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					Seeing the
Catalogs for
the Trees
Catalogs are
convenient, but do
their environmental
costs outweigh their
benefits?

Story By LindSay tigue                                                                                                           y of Stock Xchng
                                                                                                               Photograph courtes




W
           hat has 40 pages, a long list of      has never been easier, but all of this              “Boreal forests have unique biodiversity
           products and is partly to blame for   convenience comes at a significant cost          features,” said Ruth Nogueron, program
           deforestation? Answer: The mail-      to the environment. Each year more than          coordinator of North and South Americas
order catalog.                                   8 million tons of wood is cut down and           for Global Forest Watch. “Considering that
   Mail-order catalogs have been around          transformed into catalogs. This practice         biodiversity is defined as the variety of
almost as long as retail stores. In 1872,        contributes to deforestation across the globe,   species, genes, ecosystems, and ecological
the first mail-order company, Montgomery         especially in the Canadian Boreal Forest,        processes and phenomena, boreal forests
Ward, began printing single-sheet leaflets.      where the majority of paper in U.S. catalogs     are key for ecological processes such as
Soon after, Sears began printing its well-       comes from, according to ForestEthics,           migration of birds.”
known catalogs. Now, more than 100 years         an environmental advocacy group. Boreal             Despite its wealth of biodiversity,
later, the catalog industry is in full swing.    forests are ecosystems of coniferous forest.     only 8 percent of the Canadian Boreal is
   Despite the successes of online shopping,        “The lightweight paper used in catalogs       protected, according to the Global Forest
consumers prefer thumbing through a              is best made from species that grow in           Watch. Unprotected forest means logging,
catalog and dog-earing their favorite pages      the boreal,” said Lars Laestadius, Russia        and the Canadian Boreal is unfortunately
before making purchases, online or in-store.     project manager for Global Forest Watch, an      no exception; currently two acres of it
According to a June 2003 survey by the           initiative of the World Resources Institute      are logged every minute, 24 hours a day,
Direct Marketing Association, many online        that strives to facilitate informed decision-    according to ForestEthics.
shoppers still keep catalogs in their home,      making to people living in forested areas by        Deforestation affects more than wildlife.
with 56 percent keeping their copies for         providing reliable maps and forest analysis.     Trees also serve as carbon sinks. When trees
three months or until a replacement arrives.        Globally, one quarter of the remaining        are cut down, the stored carbon within them
   Catalog companies mailed 19.26 billion        “intact” or “original” forest on earth is        is released into the atmosphere, contributing
catalogs in 2007, according to a study           located in the Canadian Boreal—roughly the       to climate change.
by Resource Information Systems, Inc.            size of 13 Californias. It reaches from Alaska      In addition, paper production is the fourth
(now known as simply RISI), a U.S. based         to the Atlantic Ocean, and within it there is    largest emitter of greenhouse gases among
company that analyzes the global                 a biologically diverse population, including     all industries, said Victoria Mills, project
forestry industry.                               many bird species, wolves, bears and the         manager of the Corporate Partnerships
   The practice of shopping at home              endangered woodland caribou.                     Program for Environmental Defense. “It is

10| ej    spring 2008
a tremendously energy intensive process,”         paper campaign, the top corporations
she said. There are also environmentally          most apt to send abundant amounts of
threatening energy-related emissions from         catalogs include such well-known names
the paper mills.                                  as Victoria’s Secret, Sears/Lands’ End,
                                                  JC Penney, L.L. Bean, J. Crew and
Save The TreeS                                    Williams-Sonoma. Collectively, these
   Though deforestation continues at an           companies mail more than one billion
alarming rate, strides are being taken            catalogs every year.
to make the catalog industry more                    Victoria’s Secret was the paper
environmentally friendly. ForestEthics has        campaign’s first target. ForestEthics
had one of the most successful campaigns          says the company sent out roughly
to encourage more sustainable catalog             one million catalogs every day and
production. Its mission is to reduce the          approximately 395 million catalogs per
amount of catalogs, increase recycled             year, mostly made from virgin paper.
content and to use paper only from forests        The ensuing, high-profile, “Victoria’s
certified by the Forest Stewardship Council,      Dirty Secret” campaign, which began
an international organization promoting           in the fall of 2004, lasted two years
responsible forest management. ForestEthics
and other environmental organizations
promote Forest Stewardship Council
standards because of its independence from
                                                  and received much media attention, including
                                                  coverage by the Wall Street Journal. It
                                                  involved hundreds of successful protests in
                                                  cities nationwide, and two full-page ads in The
                                                                                                    Cut the
the forestry and paper industry.
   ForestEthics’ approach is simple: direct
attention toward logging companies’ biggest
customers.
   “This campaign is important because huge
                                                  New York Times. The ads, featuring a scantily-
                                                  clad model wielding a chainsaw, received
                                                  attention from regional and national media
                                                  outlets such as The Today Show, USA Today
                                                  and Time Magazine.
                                                                                                    Catalogs
corporations, which have so much influence           All this publicity worked. Victoria’s          Check out these Web sites to
and power in our society, need to be held
accountable for their actions. That is what
                                                  Secret, and its parent company, Limited
                                                  Brands, agreed on December 6, 2006 to
                                                                                                    find out how to cut catalogs in
we are all about,” said Jeff Green, a Denison
University student and ForestEthics activist.
                                                  stop printing from paper produced from
                                                  endangered forests, to increase post-
                                                                                                    your own home.
   Environmental Defense is also working to       consumer recycled content and to adhere to
make the catalog industry’s practices more        Forest Stewardship Council certification.         CaTalogChoiCe.org
sustainable. It wants companies to realize           Williams-Sonoma, L.L. Bean and Dell also       This free service lets users browse
the affordability, equal attractiveness and       responded to the Victoria’s Secret Campaign       catalog lists and check off which
prevalence of recycled paper.                     with improved environmental catalog               ones they no longer want to receive.
   “Our work goes back a few years,”              policies, fearing, they too, could receive
said Mills. “We did the first benchmark           negative attention.                               41pounDS.org
report, the first report to look at the catalog      Despite the recent successes, the fight        This service costs $41, but stops
industries’ paper policies.”                      to make catalogs more sustainable is              80 to 95 percent of unwanted
   In 1999, the organization started              hardly over. ForestEthics is focusing on its      catalogs and junk mail and covers
spreading awareness about the issue when          second target, Sears Holdings Co., parent         the entire household for five years.
they found the industry used very little          company of Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and            Also, one-third of the fee goes to
recycled paper. In 2002, it put out “Does         Kmart. Sears sends an estimated 425               the environmental or community
Your Catalog Care?”, which reported that          million catalogs a year, which includes 270       organization of your choice.
out of 42 companies surveyed, only six used       million through its subsidiary, Lands’ End,
recycled paper throughout the body of their       according to ForestEthics.                        DmaChoiCe.org
catalogs. Industry leaders such as Norm              Of course, not everyone agrees with the        Register with the Direct Marketing
Thompson, Omaha Steaks and Disney were            agendas of groups like ForestEthics. Most         Association’s Mail Preference Service
among those listed.                               notably, some members of the paper and            for a $1 fee. This five-year service is
   While ForestEthics and Environmental           forestry industry question ForestEthics’          designed to help consumers decrease
Defense have similar aims, they implement         exclusive advocacy of Forest Stewardship          the amount of nationally generated
them in different ways. “Both our                 Council certification.                            commercial or nonprofit mail they
organizations work towards environmental             Forest Stewardship Certification is not the    receive at home.
conservation,” explained Ginger Cassady,          only answer, said Debbie Johnston, director
senior campaigner of the Paper Campaign           of public affairs and government relations        greenDimeS.org
for ForestEthics. “[ForestEthics is] focused      at AbitibiBowater, the third largest publicly     For $15 this organization ensures
on market campaigns and [Environmental            traded forest product and paper company in        subscriber names and addresses
Defense] works through legal and legislative      North America.                                    including current and past residents
systems.”                                            She refers to the company’s Sustainable        are removed from large direct mailing
                                                  Forest Management policy, which reads:            databases and chosen catalog
The DirTy (half) Dozen                            “The most important factor is whether             mailing lists for three to five years.
   Some of the most well-known corporations       forest is managed sustainably and harvested       In addition, five trees are planted for
are also the guiltiest of sending mass mailings   responsibly, not whether one particular           each new subscriber.
of catalogs. According to the ForestEthics’                             continued on page 35
                                                                                           s




                                                                                                               ejmagazine.com           ej | 11
Seeing the trees:
Continued from page 11
certification system is used to the exclusion of others.”
    AbitibiBowater uses a mixture of forest certification systems
Canadian Standards Association and Sustainable Forestry Initiative,
which both encourage sustainable forestry practices.
    Others have issues with the anti-catalog movement as well.
Dennis B. Propst, a Michigan State University professor of forestry
and of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies,
doesn’t oppose the anti-catalog groups, but encourages rational
thinking when it comes to preserving forests.
    “Naturalness is not an absolute, but a relative term,” Propst said.
“Even if we keep our human hands off forests, they will change on
their own due to natural forces: maturation, decay, disease, insects,
wind, fire, etc. We cannot put a forest under glass and preserve
it in some timeless, mythical, romantic state of no change. But
we can scientifically manage them to provide for a wide range of
human uses so that they remain healthy and capable of meeting the
changing needs of society, including aesthetics and biodiversity—
that’s what foresters do.”
    Despite his reservations, Propst does agree something must be
done to reduce the amount of catalogs people receive.
     “I agree wholeheartedly with FSC standards for certification,” he
said. “I think there should be more recycled content in catalogs, and
I wish Cabela’s (a hunting and fishing outfitter) would stop sending
me so many!” 




lindsay Tigue is a 2007 english and Creative Writing graduate from MSu. She teaches english in   Forestethics’ Victoria Secret’s campaign encouraged the company to stop using paper
France. this is her first appearance in EJ . Contact Lindsay at lindsaytigue@gmail.com.          produced from endangered forests.



Essay: Continued from page 14                                     Since the project began, similar projects, like            the extravagant water system integrated into
                                                                  Egypt’s Public Awareness on Water Scarcity,                the city. Water has always been an important
                                                                  have been introduced to the region. Overall,               resource, and the Nabataeans reflected that
                                                                  the project was “a major breakthrough in                   by planning a city and lifestyle centered on
                                                                  changing the mindset of the government,”                   water conservation.
                                                                  said Setta Tutundjian, the project’s                          As I flew amidst the arid lands, I hoped
                                                                  management specialist.                                     that Jordanians would take the lessons
                                                                      But clearly there’s still more to be done.             from their beloved Petra and carry on the
                                                                  Water deficiency continues to be an issue                  tradition and expertise of the Nabateaens.
                                                                  that needs close attention, and existing                   If they don’t, the hope that Jordanians
                                                                  programs need to be revamped to address                    will one day no longer be faced with a
                                                                  it, said Tutundjian. He added that future                  water crisis, further burdened by millions
                                                                  initiatives are underway to reinforce                      of immigrants and refugees flocking to the
                                                                  plans delivered in the original campaign.                  country, may soon dry up. 
a tour guide at Wadi rum desert takes a water break.              Currently a similar initiative is running from
                                                                  March 2007 until 2011.
director of the Inter-Islamic network on Water                        As I waited to board the plane, I reflected
Resources Development and Management.                             on Jordan’s past. Jordan prides itself on the
   By the end of my trip it was clear that the                    great city of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders
project successfully promoted water efficiency                    of the World. Originally it was inhabited                  aman Sidhu is a second year master’s student in the health
at the national level while simultaneously                        by the Nabataeans, ancient Semitic traders.                communication program at MSu. this is her first appearance in
stimulating local and international efforts.                      What is particularly striking about Petra is               EJ. Contact aman at sidhuama@msu.edu.

                                                                                                                                                  ejmagazine.com                   ej | 35

				
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