This picture from WWF Deutschland is good for a laugh, but is seriously good news. At "Paper World", The industry's convention taking place in Frankfurt, Germany 25-29 January 2006, a coalition of 21 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) announced a Common Vision for Transforming the European Paper Industry. The statement notes that 90% of fiber used in paper currently originates from forests and plantations. It is hard for the consumer to know whether the paper they buy comes from old-growth trees or mono-culture which has its own set of ecological and, often, social side effects. But this vision must start with the consumer.
The NGO paper sets out a five-point strategy:
- Reduce Paper Consumption
- Reduce Reliance on Virgin Fiber
- Ensure Social Responsibility
- Source Fiber Responsibly
- Ensure Clean Production
What can the consumer do? Obviously point one starts at home: Treehuggers let us know in the comments what you do to save paper! Reducing virgin fiber also comes back to us: only approximately 50% of paper is currently recycled. And high post-consumer fiber content not only saves trees, it significantly reduces the waste generation associated with producing from virgin fiber. Social responsibility, fiber sourcing and clean production are a bit trickier. Consumers could read the annual social responsibility reports of the paper companies and try to decipher the green-washing from the truly green commitments. The "Common Vision" statement offers a better answer: push for labelling laws. If the end consumer can see where the fiber comes from and is given a few key performance indicators on production waste or social responsiblity on every package--then the responsibility is where it belongs. The paper companies can focus on making money and the consumer can make certain that their money only goes to the companies doing it right!