healthier communities and more valuable land to sequester carbon thus helping to mitigate the climate crisis. 40-50% of landfill space is taken up by paper and wood products, so by decreasing this load and increasing the amount that is reused and recycled we decrease the amount of land that must be used for landfills, we stop a large percentage of the methane gas released from the decomposition of paper which is a major greenhouse gas emitter and we keep our local communities, usually in the most marginalized regions of our country, healthy and vibrant. Our lives will become simpler and less cluttered and the air we breathe, water we drink and environment we enjoy will be much cleaner and enjoyable. Additionally, research shows that paper mill communities are the most toxic and economically depressed, when we move away from this destructive industry, we open the door for more sustainable economies based on local forest-based tourism and lower-impact factories and industries.
What are three things people can do to make a difference in this regard?
There are so many small steps an individual can take to make a difference. Three easy steps are to buy less over-packaged products, carry with you Tupperware, canvas bags, and refillable mugs, and when you have to buy packaged good, show your preference for high post-consumer recycled packaging or packaging that carries the FSC label. Of course, you should also support your local environmental initiatives and groups including Dogwood Alliance. And while you are at it, visit www.nofreerefills.org so you can play our environmentally-themed video game, Packaging Man and take a moment to send the CEOs at the big fast food companies an email ask them to support the work to solve the packaging problem.