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The Planet
Not Easy Being Green

by John Byrne Barry

We try not to be hypocrites. But it's hard.

To advocate for protection of wild forests, we print reports on paper made from trees. To strengthen laws reducing air and water pollution, we drive to hearings and rallies in our cars. To borrow from Kermit the Frog, "It's not easy being green."

Especially this month.

On pages 4 and 5, we feature the Club's Good Wood Campaign, which is working to save the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and other endangered forests. Timber companies are cutting these forests and some of those felled trees are turned into pulp for newsprint.

While it's not likely, we can't be positive that there aren't ground-up bits of British Columbian rainforest in the newsprint you're holding in your hands.

We know that the paper contains 50 percent postconsumer waste and comes from the Jefferson Smurfit Mill in Oregon City, Ore. The non-recycled content generally comes from wood chips left over from nearby lumber mills. But pulp and newsprint are commodities that get traded all over the world, so tracing the origin of the pulp can get very tricky, very fast.

For some of our printed materials, we do use 100 percent postconsumer waste paper or paper made from kenaf or other fibers. When we started publishing The Planet six years ago, we decided that newsprint was the best option for balancing environmental impact, cost, efficiency and aesthetics. Newsprint is not bleached with elemental chlorine; when it is bleached, it is far less so than office paper or magazine stock.

Jefferson Smurfit has a mill in Pomona, Calif., that manufactures a 100-percent postconsumer waste newsprint, but it's not currently available. Even if it were, The Planet only uses about one ton - that's two rolls - each month, not enough to justify a truckload from Southern California to our printer in San Francisco. (And how do we factor in the pollution caused by the truck? Measuring relative impacts gets murky quickly.)

But because of the story on British Columbian forests, we are paying more attention to where our paper comes from and we hope to increase our postconsumer content down the line.

In the meantime, we will continue with our mission to protect the environment - one way we do that is by sharing information with the public and public officials. And the mythical paperless office is a long way off.

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