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Frank Locantore

Burning 'Black Liquor,' Paper Makers Pollute and Hurt the Economy

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 12/10/2009-10:09 AM

In order to lower carbon emissions, the 2005 Transportation bill provides a $1 per gallon subsidy to companies that reduce their use of fossil fuels.  For example, mixing ethanol with gasoline reduces the amount of fossil fuels used, which in turn reduces carbon emissions.  

Paper companies, however, have found a loophole in the law that allows them to increase their fossil fuel use, increase their carbon emissions, and still get the $1 per gallon subsidy.

For more than 50 years, paper companies have been burning the organic and chemical byproduct of the pulping process, called “black liquor,” as fuel to power their mills. Since black liquor is not a fossil fuel, paper companies must add diesel fuel to the mixture in order to be eligible for the subsidy.  By doing so, the paper companies have INCREASED their carbon emissions and received billions in tax payer dollars for their polluting ways.

A paper industry insider who goes by the nom de guerre “D. Eadward Tree” and posts to the Dead Tree Edition blog, reports that more than $4.7 billion tax-payer dollars have been awarded to paper companies that have increased their greenhouse gas emissions through the first three quarters of this year. The total cost to tax-payers is on track to be between $6 billion and $8 billion before the end of the year, dramatically exceeding the $61 million estimate for the credit.

While the loophole is scheduled to close at the end of this year, U.S. Representative Steve Kagen has introduced H.R. 4066 that would continue the tax credits in perpetuity.

To recap: the federal government is financially rewarding paper companies with billions of tax dollars for a decades-old practice that hurts the economy and the climate.

You might wonder, “Is this subsidy for polluters hurting recycled paper manufacturers?” Or, “How can magazines and other paper purchasers prevent further corruption of the 2005 Transportation bill’s intent?”  

The easiest way that you can fight back against this perverse misuse of public funds is to ask your paper supplier if they support the black liquor tax loophole and encourage them oppose it. Get more answers in just a few short paragraphs at the Better Paper Web site.

Frank Locantore

What's the FSC-ing Deal?

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 02/05/2009-10:29 AM

In my blog on Better Ingredients, an associate questioned my bias and support for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. I, as we all, have biases. Giving preference to FSC is one of them, and I'm glad that I was "called out" on it. Do I think that FSC is perfect? No. Is it possible for me to support other certification schemes? If they meet stringent, authentic, transparent and comprehensive standards, yes. The following are some of my reasons for supporting FSC:

  1. FSC does not allow genetically-modified (GMO) trees to be certified.
  2. FSC has a transparent and participatory process wherein anyone can join their economic, environmental, or social "chambers," and each chamber elects an equal number of representatives to the FSC board.
  3. Each independent analysis that I've reviewed comparing FSC to other certification schemes demonstrates a preference for FSC. There is a helpful chart comparing the various certification schemes on pages 18 and 19 of World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Global Forest and Trade Network publication, Keep It Legal.

I've kept this blog post short and simple, but I do recognize the complexity of the issue. Standards are evaluated frequently and I give credit to certification schemes like FSC and SFI for continually improving. However, at the end of the day, I still give preference to FSC. I won't claim to be the best expert on this so I've invited representatives from competing U.S. certification bodies FSC-US and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to make their case themselves. I have let them each see this blog in advance so that they can respond to any of my comments.

Form your own opinion by reading directly from FSC and SFI why they feel their certification schemes are preferable. I hope you engage in a dialogue by posting comments and questions below ...

Frank Locantore

How to Prevent a Green Backlash Against Your Brand

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 11/24/2008-09:49 AM

Is the paper the message?

Most know the Marshall McLuhan axiom—“the medium is the message”—stressing that the vehicle used to deliver the message, in fact, has its own message. At the American Magazine Conference in October, Avrim Lazar, president of the Forest Products Association Canada (FPAC), paraphrased the famous McLuhan quote for the paper-using audience.

He explained to the magazine executives in attendance that consumers are becoming savvier about the paper they use—its environmental characteristics and fiber origins. “You’re selling identity in a brand,” he reminded publishers. “And if you’re not careful the commodity will become the message.”

What’s important to note here is that Lazar is not the executive director of Greenpeace; he is the president of a long-established forest and paper industry association.

So, what’s in your paper? Is it made from recycled fiber or with virgin fiber from forests that have high conservation-value? Does the pulp mill use the clean and efficient oxygen delignification technology, or is the pulp processed with a lower fiber-yield and “old-school” ECF process? What is the carbon emission impact from your paper’s production?

How confidently can you answer these questions? Are you using better paper – paper whose “ingredients” and “design” has less impact on the environment? If you’re interested in what the better ingredients are, I explain them in my blog on Better Paper: Ingredients.

While it almost seems silly to say this, I think some friendly reinforcement wouldn’t hurt: being mindful about what goes into your paper and taking appropriate steps to use better paper can help prevent a consumer backlash against your brand.

Frank Locantore

‘An Environmentalist and Magazine Publisher Walk Into a Bar ...’

Frank Locantore - 04/18/2008-10:57 AM

"An environmentalist, a paper mill rep, and a magazine publisher walk into a bar," the joke goes. "The environmentalist says to the other two ... well, nothing. Those three would never drink together."

That perception is quickly being dismantled as growing numbers of collaborations make the adversarial relationship just an outdated stereotype.

At two separate events during the American Forest and Paper Association's (AF&PA) Paper Week in New York City earlier this month, I presented at sessions where both industry and environmental non governmental organizations (ENGOs) gathered to discuss challenges related to recycled paper production.

At the AF&PA's General Session on Recycling on April 1 at the Waldorf, I have to admit I was a bit nervous about how I would be received by the attendees. I'm sure that AF&PA was also a bit nervous about what I might say. The reality is there was nothing to be nervous about from either perspective. After all, dialogue doesn't amount to much if everyone agrees with everyone else in the room.

Ultimately, there was a great deal of mutual respect and many of us left feeling hopeful about our collective ability to work together cooperatively and effectively.

Most of us agree that we must begin working together if we are to succeed in making the paper production and consumption industries economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

My presentations at both events outlined the "three-legged stool" strategy to simultaneously increase paper recovery, deinking capacity and recycled paper demand.

First, in order to satisfy growing demand for recycled paper, North America needs a better paper collection system that yields significant amounts of clean, high-grade office paper. Second, increased collection requires greater capacity to "de-ink" the recovered paper and supply paper mills with deinked pulp to produce the recycled paper.

The third leg is growing and consistent demand for recycled paper from major paper purchasers. Without this, mills won't be comfortable investing the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars necessary for renovating or constructing new plants to produce more deinked pulp.

So, How Can the Industry Succeed?

At the EPN's first "Beating the Bottleneck" roundtable in 2007, 55 representatives from mills, merchants, printers, ENGOs, and governments participated in a very productive discussion and identified next steps. The EPN followed up by issuing a report that outlines the landscape of the issue and by hiring a project coordinator.

Over 60 stakeholder representatives attended the second roundtable last month, where the manager of technical services for Myllykoski Paper Company in Alsip, Chicago spoke to the challenges of producing clean, deinked pulp from recovered paper. The paper manager for Reader's Digest Association, publisher of Every Day With Rachael Ray, also spoke about their recent switch to-and growing demand for-recycled paper. The animated discussions produced some great ideas and the notes will soon be available to any one that is interested. Contact me if you would like the notes of last year's event.

One of our next tasks is recruiting an "All-Star" team of experts from the relevant public, private, and ENGO sectors to form a technical advisory group. The group will help guide a process whereby stakeholders can work together to create a recycled paper production and consumption system that is both economically and environmentally responsible.

After the roundtable ended there were about 25 of us "non-traditional allies" all hanging out enjoying wine and snacks. So, don't be surprised to soon hear a different ending to that bar joke.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information about the Beating the Bottleneck Roundtables, contact Pam Blackledge, recovered fiber coordinator for EPN at or (936) 462-1528.]

Frank Locantore

Vanity Fair's ‘Green' Issue: Another Waste

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 04/14/2008-15:43 PM

There was no reason to expect that Condé Nast would actually display some sort of responsible environmental citizenship in the production of its third annual "green" issue for Vanity Fair. While they have a right to run their business as they see fit, they must also take responsibility for their lack of commitment to protecting the environment.

The fact is that while other magazines like Shape, Fast Company, Inc. and Every Day With Rachael Ray have made important achievements in environmentally responsible publishing, Vanity Fair and CN have only "talked green" in their articles.

Stories explaining what the Bush Administration should, or shouldn't, do; how mountain top coal mining is destroying communities and natural environs; oil drilling in the Artic; the necessity to act quickly in order to prevent climate change—all are important messages.

But where is the introspection and leadership? Who within CN and VF are pointing out that they themselves should be making an effort to reduce climate change, solid waste, deforestation and water and air pollution?

Do they make any mention of their environmental practices in the magazine? No. Is there information about their commitment to sustainability on their Web site? No. Are they at least using recycled paper? No, not even a smidgeon.

Graydon Carter is a tremendous force as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair. He commands celebrity attention with his post-Oscar party each year (except this year) and helps focus his readers on today's environmental issues. Though editors-in-chief normally don't make paper purchasing decisions for their magazines, with his extraordinary personal and professional clout, Mr. Carter could and should use his considerable influence to bring about more environmentally-responsible production practices at VF. After all, the magazine is truly a reflection of himself.

Readers and advertisers are increasingly aligning themselves with companies that have a genuine commitment to the environment. Unfortunately, (with the very remote possible exception of Wired magazine) the way that CN decides to print their magazines completely ignores environmental responsibility, and may harm their brand over time.

But What Can Vanity Fair Do to Protect the Environment?

In November 2007, Every Day With Rachael Ray began printing on 85 percent recycled paper. During a presentation at the Publishing Business Conference in March this year, Brian Schwarze, the paper manager at Reader's Digest Association—Everyday's parent company—touted the benefits of their switch to recycled paper: each year they save 125,000 trees, 7,800 pounds of hazardous air pollutants, 380 garbage trucks of solid waste, and over 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent worth of greenhouse gases.

Reader's Digest and Rachael Ray may not have the same tenure as VF when it comes to publishing "green" editorial content. But, when it comes to making a difference and not just talking about being green, EDWRR makes every issue a "green" issue by using recycled paper. As a result, readers and advertisers have rewarded them for the achievements.

VF and CN can start by printing on more environmentally responsible recycled paper rather than environmentally harmful virgin-fiber paper. They can also work with their supply chain to implement an environmentally and fiscally responsible paper procurement policy that reduces emissions of climate change gases and protects forests. When they accomplish that they will be able, without hypocrisy, to publish green issues that motivate governments, businesses, and individuals to do their part.

[This post marks the eighth year in which I have offered Condé Nast my assistance and cooperation in helping them plan for environmentally responsible magazine publishing.]

Frank Locantore

Green Predictions for 2008

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 12/20/2007-15:14 PM

The Green Predictions for 2008 can be summed up thusly: growing momentum. We'll see that the increased attention towards the environment over the past year will continue and gain build in 2008. This momentum will become increasingly evident when working with the following five stakeholder groups:

  1. Staff: Talented new staff will be looking for publishing houses that have strong commitments to the environment, while current staff will accelerate their efforts to green their offices from the amount of materials recycled to the environmental production of the publication. All departments from designers, editorial, marketing, production, and accounting will be developing sincere and creative ways to be environmentally responsible.
  2. Consumers: Magazine readers will look more closely at the masthead for signs of the publication's environmental responsibility. Expect more letters from readers asking if the publication is using recycled paper.
  3. Advertisers: Expect more advertisers to inquire about the environmental characteristics of the publication they are attaching their brand to. Aveda requires any magazine that wants their advertising dollars to fill out a survey detailing their environmental performance. Other advertisers have different preferences for magazines using recycled paper and the list continues to grow.
  4. "Charismatic Mega-Mag": Look for one or two large, prestigious magazine titles to publicly announce their recycled paper use in 2008. Watch how other magazines scramble to gain the mantle of environmental responsibility in their market niche in the wake of the announcements.
  5. Paper Company Support: While the dramatic paper price increases may not endear you to the paper companies right now, they are already showing signs of moving towards greater production of recycled papers. Some are expanding the capacity of their deinking units to process the recovered fiber they receive, while others are investing millions in building brand new deinking units. This expanded capacity will ultimately have a beneficial effect on magazines' use of recycled paper.

One Warning: Beware the paper supplier that tells you that burning trees and tree parts (biomass, or biofuels) is carbon neutral. They are selling you a bill of goods that will eventually harm your brand.

Frank Locantore

What Do Paper Price Hikes Mean for ‘Green’ Publishing?

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 12/11/2007-11:48 AM

Paper price increases are painful. What do they mean for environmental publishing considerations? The good news is that being fiscally conservative with paper expenses can also be environmentally responsible with thoughtful planning.

The simple explanation for the increases is that supply has constricted due to mill closings, mergers and acquisitions while manufacturing costs have gone up primarily due to increases in oil prices. Experts in the industry predict that the prices will stabilizing anytime in the next six to 18 months–likely 18 months.

The high paper prices provide an opportunity to assess paper use efficiency and find ways to reduce relative costs. These savings will last beyond the current market fluctuations and continue to be good for the environment.

Let this be an evolution, not a revolution, by making changes strategically over time that add financial and environmental value to the magazine. Here is how mitigating current increases also helps protect the environment:

1. Reduce the basis weight.
Lighter basis weight means more paper per hundred-weight, less fiber needed from forests, less fuel required for transportation, and less postage costs for mailing.

2. Change from freesheet to groundwood or recycled paper.
It takes 4.4 tons of wood to make one-ton of freesheet paper, and 2.2 tons of wood for groundwood paper. A switch to groundwood paper with recycled content doubles the paper yield and keeps more trees in the forest. (It takes 1.2 tons of recovered paper to make one-ton of recycled paper.)

3. Reduce the trim size.
A reduction of one-quarter or one-half inch in trim size can result in a four- to eight-percent cost savings while also reducing the amount of fiber need from forests.

4. Rethink all paper options.

Going down in paper grade in addition to basis weight and trim-size reductions will save on production costs in addition to reducing chemical use.

5. Think geographically.
Where does the virgin fiber and recovered paper come from for the magazine paper? Is the printer a few hundred miles or less from the paper mill? Strategize how to reduce the distance between these points in order to reduce costs and environmental impacts? Use the Chain of Custody document on the Magazine PAPER Project Web site to determine where all the fiber and pulp for the paper comes from. This can also help identify if fiber is sourced from areas of high conservation value. Then work with the magazine’s supply chain to identify ways to reduce transportation.

6. Partner with the supply chain and build new relationships.
Mills are working to do their best to ensure that their valued customers are able to get the paper that they need and weather these price increases. Magazines that worked with suppliers without trying to unreasonably squeeze lower prices from them when the market was down may reap some “preferred” status. Look at negotiating flatter price increases over several quarters, such as a flat five-percent increase on Jan 1 and another on June 1. If you have a good relationship with the mill and the prices don’t increase that much they will sometimes give you a rebate on the difference. Even if they don’t, knowing what price increases to expect is critical for creating and staying on budget.

In paper market conditions such as these a thoughtful and strategic approach will assist magazines production departments in weathering the storm while also being able to maintain and even increase their practices that protect the environment.

Frank Locantore

Beware ‘Carbon Neutral’ Paper Claims

Frank Locantore Consumer - 11/25/2007-13:09 PM

I don't believe in "carbon neutrality."

It is not a helpful concept-some would argue it is deceptive-and there is no clear or agreed upon definition. Publishers who want to be environmentally responsible stewards should view claims of "carbon neutral" paper with suspicion. Such paper most likely doesn't offer any environmental benefit and can be a marketing risk.

A recent report from the Sustainable Forest Product Industry (SFPI) working group makes the claim that "carbon neutrality" can be achieved by burning tree parts, or "biomass," to generate energy for paper mills. SFPI acknowledges that burning trees releases carbon into the atmosphere, but through convoluted logic argue that this is OK, because the trees sucked up the carbon from the atmosphere in the first place. Tree burning merely "recycles" the carbon, SFPI happily concludes.

This is not CO2 neutral. In fact, tree burning is double whammy for the environment: not only does the tree stop absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, it now contributes carbon to the atmosphere. Perhaps burning trees for energy produces fewer CO2 emissions when compared to the burning of fossil fuels. But "fewer" is not the same as "neutral." In the best case "carbon neutral" may mean more efficient energy production. In the worst case it is just an exercise in semantics.

The reality behind the semantic is that tree burning emits a greenhouse gas, CO2, into our atmosphere.

So beware of paper suppliers who pitch "carbon neutral" paper. Using this paper would be an environmental and marketing mistake since such paper would not protect the environment nor communities and may endanger the publication's image and marketability.

Read Larry Light's CMO Strategy piece and view the three-minute video of Seventh Generation's president Jeffrey Hollender in Advertising Age that encourages companies to adopt sustainable practices but also warning them about participating in hollow marketing claims.

Here are the companies that are part of the SFPI working group that produced this report:

Grupo Portucel Soporcel
International Paper
Metsäliitto Group
Nippon Paper Group
Norske Skog
Oji Paper
SCG Paper
Suzano Papel e Celulose
Stora Enso

I told you my bias in my very first blog. What might be bias of these pulp and paper manufacturers?

For more on the Magazine PAPER Project, click here.

Frank Locantore

Green Paper for People and Planet

Frank Locantore Consumer - 11/25/2007-12:58 PM

Are you a magazine publisher that uses environmentally and socially-responsible paper, or you would like to learn how?

Here's why you should read this blog:

  1. There are opportunities for magazines to gain rewards and recognition for their environmental publishing practices through awards like the Aveda Environmental Awards (deadline Nov 30, 2007, click here for the application).
  1. There are special bookstore promotions at Barnes and Noble and Hastings Books and this month, January and April 2008, and
  1. There will be information about topical environmental issues relevant to magazine publishing, helpful tools and resources, and the opportunity to engage in dialogue on this blog about your questions and concerns.
  1. Since this blog is about "Green" publishing practices for magazines and since I work for the non profit, Co-op America directing our Magazine PAPER Project, it probably will not surprise anyone to learn that I have a bias.

So to honor full disclosure, I believe:

  1. That making paper is like magic and those that disagree probably have not visited a paper mill.
  1. That paper is an essential product for the well-being of communities and cultures by providing a medium for expanding knowledge and hygiene.
  1. That as population grows worldwide, it would be hard to avoid using more paper.
  1. That manufacturing paper with the greatest degree of care is essential so that we don't harm communities, human health, or the environment.
  1. That in an ideal world, the manufacturing of paper could actually be a force for healing environmental problems;
  2. That the key pillars of reaching this vision include: use reduction, maximized recycled content use, credible forest certification, clean production processes, and consideration of social impacts.
  1. That the best manner in which to work towards this vision is through a multi-stakeholder environment that includes the paper industry, governments, end-users, merchants, businesses, and NGOs; and
  1. That responsible environmental stewardship is good for business.

I am fortunate to share many of these beliefs with colleagues that also work in the non-profit world for responsible paper use. In 2002 we all came together and authored A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry: Striving For Environmental and Social Sustainability, and then started a network of non profits working on these issues called the Environmental Paper Network (EPN).

And, I'll promise that this blog will be a forum for respectful discussion. We may not agree always - or even often - but, we should always be talking to each other because the problems and impacts on our society are too great for us not to work together.

Look for my post tomorrow on why magazine publishers should be wary of "carbon-neutral" claims.

For more on the Magazine PAPER Project, click here.