Radical Product Transparency Via Carbon Mapping- Highlight from Opportunity Green


Image via Leonardo Bonanni

This past Thursday, at the business conference Opportunity Green, one panel entitled Next Generation Carbon Mapping: Radical Transparency and Truth in Advertising captured the attention of the standing room only audience at Los Angeles Center Studios. Copy paper was the medium but the message was about its carbon footprint. New Leaf Paper, Office Depot, SourceMap, Carbon Trust, and MIT Materials Systems Lab joined forces to do a deep dive on the carbon footprint of 100% recycled copy paper, from sources of wastepaper to end use and recycling, and tell the story via SourceMaps, a revolutionary online mapping tool.


New Leaf Paper products photo via Willougby Designs

Yalmaz Siddiqui, Director of Sustainability Strategy at Office Depot, recruited MIT and Sujeesh Krishnan of Carbon Trust to join New Leaf Paper President, Jeff Mendelsohn, in developing the first full lifecycle analysis of carbon emissions relating to copy paper. Leo Bonanni, founder of SourceMap, brought the information to life with his open source, carbon mapping interface.

The team tapped into a common desire for transparency and a better, easier to understand system for tracking carbon emissions. Paper products can have a seal of carbon neutrality, but what does this really mean? Carbon neutrality claims sound good, they can be simpler to implement, but the numbers are difficult for a consumer to confirm.

Paper is one of the most carbon intensive products in the world and the second largest consumer of energy among manufacturing companies. New Leaf Paper is a mission-driven company leading a shift towards sustainability in the paper industry. New Leaf's Mendelsohn told me that for his company, "minimizing impacts at each point along the lifecycle is where real change happens," and that, "purchasing carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality can be one step, but it should not take center stage."

New Leaf's 100% recycled paper and its accompanying carbon footprint story became an integral part of the sustainability strategy of New Leaf Paper. Office Depot worked with Carbon Trust to label individual products such as New Leaf's Paper. Carbon Trust offers measurement advisory services and advises companies on product labeling and ways to reduce their carbon emissions via supply chains.

Carbon Trusts' Carbon Reduction Label, currently used in the U.K., will be used in the U.S. when the new recycled paper product from New Leaf Paper arrives in Office Depot stores in about two weeks. The paper will carry a label that has a source map code, similar to a bar code or electronic boarding pass image. The source code map will then tell the story of New Leaf Paper's supply chain, with the focus on its actual carbon footprint in a transparent manner to the public.

Sourcemap.org is a website with the mission to educate about the social and environmental impacts of products. Sourcemap allows a consumer to visualize an entire source footprint for a product. Office Depot's new 100% recycled paper from New Leaf has a completely transparent source map. The conference attendees gave a standing ovation when the panelists unveiled the interactive SourceMap of ubiquitous, but lowly copy paper. So as a consumer you can now truly know where your recycled paper comes from. Here is to hoping that more companies will follow New Leaf's open source and transparent approach.

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