Ivy coalition pursues 'tree-free' campuses

by Devin Foxall | 10/31/02 6:00am

The recently created Ivy League Environmental Coalition is calling on its schools to create "tree-free" campuses by using only paper from 100-percent post-consumer recycled content.

The Coalition, formed at the recent Greening of the Ivies Conference, is also mobilizing to pressure institutions to stop buying paper from the Boise Cascade Corporation, which they say is an egregious environmental offender, mostly because of its logging of old-growth forests.

"We need to show [the school] that there is demand and that we are a united force speaking together," said Susan DuBois '05, the Dartmouth representative and head of the Coalition. Dartmouth environmental groups have begun meeting at biweekly roundtables to coordinate their push for recycled paper and a Boise Cascade boycott.

Bill Hochstin, a Dartmouth materials-management coordinator and a member of the Resources Working Group, said that students are right to promote the purchase of recycled paper, but their call to boycott Boise Cascade is misguided.

Hochstin explained that after the conservation group Rainforest Alliance alleged that Boise Cascade's practices were environmentally unsound, Procurement Services conducted an investigation for the Resource Working Group, a body of top-level administrators who attempt to ensure that the College's resource purchases are high-quality, competitively priced and environmentally sound. The investigation "found that the allegations weren't true," Hochstin said.

"Our knowledge doesn't show this raping of the environment that others purport," he said.

The best way to promote the purchase of recycled paper, Hochstin said, is to talk to individual departments who still buy virgin paper. Tightening budgets have prompted some departments to buy virgin paper to save money over recycled paper made with post-consumer content.

Virgin paper purchases decreased after the student Environmental Conservation Organization began educating departments in the spring on the reasons for switching to recycled paper.

When a department switches to recycled paper, the College's overall purchase volume will rise, thus lowering the average expense for each order, Hochstin explained. Approximately 87 percent of the copy paper -- which constitutes the vast majority of paper purchased -- that the College purchases is recycled paper (meaning it is made from 30 percent post-consumer content) rather than virgin paper. A very small number of departments buy paper made with 100-percent post-consumer content.

In the past year, the College purchased 8,680 cases of recycled paper and 1,280 cases of virgin paper. That's 43,400,000 sheets of recycled and 6,400,000 sheets of virgin.

If all the departments that purchased the virgin paper purchased the recycled paper and there was steady demand, Hochstin said the Resources Working Group could better negotiate to bring the price comparable to what it is now for the virgin paper.

If those who now buy the paper made with 30-percent post-consumer content bought the paper with 100-percent post-consumer content, the cost would be, for them, 5.8 percent higher, Hochstin said. He acknowledged that this is "a difficult sell in tough budget times."

At the latest environmental roundtable, several suggestions were made to alleviate the added cost, such as emphasizing paper-saving strategies, fundraising and placing the distributor's advertisement on the screensaver of the GreenPrint machines for a reduction in price.

Hochstin said that the true savings are in conservation. "The biggest opportunity to help the environment and to reduce expense would be for everyone to seriously consider the need to hit the print button and thereby reduce the amount we are ordering, transporting, distributing, using and recycling," he said.

On Tuesday night, John Demos, the Northeast coordinator from American Lands Alliance, spoke to students in Dartmouth Hall about organizing against Boise Cascade.

Demos accused Boise Cascade of logging and distributing wood from old growth forests, which he defined as areas which have never been harvested.

Ralph Poore, media relations manager for Boise Cascade, called the allegations "inaccurate, misleading and false." Poore said that Boise decided in March to phase out the harvesting of old growth by 2004. The phase-out is necessary rather than an outright halt because Boise has contracts they need to fulfill, Poore said.

Demos said that the ban leaves the company with "lots of wiggle room" in their definition of what constitutes an old growth forest. He added in an interview, "They're banning it now because they've cut most of it down."

Demos said that even if Boise no longer harvests old growth forest, they would continue to import wood from old growth forests, such as tropical forests in Indonesia.

Poore said that "About 70 percent of wood we import comes from certified sustainable forests. That doesn't mean that 30 percent doesn't come from sustainable forests, they just have not been certified yet." He added that Boise encourages its suppliers to have active forest-certification programs.