The appropriately named actor Woody Harrelson is a true TreeHugger, and told us last year:
I’m just really, really attached to forests. I’ve had some of my greatest experiences in forests -- walking through the forest, hanging out with other activists in the forest, or with my family. I have an immense level of compassion for the forest. So it’s been my dream for a long time to see non-wood paper come about.... It makes a lot of sense to get a non-wood pulp and paper mill going.
That dream is getting closer, as Corporate Knights magazine has become the first publisher in North America to print an issue on his Step Forward Paper. , made from agricultural waste. Editor in Chief Tyler Hamilton explains why this is a big step forward for the magazine industry:
With this special straw issue, we wanted to show other print publishers that recycled paper isn't the only sustainable option available to them. Using paper made from agricultural waste such as wheat straw offers another way to take pressure off our forests, which as the lungs of our planet are more important than ever in the battle against climate change.
In fact, a life cycle analysis shows that this paper has a lower environmental impact than even 100% recycled paper, and only 60% of the impact of the virgin paper that is used in many magazines.
This isn't just a matter of ordering up a few rolls. Tyler Hamilton notes that it is a serious business and technical challenge.
One worry about using straw as an ingredient in paper production is that it has shorter fibres compared to wood fibre. Generally speaking, the longer the fibres the greater the tensile strength of the paper. While not as much a concern for copy paper, it becomes a more important consideration when large rolls are run through high-speed presses. This puts a lot of stress on the paper, and if a roll tears midway during the printing process it can cause damage to expensive pieces of equipment.
The issue was delivered with the Washington Post and the Globe and Mail this morning, and I compared it to the last issue, printed on recycled paper. Even in this iPhone shot you can see that the paper is whiter and brighter and the contrast between it and the type is greater; it is better looking and easier to read. I hope other publishers notice this; as the President of Prairie Papers notes in the press release,
Creating a market for wheat-straw paper is an essential step for the construction of a 100% tree-free, state-of-the-art, off-the-grid, chlorine-free eco-mill in Manitoba that will be the first of its kind in the world.
We often speak disparagingly of magazines as the "dead tree editions." It's nice to know that it ain't necessarily so anymore.
Full disclosure: Lloyd Alter writes book reviews for Corporate Knights Magazine.