Green Scene: ForestEthics is watching…whether you care or not is up to you

ForestEthics attended Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in 2006 to introduce itself formally to our industry, ask for support in protecting endangered forests, and, frankly, to let us know that it is watching. The group recently submitted an editorial it asked us to run, which we have agreed to do, after some editing to soften some of the saber-rattling ForestEthics clearly appears to enjoy.
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Many in our industry know of ForestEthics by reputation. On the group's website, it states: "We expose corporations that destroy Endangered Forests. People often don’t realize that their purchases are contributing to the destruction of Endangered Forests. That’s where we come in. Behind every piece of paper and lumber there is a story -- a forest, wildlife, people. We educate the public about the places that these products come from, and consumer outrage is never far behind. We help corporations that want to act responsibly. No corporation can afford to have its brand become synonymous with forest destruction. Whether they come to that realization on their own or through the consumer pressure we apply, the result is the same: they no longer want to buy products that destroy Endangered Forests."

The group attended Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in 2006 to introduce itself formally to our industry, ask for support in protecting endangered forests, and, frankly, to let us know that it is watching. Veiled threat? Perhaps. Does the outdoor industry need ForestEthics pointing out there is more work to be done? Probably not. On the other hand, the more voices calling out for reform the better, and there is little doubt ForestEthics has a voice that is both seasoned and experienced.

The group recently submitted an editorial it asked us to run, which we have agreed to do, after some editing to soften some of the saber-rattling ForestEthics clearly appears to enjoy. The good news is the outdoor industry is absolutely on the same page, whether ForestEthics chooses to acknowledge that or not. There is also much more to be done on so many fronts, and protecting endangered forests is just one of them. We hope, as ForestEthics has indicated below, that it wants to work with the outdoor industry as an ally because we do believe, we both have much to learn from each other.

Dear Outdoor Industry,

ForestEthics was pleased to be a part of the 2006 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show, where we spoke about the outdoor industry and its role in forest protection. We appreciate all of you who took the time to hear about this important environmental issue. And we appreciate the special role the outdoor industry already does play in protecting forests for all to enjoy -- but we would challenge you to do better.

As you may know, forests like the Canadian Boreal are under attack from logging to make everything from paper for catalogs to packaging. This wasteful destruction is happening at an alarming pace. The Boreal is being logged at a rate of two acres a minute, 24 hours a day, and currently, less than 8 percent of the Boreal is protected. If you care about clean air and water, you care about Canada's Boreal Forest. It holds more freshwater than anywhere else on the planet. It also plays an essential role in cleaning the air that we breathe. It is home to rare species of wolves, bears, and woodland caribou, as well as half of America's songbirds. The United States plays a huge role in this destruction by consuming more than half of all the trees logged in the Boreal.

We know that the outdoors is more than just a business to all of you. It is a genuine appreciation of the outdoors that draws you to your work. We also know, as do you, that your customers care a great deal about the forests they hike in, lakes they swim in, and about preserving habitat of wild animals. Many of you have already taken or are looking for ways to green your businesses and we appreciate that. But there is much more we'd like to see you do before printing another catalog, sending another mailing, selecting new packaging materials, ordering more office supplies.

The impact the outdoor industry could make simply by asking the following questions of your paper suppliers is enormous:

  1. Do you source paper fiber from Endangered Forests, such as endangered caribou habitat?
  2. Does your paper contain virgin fiber that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, the only certification supported by most environmental groups?
  3. How much post-consumer waste recycled content is in the paper used for your catalog paper stock or boxes?
  4. What other ways are you looking to reduce the amount of virgin fiber used?

Whether your company is large or small, by asking the above questions and demanding sustainable standards in paper production for all of the paper you use, you will help create the market for better paper products. It was an effort similar to this that resulted in the recently announced protection of 5.2 million acres in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. That same effort is changing the way logging in much of the rest of the Great Bear is done, by considering ecological and First Nation needs in all logging plans.

There are so many great examples of outdoor companies already working hard to leave no trace. Timberland is using 100-percent post-consumer waste in all its shoe boxes. And the company is putting its footprint on all its boxes with a "nutritional" label -- revealing, for example, how much energy was used in the production of its footwear. And Mountain Equipment Co-op is using 35-percent PCW and 25-percent FSC paper for its catalogs. And both these companies continue to look for ways to do more.

The outdoor industry needs to play a key role in helping to turn the tide of destruction. As an industry whose business thrives on the great outdoors, you also have a key interest in conservation. We at ForestEthics would like to work with all of you to find ways to reduce your ecological footprint and help change the way business is done, not just in your industry, but in other industries as well. With the outdoor industry trailblazing the path to sustainable business practices, others will be able to follow the example you set.

To find out more about how we can work with you, email us at: dan@forestethics.org. For more information about us and the work we are doing, go to www.ForestEthics.org.

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